Recently, I was with a friend who was complaining to me she couldn’t afford to replace her cell phone. We were in her newly purchased Toyota Highlander at the time.
On a separate occasion, an acquaintance of mine was lamenting that he didn’t know where he was going to find the money to buy new soccer cleats for his son this summer. We were enjoying dinner at a nice restaurant.
Similarly, another friend recently told me he was unable to financially donate to The Hope Effect when I asked. He assured me he wanted to help and really wished he could. But they had just put a pool in the backyard and were using every spare dime to pay it off.
Still again, I sat chatting with a friend complaining of the overtime hours he had been putting in at work. They are trying to finally get out from under debt they have been carrying for years. Meanwhile, his Facebook feed brags of the season tickets he had just purchased for his favorite Major League Baseball team.
Each time, I bit my tongue. I wanted to share what was on my mind. But I didn’t.
I was probably wrong in my decision not to speak up. I should have been bold and courageous and stated exactly what I was thinking. “Life is too short to not be honest with people,” somebody once told me. But I didn’t. I chose instead to keep my thoughts to myself.
Maybe I’ll say it here—that one thing about money I always want to say but never do.
I won’t write it here because I think any of those people are reading, but because I know others are. And many of us need to be reminded of this important reality:
You would have more money for the things you want if you stopped foolishly wasting it on other things.
In each case above, the person wanted money, but had already spent it elsewhere. My friend could afford to replace her cell phone if she hadn’t purchased such an expensive car. My other friend could have made significant inroads on their family debt if they hadn’t bought season tickets for the summer. And most of us would have more room for generosity and supporting causes we believe in if consumerism wasn’t so prevalent in us.
When we haphazardly spend money on foolish things, we have less remaining for more important pursuits. (tweet that)
This principle also extends beyond purchasing power.
Through a number of odd circumstances, I happened to spend some significant time talking with the friend of a friend recently. The topic of conversation was stress and anxiety. More specifically, the topic was her anxiety which she attributed to their financial circumstances: a burdensome mortgage, a monthly car payment, and not enough financial margin to feel comfortable.
The reason for the stress and anxiety, seemed to me, was not about the unacquisition of sufficient funds. The reason for the stress and the anxiety was the foolish places where their money was going—too big a house, too fancy a car, and too many unintentional purchases in the past.
They had sacrificed peace and calm for square footage and expensive wheels.
With so many circumstances of life outside our control, doesn’t it make sense we’d work hard to control the ones we can? This reality is especially true when it comes to our financial resources.
Our financial situations certainly vary from person to person. And I fully understand that some people struggle financially because of no fault of their own. But I believe the principle stated above extends to a higher percentage of us than you might think.
The greatest mistake we can make is the assumption that our financial lives are entirely outside of our control. They are not. We decide every day where our money is going to be spent.
Intentionally choosing to spend money on the things we truly want is not always easy. It requires a clear designation of the financial reality we wish was true (our desires) and a clear understanding of the reason it is not (our foolish spending habits).
Depending on your financial goals, the application may look something like this:
- I want to get out of debt, I will spend less on eating out.
- I want more money for travel, I must spend less on my housing.
- I want more financial peace, I need to remove my monthly car payment.
- I want more margin for generosity, I must spend less on fashion or furniture or technology.
- I want more ___________ so I need to buy less ______________.
What causes us to lose sight of this simple truth? I’m not sure. But none of us are immune from it. Which is probably one of the reasons it is so difficult to articulate when we see it playing out in another person’s life.
Derek Peterson says
Great POST! I read “Your Money or Your Life” in 1994 on a bicycle ride from Alaska to South America. I wanted more life and experiences out of my life, and some “nice stuff.” It is that intentionality that has allowed me to be as free as I have chosen to be. And, for me, that has made all the difference.
It’s so easy to see it in other people, but so hard when I realise I make the same mistakes and excuses myself!
Yes! I often want to tell people that they made the decisions leading to a lack of money. But I need the kind of good friends who will remind me of it too!
joshua becker says
You are totally right Timothy! In fact, that realization—which I used to close the post—came to me while I was writing.
