lux·u·ry (noun) the state of great comfort and extravagant living.
Defining what my needs were (link) made me realize that the things I deemed as wants were typically luxury items. I had 14 pairs of shoes but only 2 feet, an Xbox that I've only played for 5 hours, and I frequently consumed $5 lattes. The constant purchasing of my wants had a cancerous effect on the rest of my life. Most of my time was spent making money just so that I could afford things that I didn't need.
When I realized I had a problem, I knew my first step was to figure out the root cause behind my excessive spending. Why the hell did I have no money?
I was an emotional consumer
INSECURE: Conspicuous consumption (link) was prevalent in my life. Subconsciously, I frequently compared myself to others. I would hesitate to buy a t-shirt that everyone else was wearing. I had to wear something that had a bit of exclusivity to stand out. Typically, that exclusivity came with a higher price tag that drained my bank account causing me financial stress. Bye, bye money.
ADDICTED: I bought things just to buy things. If I didn't buy something expensive for a while, I got withdrawals; an "itch" to buy something big. Buying things gave me a tiny, but all too temporary boost of excitement in a life that ran on cruise control. Tempted by the itch of my addiction, I usually relented and splurged. All it did was drain my bank account and cause me financial stress. Bye, bye money.
IRRATIONAL: My mind was very good at rationalizing the irrational. Its success rate was as automatic as a Steph Curry free throw. I would often buy the latest camera gear that I'd only use for a couple hours before storing it away for years. Irrationally, I thought having the latest camera equipment would make me a better filmmaker - I was a fool. And I paid for it. Literally and figuratively. I bent over backwards to make more money just to buy equipment that would give me a false sense of skill. All it did was drain my bank account and cause me financial stress. Bye, bye money.
There was one shared reason behind these purchases: I thought they would make me happy. The happiness was always short lived, maybe only lasting a couple days tops. I wasn't happy and I couldn't get out of debt. I couldn't figure it out. Then, I came across a theory from Adyashanti, an American spiritual teacher, that blew my mind.
"When we make a purchase and/or get what we want, we are temporarily happy and fulfilled. But the reason for happiness is not because we got what we wanted, but because for a brief period of time, we stopped wanting, and thus we experience peace and happiness." - Adyashanti
Suddenly, everything made sense. I, now, understood why that feeling of happiness was so fleeting. The idea of wanting is what drove me to spend irrationally. I wanted to feel secure, I wanted to satisfy my withdrawals, I wanted to be happy.
Looking back, I'm embarrassed that was why I got myself in debt, why I had no real savings for the future, why I was insecure, and why I was addicted. I foolishly believed that fulfilling these wants led to security. Achieving that momentary peace from not wanting drove me to continuously fill my wants. It fed my addiction and rationalized my impulses. It made me ashamed of myself.
Once I realized why I spent money on things I didn't need, it made it easy for me to stop wanting them.
An interesting thing happens when you want less: a huge weight is lifted off your shoulders.
- I have more time
- I have more money
- I have less financial stress
- I don't compare myself to others
- I don't have to work a dead end job motivated only by money
- I'm enjoying life more
It's been 4 months now and I haven't missed indulging in my wants. Every now and then, I'll treat myself to something special, but nowhere near as frequently as I used to. Since experiences give me more joy than luxurious items, I'll gladly spend the money to take a vacation. I've learned to appreciate what I already have and I'm more logical when it comes to spending.
The main thing is that I have more time and money to invest in things I value the most: health, family, and Paulina.