The Secret To Spending Less And Having More

familyI was walking the dogs this evening, thinking about my wife, Liz, and my son, Tyson, both of whom are visiting my mother-in-law for the weekend.  As I walked I was picturing Tyson, who is just a hair over 4 months of age, wearing his blue pajamas, hat and slippers.  This was the outfit I saw him in this morning, just before heading to the office.  He looked so cute, baby pimples and all.  He gave me a big smile and made both Liz and I smile with a joy that never seems to lose its luster, no matter how many times he cracks the same silly grin.

So I’m walking my dogs, picturing my cute little son, my beautiful wife and the tangible happiness that they bring to my life.  I guess you could say that I had found a moment of true appreciation for what I’d been blessed with.  Yet the funny thing is that in those moments (and I’m sure you can relate to this) I had not a single thought of a purchased item.  Not my Macbook Pro or iPhone, not my car or house or my TV or bike or…you get the point.  OK, maybe I thought about my Macbook, but only for a second and then it was back to my wife and son. :-D

It’s just that in these moments we seem to recognize what truly matters in life.  The rest of the time we find ourselves worrying about money, obsessing over something we want to purchase or trying to convince ourselves and/or those around us that our lives would be much better off if we could just have that one item that’s missing from our ‘collection’.

Our Return Is Always Equal To Our Investment

When you invest your time, money and/or attention into something you will inevitably receive a return that is equal to that investment (this is not always entirely true, but just work with me here).  So let’s say you spend $50 on a nice dinner out.  You’ll receive an enjoyable, short lived bit of satisfaction and then you’ll forget all about it.  Now let’s say you spend $500 on a new grill.  This item has the capacity to provide you with many occasions of enjoyment and satisfying cuisine.  It cost you more money and took you more time to save up for, but you knew this was an investment into your grilling enjoyment.

OK, so forget about the horrible analogy above and think about this.  What has the greatest value in your life?  Got it?  OK, now what area of your life takes the most work to maintain?  I don’t know about you, but my family means the world to me and yet my marriage, for example, has required more effort to maintain than most anything else.

You know the saying, “You get what you pay for.”?  Well, when it comes to having true joy in your life you find that hard work is most certainly involved.  My point is that trying to buy our happiness is the easy way out and yet the least satisfying option.  We are so easily convinced that somehow there is a price tag dangling from happiness and it’s just a matter of making enough money to purchase it.  But the fact is, this is a BIG FAT LIE!

The last 7 years of marriage to Liz have been a roller coaster ride, to say the least, but it’s only in that effort that I’ve gained a priceless friendship that will last a lifetime.  And now we get to share that love with our son and enjoy even more value for our efforts.

Let me end with this…

If you have a spouse, or a sibling or a parent or a friend or anyone in your life who brings you joy, always see the true value of that investment.  These are the things that matter, not the ‘stuff’ in your life.

The secret to spending less and having more is to take the time and energy that you would have spent on:

  • …working to make the money for a purchase
  • …making the purchase
  • …making space for the product
  • …and then maintaining it…

and put that effort into nurturing your relationships.  Do this and I promise you’ll find your greater efforts will always be matched with MUCH greater reward.

Eric Hamm

Comments

  1. says

    Hi Eric,
    First time to visit your blog.

    This is a very meaningful post. It’s great to have those moments where your thought is totally consumed in appreciation for the love and warmth that relationships bring you. It would be cool if we could have those moments more often.

    Cheers,
    Gordie

    • says

      Hey Gordie, thanks for sharing your thoughts. :-)

      I’m really finding that we CAN have those thoughts more often, but it just takes a bit of work on our part. But what a worthwhile investment!

      Eric

  2. says

    Dear Eric,

    I relate to your post completely. Life has gotten so complicated for people in the modern world, consumed with things having so many choices that they many have forgotten the real value of having less and BEING more.

    Kudos for sharing this wisdom with the world.

  3. says

    Great Thoughts. Couldn’t agree more. Though some of the greatest moments in my life my have cost little bit of money, the experience was hands down worth it. But those expensive dinners I took dates on….not so much,

    Dave
    LifeExcursion

    • says

      Hey Dave, I totally agree about the expensive dinner thing. I’ve had a few that were memorable, but most of my favorite memories were simply being with those I care about.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. :-) Eric

    • says

      Hey Tess, you know, I thought about that and even tried to find a good one of us, but I just couldn’t seem to find one that was what I was looking for. And Liz and Tyson were at her moms so I couldn’t take one of us for the post.

      I’ll have to get a good up-to-date shot of us all and maybe switch it out. But hey, you can’t argue with the All American model family that’s up there now, right?! :-)

      Eric

  4. says

    Eric, Thanks for sharing those thoughts. In my own writing on money and happiness at http://www.happiness-after-midlife.com/midlife-crisis-coping-blog.html, I refer to the notions of “enough,” “clutter,” and “life fulfillment.” There is another notion that appeals to me as well: “life energy.” They all come from the life-changing book by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin, Your money or your life.

    The authors equate life energy with money. They suggest that you ask yourself three questions when making a purchase, which could transform your relationship with money.
    1. Will I receive fulfillment, satisfaction and value in proportion to life energy spent? Rate a purchase on a three-point scale: a “plus” for purchases that give satisfaction, a “minus” for those that give no satisfaction, and a zero for those that are just okay.
    2. Is this expenditure of life energy in alignment with my values and life purpose? The authors rely on the work Viktor Frankel who was interested in the search for meaning and the discovery of inner strength.
    3. How might this purchase change if I did not have to work for a living? In other words, separate your life from your work. Do I need this for myself or for my work? It does make a difference.
    Take the time to apply these three simple questions; they may make a difference in your level of fulfillment and happiness.