A similar blog post reminded me, “You can afford anything, but not everything.” I keep this as my mantra!
Here’s a link to the other blog — and thank you for keeping this essential idea front and center in our lives!
The Green Swan says
I think those are great examples of the relationship so many people have with money…a lack of awareness and understanding followed by horrible planning. Instead folks are all too wrapped up in consumerism and chasing the Joneses in their shiny highlanders. Getting a grip on your money can be so empowering!
Completely agree on all this. It does amaze me that some people really don’t understand that you have to make choices with your money. I have this conversation all the time with a friend where she tells me how lucky I am that I was able to buy a house and then I, tongue in cheek, ask her which out of her last 8 trips to Europe in 10 years was her favourite. I think it’s finally clicked that she made choices that were right for her at the time which meant that another dream of hers has to take a back seat.
Emma - a simple living journey says
This was SUCH a timley post for me. My husband and I literally just finished discussing our business which is on the market, the life we want to live (buy a farm we have been working towards for the last 10 years with a minimal mortgage.) And exactly how much we are willing to sacrifice to get there.
We decided to drop the price of the business, and keep the building. Not ideal, but its a very tough climate here. We are already pretty frugal, aiming to live simply, mindfully and consume consiously. But the question is how far are we willing to go to make this dream of a farm a reality? When it comes to the crunch – what really matters to us? And how are the decisions we make valuing these things as a priority?
Sometimes, you just need to pull up your big girl pants, grit your teeth and get on with the job while kissing goodbye to some of the things that never mattered in the first place.
I like your blog!
You’re blogs give me something I don’t notice.
English is my second language so l am sorry if I say you something rude.
I live in Japan.
I found out your book at my favorite book store!
Of course I bought the book on amazon
I didn’t know your book translates to Japanese
I was very surprised and so glad!
Your book is genius. many people will aware the good way of minimalism.
joshua becker says
You said nothing rude—only beautiful words. The More of Less has been translated into nine different languages. I’m thankful Japanese is one of them.
The Tepid Tamale says
“We decide every day where our money is going to be spent.”
I was just thinking lately about our journey and how many times in the last 3 years I have found your statement to be true. If we stopped and thought, we ended up making a decision that saved us a lot of money. Cell phone through airvoicewireless.com, Museum passes, 1 car, Locks of Love (haircuts) and many more. Thank you for the reminder, it’s something everyone needs to hear.
misery chick says
This is OT, but I LOVE your name!
I have been a silent reader of your blog since you started. This is the first post I’ve commented on. Yes, yes, and more yes- especially your last line. Thank you for encouraging me and so many!
joshua becker says
Well then, thanks for commenting.
This article really struck a chord with me. My son and his wife are always complaining about not having money for school shoes for the children for example. I have had to stop myself from speaking up about my daughter in law’s smoking habit. Guess I don’t want to nag but I am always being asked to ‘lend’ them money. Your article has made me think about where I spend money on things I don’t need but want. Finding it hard to embrace minimalism although I desperately want to!
Rick Teague says
Josh, great post! My mother always said to us, from our youngest days, “You can spend it on anything you want, but you can only spend it once.” Her point was exactly yours – that we need to be really thoughtful about where we spend money. Great woman, great lesson. Thanks, mom!
Fiona Bennett says
That’s so nice and great advice, I will say that to my children.
Nice way to put it.
Brooke Small says
I like that! Going to say that within my family.
Vicki Nelson says
Rick, you had a wise mom. Very cool lesson. I’m going to use that one in my own life.
I love that line. Easy to remember and so true. Thank you to you and your mom.
I always think about something I want to buy in terms of how much work I have to do to pay for it, or how many hours of my life I have to give to buy something. For example, if I was inclined to buy an expensive purse for $300 (which I’m not). I would have to work 4-5 hours to do that. I have to pay taxes on the mo way I earned and then buy the item. I know I am fortunate to have chosen a well paying job, but it is still not worth four hours of my life to buy that purse. Does that make sense to anyone?
Trudy Laird says
That makes perfect sense. SMART!!!!!