How Spending Less Made Me Happier
Contrary to popular belief, you don't need money to be happy. In fact, spending less can actually make you happier.
"Say what? Are you crazy? I need money to buy fancy toys, flashy cars, get into exclusive clubs, fine restaurants, big shows. Y'know, the fun stuff."
It might seem counterintuitive, but you can become happier by not spending money on those things, or whatever else. And that's not just some crazy frugal talking, either.
How? It's simple: When you don't spend, your focus shifts to finding experiences. Great experiences stay with you. And those experiences are what last and will make you truly happy, not possessions or the next fleeting entertainment rush that come and go.
Think about it: What has really made you happy in your life so far? Some gadget you bought a while back, or...
- A beautiful walk with someone you love?
- Sitting in front of a fire with your friends?
- Playing sports with great people on a sunny afternoon?
- Hiking and enjoying nature?
- Holidays with your family?
- Spending the day making music or painting?
Sure, that fancy gadget gave you a rush when you first held it in your hands, but you got pretty bored of or used to it soon enough, right? But those experiences you had — the ones that didn't cost a dime — stay with you forever.
Only Spend Enough to Create Your Experiences
Now, of course you want to spend on some things (besides the necessities like groceries and rent) — restaurant, movie, trips, ski lift tickets, music recording equipment, paint supplies, whatever. But the point here is to only spend as much as you need to create your experiences, rather than make the spending itself your method of finding happiness.
New gadgets and sensation-stimulating nights out are fleeting and constantly force you to spend, spend, spend. But experiences don't cost anything and stay with you long after they're done. So, buy those nice athletic shoes, but then use them for your runs and hikes and do more of those activities that will ultimately make you very happy, rather than going back to the store to buy more shoes.
How to Make the Shift From Buying to Experiencing
OK, so don't spend to be happy and instead start seeking more experiences. Sounds nice, but easier said than done. How the heck do you make the shift from buying to experiencing? Some practical advice, please:
- Look at what you regularly spend on that's not necessities like groceries and rent: going out, movies, clothes, tools, etc.
- Decide why, specifically, you regularly spend on those things. Why/how do they make you happy?
- Think of how you could use your existing things to create new experiences that you'd enjoy but haven't been doing much. Put your existing video collection to use by throwing movie nights with your friends, for example.
- Make a list of free things you currently do that you enjoy, like hiking, music-making, painting, running, sports, etc.
- Start doing more of those things while consciously cutting back on your spending.
- The more experiences you start having, the more you'll enjoy yourself, and the less you'll have a desire to spend.
You could say steps like these are common sense, and you'd be right. There are no secret tricks or tactics here. Pretty simple stuff. It's all about becoming conscious of your spending habits and cutting back on the nonessentials. Then, replacing the time otherwise spent on buying with pursuing experiences that really make you happy.
Rinse and repeat, and before long you'll have less and less of a desire to go out and buy stuff. You'll be too busy loving the experience you're having out in nature, creatively creating, spending amazing time with great people, or whatever else. These experiences don't cost anything, will make you ridiculously happy, and will stay with you long after they're done.
And ya know what's really neat? You can't buy experiences like that, even if you wanted to.
How Spending Less Made Me Happier
I used to spend constantly on new music-making gear. Instead of focusing wholly on improving my craft, I was researching what piece of equipment would let me "finally get that effect I was going for." Or which piece of DAW (digital audio workstation) software would be the ideal interface for my workflow. I mean, I was obviously spending time making electronic dance tunes: Why else would I need to buy new gear? But I was always left with that feeling of wanting more. Once the shine of the new piece of gear wore off, I wanted a new one.
Then one day I read an inspiring interview with an electronic artist, who mentioned that by purposefully limiting himself with equipment and not getting anything new, he was able to focus completely on making music. Not only did his skill level skyrocket, but he was enjoying the art of music a lot more. It wasn't about attaining a piece of gear but the sheer joy of creating beautiful sounds out of nothing.
In other words, by spending less, he became happier.
I noticed that I was falling under the same gear-lust trap that the artist used to be in. So I pushed myself to do the same. I sold most of my gear that I rarely used, settled on just one piece of software (Ableton Live), and forced myself not to look at music gear websites and magazines.
It was uncomfortable at first, but I quickly got used to not thinking about buying new equipment. My attention shifted to all about the art of music-making. And, just like that artist, I found myself getting better a lot faster — not to mention enjoying music-making a lot more. It was a relief not having to think about the latest plugin or effect. All my attention was on the music-making experience.
By spending less, I became happier.
Today, I don't think about spending on music-making stuff at all. I'm lost in the glorious, rewarding experience of making electronic music with the tools that I already have, and I'm so much happier as a result.
Spend Less to Become Happier
Shift your focus from spending to experiencing, and you can become happier. Rather than constantly pursuing new possessions that are fleeting, you'll enjoy experiences that bring you tons of happiness, stay with you long after they're gone, and don't cost you a dime.
Oh, and your bank account will say thank you, too.