    • says

      Hey Frank, I’ve got that book. It’s really forces you to see money in a new light, no doubt! And good points too. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with us. :-) Eric

  5. says

    Great post.

    When I was younger I used to purchase so many things that were not particularly essential. It really is amazing how much peer pressure we have, even if we think we are “non-conformists.” We buy the same gadgets, computers, brands and products as our peers. Just look at all the people with Japanese character tattoos and Moleskin notebooks. Those purchases are not unique expressions of individuality, when everyone else is also buying them. We are all consumerist sheep, whether we care to admit it or not.

    The greatest thing I ever did to reduce those impulses was to give up everything and move to another country. Now I have accumulated a lot of stuff again, so I need another purge by relocating again. We all need to focus more on experiences, rather than things!

    • says

      Hey John, I couldn’t agree more! Here I am, talking on my iPhone, typing away on my MacBook keyboard. If that’s not being a conformist I don’t know what is. :-)

      Glad to hear you’ve found what works for you. I think for me it’s not only reducing the amount of junk that I own that has helped, but relying less on that junk to begin with. When I’m bored and my first thought is to spend money, I know I have a problem and yet that’s so common in today’s society.

      Anyway, thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with us. Eric

  6. says

    Eric,

    These are the types of posts that I love coming back to on your blog. Meaningful and just enough information to get me thinking about my own life and how fortunate I am.

    Thanks!
    Jake

  7. says

    Hey Eric, what a great post! Without a doubt my greatest moments in life have involved little to no money. Most of them had to do with absorbing great art, reading a moving book, or simply enjoying a killer slice of pizza.

    But I must admit, my pricey Macbook Pro is still killer. :)

    Cheers Eric!
    Dayne

  8. says

    Eric, very nice post. It took me 40 plus years to realize that money and spending on “things” is only a part of the puzzle of life. The most important aspects are family, friends, and your experiences that you have. I’m grateful that I finally know this fact, and I feel for others I know struggling with spending and material goods, unsure of the meaning that their “things” and the value of them have in their lives. Madison Avenue spends millions trying to brain wash us into thinking we are missing out unless we have the “best” of everything, and I for one am glad I no longer subscribe to ANY of those beliefs.

    Know you’re busy, but would like more frequent posts if you can do it. Posts like these are, without question, value added….

    • says

      Hey Joe, I really appreciate the vote of confidence. I’d really like to post more and hopefully, soon, will be able to do so. Hope to see you drop by when I do. :-) Eric

  9. says

    I recently finished The Money Drunk. It really delves into our unhealthy relationships with money and addictions to money, the “high” we feel when we buy something. I’m going through my recovery steps as we speak. I never realized what a problem I have with money. Compared to so many people I know, I don’t have that much debt. But my real problem is the fact that no matter how much money I make, I always seem to need just a little more to be in a happier place.

    I also read The Secret, which was recommended. I have to admit that when my mantras were about being rich, they never happened. So I have changed it to living an enriching life of abundance, and almost immediately, good things started happening. There’s a big difference in living an enriching life versus being rich. Rich is really a relative term; compared to so many in the world, I’m already rich.

    • says

      Hey Kay, we’re definitely on the same page here. My dad used to always tell me that my money seemed to burn a hole in my pocket. It was so true! If I had any ‘excess’ I would immediately think to myself, “What can I buy with this?!”

      And the part that really showed me I had an issue was the fact that it was the pursuit of the item that brought me the greatest pleasure. Once I actually obtained the ‘thing’ I would quickly lose interest. And all this kind of habit does is keep us distracted and broke. We just have to work that much harder to make up for the cost of our expensive habit.

      And as you pointed out, it’s not necessarily that we’re spending TONS of cash or anything, but a small leak will eventually sink a ship, you know?!

      Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts. We’re certainly two who have just recently started to recover from this HUGE distraction from the part of our lives that truly matter most.

      Eric

  10. says

    Spot on! Yeah, I rarely spend on stuff these days — unless I really need ‘em. Okay, besides getting a whole new set of clothes (used to wear Large, while I’m actually a Small) and a new mobile phone (to save on outdoors web access as I work almost anywhere now), most of my time will be reinvested into meeting up with friends, while saving a whole lot thanks to being frugal on food.

    It is really about how we spend out time and energy on that equals to how fruitful we are (equates to having more?) without the need to spend any more. :)

    • says

      Hey Daniel, it sounds like you’ve got your priorities in order. It think a lot of it is just about finding what works best for us in our current situations. Things change over time and as we add new family and friends to our daily lives.

      Eric

  11. says

    Very nice post. Refreshing to read in the society we are currently living in. Where we are always pressed for more things to achieve.Our group has been researching on different ways to live our lives more creatively. We have found out that a feeling of gratitude and appreciation are the first steps to start our days in harmony… the more with thank for the things we have, more abundance comes into our lives.

  12. Bonnie says

    Thanks, great post.
    And here’s hoping that some good can came out of the economic downturn, that people reexamine the values that got us into trouble in the first place

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