“The world is too much with us; late and soon, getting and spending, we lay waste our powers…” – William Wordsworth
Money is one of the reasons people most often give for not working less or not changing direction.
But how much money and stuff do we really need?
Have you ever wanted some material thing – like a house in a nicer area, a new car, a piece of furniture? Like me, do you sometimes get fixated on getting that thing, thinking things will somehow be different, better, when you’ve got it?
For me there’s always a let-down. Nothing fundamental changes. It doesn’t make me happier.
Another question. Looking back over the years, were you happiest when you’d got to a certain level in your career – decently paid and able to do mostly what you wanted without worrying too much about money? Or when you were just starting out, maybe newly married, and didn’t have very much, struggling to make ends meet?
Am I looking through a distorting lens when I remember those early days – and yes, even the struggles – with fondness?
Our furniture was second hand, but it was comfortable, it served its purpose. I didn’t worry if the cat scratched it either. We had to save if we wanted to go on holiday or buy something new – but we really appreciated and enjoyed those holidays or that new possession all the more.
Later when I was earning a lot more and working long hours, retail therapy was a way of disguising how unsatisfactory and unbalanced my life really was. I had no time for living – so I went shopping and spent the money I was working so hard for!
But money can’t buy love or happiness. Material things don’t have much impact on happiness levels. So how much money and stuff do we really need?
I think the question about stuff is easily answered – I personally don’t need a tenth of what I’ve accumulated, including most of the things I thought I couldn’t live without before I got them…
Money is a trickier issue. We need it to pay the rent or the mortgage – however we could think more carefully about our choices which lead to that high rent or big mortgage. We all want a certain amount of security for the future. And we may have dependents who we want to be in a position to help if they need it.
But examining our spending habits may reveal uncomfortable truths and perhaps show how we could do more with less.
So to come back to my earlier point, earning less (in the short or long term) isn’t necessarily a good reason not to try something new or cut down working hours to bring more balance into your life. It’s not just that we can often make our money go further than we think, but also that money and material things aren’t as important as we can slip into believing they are. And being unhappy at work or having a poor work-life balance can lead to higher spending to compensate for all the negatives.
If you want to change your life and are hesitating because of finances, examine your spending patterns and outgoings, identify potential savings, think about downsizing and other ways of freeing up or making money. Be clear about what you really need and what matters most.
Money should be a means to an end rather than an end in itself. It shouldn’t be the reason we stay trapped in an unhappy job or working so hard we don’t have time to live.
You may also like You can change direction in life and What is your oxygen? What do you want more of in your life?
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