There is no shortage of outlets competing for our resources—especially the dollars in our pockets.
So it is a worthwhile pursuit to learn to spend our limited dollars wisely.
This is not a pursuit I’m sure we ever fully master, but it’s still a battle worth fighting nonetheless.
When we are uninentional with our money, it gets wasted on frivolous things.
One look around most of our houses (including mine to some extent) would reveal countless purchases that were unnecessary. The item seemed important and valuable at the time, but before long, it sits unused, unneeded, contributing no benefit to our lives. Money wasted.
No doubt one of the most humbling aspects of becoming minimalist (or just a good decluttering) is the realization of how much money we wasted on things we don’t need.
Is there a way to overcome this tendency?
Of course there is. Surely you’ve heard some of the typical pieces of advice on how to stop overspending and wasting money: create a budget, only pay with cash, pay your savings first, wait 30-days before any purchase.
Each of these ideas has merit—in fact, I’ve used all of them at some point in my life.
But there is an even more important step that we can take to stop wasting money on things we don’t need:
We can choose bigger goals for our money.
For example, if I were to ask you, “What is the goal you have for the money in your life?” How would you answer? Do you have one?
You might say, “I just want enough money to live comfortably.” That’s not a bad goal, necessarily. But what does it look like to live comfortably exactly? It’s hard to articulate and often changes based on our income because of hedonistic adaptation. It’s a fine goal, but the pursuit of comfortable living has resulted in quite a few wasted dollars.
You might say, “I just want to get out of debt.” Again, an admirable goal. But how much money do you need to make to get out of debt anyway? Isn’t it true, in many cases, there are still some sacrifices that people could make in order to get out of debt quicker—even with the money they currently make? Hasn’t the goal of getting out of debt still resulted in quite a few wasted dollars?
Or maybe you’d say, “Money buys me freedom. That is my goal.” Again, not a bad thing to pursue on its merits. But how much freedom do you actually require for this goal to be met? Chances are pretty good that you are already more free than most of the people in the world. And yet, it is not enough.
Don’t misunderstand me here. I am not against working to improve your financial circumstances, getting out of debt, pursuing financial freedom, or any other number of personal financial goals.
I’m just not convinced these goals are big enough to keep us from wasting money on things we don’t need. Most people would articulate one of those financial goals above, but we still spend, on average, $1,500/month on nonessentials.
Maybe these goals aren’t big enough.
Let me show you how dreaming even bigger dreams might help us waste less money:
Our money is only as valuable as what we choose to spend it on. We can use our money to buy a bigger home, a nicer car, a larger-screen television, a new purse, or an expensive coffee. But in every case, our dollars can only be spent once and the return on investment will always be tied to the thing we chose to purchase.
One reason we fall into the trap of buying things we don’t need is because we haven’t sat down and considered the full potential for our financial resources. And when our pennies have no focus or greater end, they become too easy to spend.
My dollars can be used to upgrade my phone again… or they could be used to feed a refugee family in Ukraine. The phone may be top-of-the-line for the next year… or a family could be rescued from starvation. Which is more valuable?
My dollars can be used to remodel my home… or they could be used to help an inner-city child attend college. My new furniture will fade again in a few years… or that young man or woman could change the entire trajectory of their family. Which is more valuable?
My dollars can be used to buy another pair of jeans… or those same dollars could allow a struggling single mother to bring home pizza on a Friday night for her family and get a little extra rest. The jeans may look good for a few wears… or that single mother may be encouraged and empowered by your simple gesture in ways you’ll never understand.
Our money, you see, is only as valuable as what we choose to spend it on.
And the bigger the goal we set for ours—no matter how much we have—the less likely we are to waste it on futile purchases. Very few of us would purposefully choose to upgrade our phone at the expense of a starving family down the street.
What problems in the world are you passionate about solving? Who needs your help and support? What good deeds for others can your money accomplish? Name them, list them, and begin seeing the full potential for the financial resources in your life.
Many people dream of being wealthy. But here again, if I could challenge that thinking, saving money just for the sake of having a lot of money will eventually fall victim to clever marketing.
When you think about it, just having a lot of money in your bank account isn’t really a very motivating goal. The bigger question is, “Why am I saving this money? What’s the end goal for it?” And if we haven’t gotten clear on a bigger goal for our dollars, they will eventually get spent on things that don’t matter.
If you want to stop wasting money in your life, choose bigger goals and dream bigger dreams for it.
As an added bonus, this strategy also helps us fight the presence of envy in our lives—at least in terms of things that money can buy.
Let’s say I am passionate about a specific problem that I see in the world and begin using my money to solve it. Suddenly, it doesn’t matter to me that my neighbor bought a boat… my best friend got new shoes… or my relative just went on an extravagant vacation. My money was spent on something important to me. It doesn’t matter that I have less because of it; I am proud of where it was spent.
When we begin to see the full potential for our lives is far greater than selfish and worldly pursuits, we are less likely to waste our resources chasing them.