Do you really need all that stuff? 1

Can material possessions really make you happy?

Studies have shown that you have an initial burst of happiness when you buy something that you want.  if you’ve been longing for the item for a long time – such as maybe saving for a car, then the happiness lasts a bit longer than if it’s an impulse purchase.  However, after a certain period of time, the happiness from purchasing and owning the item declines.  It is at this stage that most consumers go and buy something else to make themselves happy.  It’s a vicious cycle, and ultimately stuff does not make you happy.

Did you borrow money to purchase that stuff?

If you have purchased something nice on credit (e.g. credit card or hire purchase), the pain of paying off the purchase will last longer than the happiness gained by the purchase.  Please don’t do this!

How many hours of life energy is it really costing you?

The book Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez provides a very scary realisation of how many hours of your life you have to give up for each purchase that you make.  You might think that you earn $20 per hour so the item has cost you an hour’s work.  The reality is that we are earning far less than the hourly rate of our employment.  When you consider how many hours per week you spend preparing for, commuting to, and recovering from work, your hourly rate suddenly looks pretty abysmal.  Dominguez suggests that you work out your real hourly rate and calculate the hours of your life energy that have gone into that purchase.  Is the nice shiny thing really worth that many hours of life energy?

People buy stuff because they feel that they deserve it after working so hard.  Recently hubby and I have discovered many books and blogs that suggest perhaps we should forgo the stuff and work less hard – or at least don’t spend as much of our life working.

If you could keep more of your time by having less stuff, would you want to do that?

A lot of traveller’s blogs state that some of the happiest people in the world own hardly anything and many are living in poverty.  Whilst I’m not suggesting you adopt a lifestyle of poverty, I do wonder what generates happiness, because obviously it isn’t having stuff.

Some of the most unhappy people are the ones that appear to others as if they have everything; the big house, flash car, latest i-thingee.  In reality these people are swimming in debt and are trapped in stressful jobs that they may or may not enjoy so that they can pay for their “lifestyle”.  I happen to work with some of these people and know that they are giving up their life energy at work, whilst missing out on actually having a life.  They work weekends and someone else is raising their children.

Hubby and I have decided to forgo the bigger house and newer car until we are comfortably able to afford them.  Retiring early from the “rat race” is more important to our lifestyle and happiness than portraying wealth to others.

What other people think of you is none of your business, and other people probably aren’t watching you anyway!

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One thought on “Do you really need all that stuff?

  • Julia

    Great post! Don’t forget to add into that purchase equation the post purchase costs of ownership such as maintenance, depreciation and finally the cost of disposal of said item (environmental as well as financial). As I slowly work towards decluttering and owning less stuff I’m finding there really is happiness in having less – I now have quality, not quantity and find I focus more on experiences – a walk on the beach far outweighs a mindless mall meander.