Demand More and Spend Less

It occurs to me that people must consider my life is difficult since our monthly spending, without the mortgage, is about $2100/month.  Some people believe spending more money makes people happier.  This has been proven to be a false statement by various studies.  Yet I still get people looking at me like I’m crazy.  The fact is I’m working on demanding more from my life and happen to spend less because of it.

I don’t believe that consumerism has ever made anyone truly happy including the rich.  They might have more options and experiences available to them, but ultimately they suffer from the same issue of the rest of us.  Our society is fantastic on making products.  If you want a new phone, no problem, pick from twenty of them.  If you want a new house, pick out a floor plan and they will even paint it to the theme you pick out.  Heck you don’t even need much money since interest rates are so low you can always borrow it.  The problem is wants are unlimited.  You can pour money at your wants forever and never be satisfied for all that long.  Now that is a bit of a problem: how can you really be truly happy if you are never satisfied?

So screw consumerism, I want more from my life that just wants.  I instead to work on filling my needs and demand more from my life than filling just wants.  But aren’t needs just food, water, shelter?  No, actually the work by Manfred Max-Neef on fundamental humans needs lists them as:

  • subsistence,
  • protection,
  • affection,
  • understanding,
  • participation,
  • leisure,
  • creation,
  • identity and
  • freedom

Holy crap that’s a lot more than food, water and shelter?!?  Yet all of those are still ‘needs’ not ‘wants’.  You need affection and understanding.  You need to create and have some freedom.  These aren’t optional things in life, without them you can never be truly happy since you haven’t even looked after your ‘needs’.   No wonder we hide in the distractions of movies, TV, sports and other fantasy worlds at night.  We buy new things to make us feel better for a while to help us forget that hole inside of us.  We talk of anything and everything but what we really need.

We don’t tell each other than we are lonely and we need affection.  We don’t tell each other you feel lost and you need understanding.  We don’t tell each other we feel so chained to our debts and stuff that we are almost crying out for a little freedom.  And we don’t talk about how utterly confused we are all about our lives and that we are desperately seeking some of kind of identity and will even take what little we can get from a job we hate.  Then in the quiet of our mind we ask: what’s wrong with me?  The answer is simple: nothing is wrong with you.  You living in a society that’s got it all backwards by focusing on wants rather than needs.

So I am demanding more from my life than wants.  I’m focused on my needs.  I get affection from spending time with my family.  I hang with friends to get understanding.  I serve on my school board to get participation.  I work 80% of the time to have leisure.  I write this blog and work on my book to get creation.  I get my identity as a husband, father, and friend so I don’t have to get it from my job.  Then I’m working towards early retirement to have more freedom in the future.

The result of all that is I’m happy most of time.  Much happier than a lot of people I know and the byproduct of my life is spending money on wants isn’t all that appealing to me.  Really when you focus on what you need you don’t feel the same pull to buy stuff or even have the time to spend looking at marketing.  Also you don’t have that hole inside of you that you are trying to fill up, since you are already full.

So are you ready to demand more of your life and get want you need?  What fundamental need are you not looking after?

18 thoughts on “Demand More and Spend Less”

  1. That’s a good post Tim and it does resonate with me as I’m seriously considering downsizing my home to get more leisure time and reduce debt. My wife and I make good money and our debt to income ratio is only about 1.4, much better than the average Canadian. Still, we do find ourselves prisoners of debt as we’d both like to go into alternative and interesting but less paying careers. Your post summarizes y feelings of the moment quite well.

  2. Excellent post Tim!

    What I’ve learned so far is that stepping back to evaluate why I do things in a certain way or why I do them at all has helped. Is it just the way the world does them and am I drifting along or is there genuine value added to my life by doing those things? The thirst could be for a new car, latest gadgets, peer acknowledgment, etc. Nothing against the typical consumer but it is just that my priorities are different (the freedom to choose).

    In case you’ve missed Jacob’s post about the typical argument against people who go against the grain, here you go….

    http://earlyretirementextreme.com/sacrificing-too-much-for-early-retirement.html

  3. I’m curious – what are the thoughts on early retirement versus finding stability to quit your job, to run your own business. Assuming this scenario would still require you to earn income , as it may require you to sacrifice your early retirement savings – could it still be considered a form of freedom?

  4. I like the article, but it is in dire need of a proofreading.

    Anyway, I agree that focusing on needs and not on wants is a new priority in my life as well.

  5. Studies have shown that after basic needs are met, more $ does not translate into more long-term happiness, although there might be a short-term happiness boost from a lottery win, salary increase, bouse, etc.

  6. Very good article content, but your creation needs some proof reading, it was hard to get past the first paragraph

  7. Hi Tim, I think you’re right…there is just too much choice out there for the consumer. Take a look at cell phones. You used to get one in case of emergency if you’re on the road, or if you needed to stay connected to work or home. Now everyone has a smart phone paying over $75/month and they probably don’t even use the ‘phone’, they use the browser, text, BBM, social media, etc.

    Next comes the iPad which is just a bigger fancier version of your smart phone (without the phone that you don’t use anyways). Where does it end? Damn you Apple!

  8. A lot of interesting and valuable information but like saskboy I am turned off by the number of spelling and grammatical errors and also by the number of edits left in during rewriting time.

    Someone who is a public school trustee (I am one also) and who hopes to write commercially once Freedom 45 becomes operational, may lose many opportunities because of sloppy editing and spelling and grammar goofs. That would be a shame. As a writer and editor I itch to have 30 minutes with all this copy – it would be so easy to make such a difference.

  9. Kiester,

    It could be a form of freedom. To run a business does require a lot of work and some financial backing would make it a lot easier to do. It’s all about what you want. There isn’t a wrong answer here.

    Tim

  10. Re: Editing

    This discussion comes up periodically because when I get busy I end up writing the morning of that post and I suck at editing anything I have just written. I NEED some time away from the piece.

    I have tried at times to get posts pre-written and then do a final edit the morning of. It works as a system for perhaps a week before it falls apart on me.

    So another option is me posting less and improving the quality. Bluntly put I can likely do two good posts a week at most on my current schedule.

    So what do you want? More frequent posting or better less frequent posts? I welcome any opinions.

    Tim

  11. Why not just run a quick grammar-checker and spell-checker on your word-processing software program before posting? Can’t take more than a few minutes and would resolve the most egregious errors.

  12. Tim…. you’re doing a great job and i don’t view your blogs for an english lesson. You always give great solid advice!!!

  13. Thanks for taking the time to fix up many of the mistakes, I was able to read it an understand it, and enjoyed your message.

    I don’t read to get an English lesson, but the double and unintended meanings were thick until you patched it up.

    http://saskboy.wordpress.com/2010/10/25/the-the-impotentce-of-proofreading/
    You’ll probably get a laugh out of this, and there are two tips in the comments too, namely reading backwards, and reading aloud to self-correct. Leaving time between writing and posting is of course another good method.

  14. I think there are times when spending does bring satisfaction … but rarely is it on material things. Spending money on experiences is worth the while, such as travel. If you can’t afford a huge trip, then even a simple trip to the zoo or museum is worth the cost, as long as you’re creating memories, not just acquiring materials.

    I used to think that buying material things that would enhance my image would bring me some sort of satisfaction … to prove to the world that I’m making it. Instead, it made me stressed out and strapped for cash. I’m glad I’ve learned and changed my ways before it was too late.

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