And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. ~ Kahlil Gibran

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Living With Financial Intention

I have been reviewing the budget here at Barefoot Manor just lately, and it never fails to astonish me how much money we bring in compared to our perception of how much money we have.

I think that is a pretty common problem.

I read somewhere (forgot where) that humans are hardwired to judge their success by comparing themselves to the others around them. If you aren't doing "better" than those around you, you aren't doing well at all.

Seems silly when you think about it.

It seems that it would be much more logical and healthy to judge our success by our ability to meet our needs and live a fulfilling life, doesn't it?

Back to the budget thing.... When I look at our finances, I realise that we have enough money to pay our bills and have a few luxuries on top of that. Of course, my idea of luxury includes Cable TV, so my idea of luxury might not be the same as others', but still. You get the idea. We even have the money to pay down our debt in a reasonable amount of time.

It makes me wonder where all our cash-ola goes. I always feel like we are struggling to just get by, but when I look at the numbers that is just not true.

The answer is really, really simple. We haven't been thinking lately.

That is the trick of this whole Voluntary Simplicity thing. You have to think about what you are doing. It is so easy to just go with the flow, turn you brain off, and fill your shopping basket with stuff that you don't really need. It is so easy to run through the drive-thru or pick up frozen pizzas or (heaven forbid) order out rather than go home and cook something real.

The thing is, though, that you never really get satisfaction living this way.

Once you start trying to buy happiness and fulfillment, things get out of control really quickly. I read somewhere else (again, I have no idea where) that the human mind is hardwired to constantly want MORE. Once you feed a desire, another desire rises to take it's place.

I totally agree with that concept, from personal experience.

To make the whole situation a little more complicated, most folks cannot separate the idea of not having things by choice from not being able to have things. They figure that if you choose not to purchase a shiny new ditsel-blat that you can't afford it.

I even see folks do this to themselves. They have money in the bank (or in their pocket), and they start looking for something to spend it on. It doesn't matter that they have met all their true needs and the most fulfilling of their wants. They have money, so they need to have something to show for it. Whether that manifests itself in a car or a shiny gold pen doesn't really matter. The spending is what matters.

Now, it would be wonderful if we could all go find mountain tops to sit on and contemplate The Meaning of Life and divorce ourselves from this basic human drive of desiring. I think we would probably run out of mountain tops pretty quickly, though.

I don't even think that wanting things is necessarily a bad thing. It is the motivation for us all to improve our lives. The trick is to learn to want things that are going to actually feed our souls and be satisfying in a lasting manner.

Anyway, that is what I have been thinking about lately. I have been wondering exactly how much of my time and $$ I have been wasting on mindlessness, and I am very afraid that the answer is horrible.

Still, it is never too late to change.


Em said...

You surely identified our weaknesses - take out and drive thru. So often we view those as the solution to a busy day. We have to get better with how we plan and prepare dinner and I know we'll save some cash in the process.

Deb said...

So true. I find myself more and more at odds with The Hermit over buying groceries; he'll think nothing of driving 50 miles to get something for dinner because he wants it, even though we have plenty of food at home. And then he'll come home with three or four bags of other stuff we don't need.

Finding Pam said...

Very good post! The older we get the less we need. That is one aspect of getting older that I like.

I keep it simple and now that we are moving even simpler. Seperate between wants and needs and that cuts out a lot of mindless spending. Also, tracking your cash spending can be a huge eye opener. We pay ourselves first and never miss it. I try to live beneath our means.

There is no point in keeping up with the Jones because like them and everyone else, they are in debt up to their eyeballs. If I really want something that I don't need, then I have to clearly think about it for a while.

Spending can become an addiction. My sister has it and she shops to feel better, which of course never comes to pass.

I think the word is affuenza...

Finding Pam said...


Fr. Peter Doodes said...

The addiction to spending is massive in the UK. There are 27 countries in the EU and yet 2/3rd of the credit card debt for the EU is British.

KPMG estimated that by the end of last year (08) 1 person was declared insolvent or bankrupt every 4.8 mins.

Like you said, we need to learn to want things that are going to actually feed our souls and be satisfying in a lasting manner.

Often, money can't buy them... What price a babies smile?

Anonymous said...

I'm 52 now and have been discovering this very philosophy. I've even recently (in the past week) made a major life change and already am happier, and it didn't involve buying anything. As a matter of fact, it involved a reduction in income. Go figure! Thanks, BG, for your always-on-the-money words (no pun intended).

Wendy said...

I think you make some very good points here. I've been reading a lot of stories about the 1930s, and what's interesting is that people would be starving and nearly frozen half-to-death from inadequate housing and clothes, but somehow, they always had enough money for things like cigarettes, alcohol, store-bought sweets, and "entertainment." It's bizarre to me, but at the same time, I remember being a poor college student and the first thing we did when we got any money was go out and spend it on something - anything - even if our rent was coming due, and we didn't know if we'd have the cash to pay it. My life could have been so much easier, if I'd had some of these realizations back then.

Jodi @ Food Storage Made Easy said...

I started the Dave Ramsey program where you account for EVERY single dollar you bring in whether it be for bills, savings, debt reduction, "blow money", etc. Every dollar has a name. It really makes you stop and think about the stupid expenditures. And if you decide they are worth it you put it in your budget and stick to that amount. It has helped me sooooo much. Especially after my husband lost his job. We were already used to living on a budget so we just cut out everything but NECESSITIES and luckily had a lot of savings to get us through a few hard months.