Posted by: Adam Roper | May 11, 2009

Personal Finances Part 3: Contentment

(a brief aside in my conversation on finances).

I have a confession to make: when I’m depressed I buy things.

The story that brought me to this realization goes like this: A couple days ago the camp I applied to work for called and and said they were unable to hire me, which made me kind of down. Later that day, after biking to a tea-shop with a friend, I stopped into future shop and bought some new CDs. A couple of the CDs were slightly overpriced, and I could have shopped around for them, but I didn’t care much. I just wanted something new to hold in my hands, something to distract me from from current job situation.

On the bike ride home it occurred to me  how dependent I have become on my spending habits as a source of joy and- dare I say- validation.

The truth is for many, myself included, shopping can be therapeutic. It can also lead to carelessness with our finances. So, a key aspect in a reflective approach to finances is asking what effect my spending habits have on my emotions/ how my emotions effect how I spend.

The love of music, and the desire to purchase it is fair, but I believe there is always a better way we can treat our desire. When my friend Jeff came to visit he suggested that I wait to buy CDs- buy one CD a month, enjoy it thoroughly, then next month choose to purchase another. In any given year there are 5-10 albums that I discover which are must-owns. So instead of buying them all at once, why not just buy one or two at a time and choose to be content?

Contentment is a guiding factor in many of the purchases we make. Lack of it leads to carelessness, and a greater amount of it makes careful consideration more imaginable. Sometimes we have to stop and ask the question¬† “Where will I look for my contentment?” Will I find my contentment in things that are free- conversation with friends, bike rides, listening to music- or will I find my contentment in needing to own new things constantly?

Really what I should be doing is learning to be content with things I have, and learning to love things I own in completely different ways, while still being able to enjoy the occasional joy of holding something new in my hands (in this case, paper CD cases). And with the money I save spending less I could choose to give more. There are a lot of causes in this world that probably need my money more than I need ten new CDs.

To be continued…

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Responses

  1. I heard a good friend of ours, Steve Kim, mention an interesting strategy on contentment and simplicity. He suggested to not stop at just not buying so much, but take it even further… and actually get rid of the things you don’t need or don’t use.

    This is counter-cultural. We are conditioned to keep acquiring more and more and more stuff. It is completely backwards to downsize. But I think it really affects how you experience life and appreciate your possessions. When I got rid of all my non-purchased music (which was ridiculously difficult) I began to really enjoy music all the more. I think it’s like that for most things.

  2. Hey man, being content with what you have goes against the very fabric of our society. don’t be too hard on yourself, its a tough hill to climb. One I climb every day… or at least try to… sometimes


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