Tag Archives: Happiness

Spending More on the Right Things

I swear some people think my life must be like a monk.  They confuse the fact that I don’t spend a lot with not spending anything at all.  So to clear that up: yes I spend money.  When you think about it, everyone does it so that isn’t so odd.  Yet perhaps the major difference between a lot of my spending and other people’s spending is I’m usually thoughtful on what I spend my money on.

Yet this does not mean I never impulse buy.  In fact, yes I splurge on impulse items once in a while.  Just once every few months rather than twice a week.  For example, my latest one was I was at the bank to deposit a cheque and I recalled that the local HMV location near me was shutting down soon.  So I wandered over there saw a sign stating that it was it’s last week and all the DVDs and Blu-rays were 50 or 60% off.  So I walked around the store and found a few items and bought them (Mr Robot Season 2, Contact and I Robot..if you were wondering).  Did I need them? Nope.  Did I plan for them? Nope.  Did I want them like a two year wants a piece of candy? Hell yes!  Yet prior to that I really can’t really recall a similar impulse spending event for the last six months.  At the very least I usually have a 24 hour cooling off period prior to buying something.

Then on the other hand I sometimes think things out too much.  I recently had decided to seek out a faster internet speed package from my telecom provider since after months of trying to deal with the issue I came to the conclusion: our internet is too slow for what our house uses it for.  Prior to that I had done numerous technical troubleshooting sessions to see if I could squeak more speed out of out internet, but didn’t improve things all that much. Yet in the end I decided I wanted a faster connection it comes down to this…my kids grew up and spend a lot more time online and my wife started to watch Netflix more.  So I was increasingly battling my family for times to download some files or watch Netflix myself.  So I called in and confirmed my options and found out that I could increase my internet speed from a max speed of 1.5 MB/s to 5.0MB/s (yes nearly 3 times faster)  for an additional $3/month.  After that I turned to my wife and said, “I’m a bloody idiot. I should have found that out ages ago and just upgraded.”  Now I can download a large file in a fraction of the time prior and while my wife watches her show on Netflix.  I was just in the habit of making do with what I had that it took me a while to realize the solution would be to pay the extra monthly fee and upgrade.

So in the end there are two sides of spending: the not thinking about it all all for impulse buying and over thinking something for months that costs next to nothing.  Either end isn’t particularly useful so try to stay somewhere in the middle to achieve a happy balance. That is usually where I spend the most of my time but even I screw up. So where do you tend to fall on that scale for your spending?

Getting Everything You Want

So over the holidays I was a bit shocked to realize I literally got just about everything on my wish list.  The only missing items were socks and a bottle of scotch (which no I didn’t go Boxing Day shopping for instead I waited to almost the new year to buy when the stores were less busy…oh its official my scotch is now as old as my career at 15 years *grin*). I think it helps that my wish list in the first place was small, but it did occur to me that despite getting just about everything I wanted I wasn’t suddenly like ten times happier.  In fact, things went on very similar to how they went on before over all for my happiness.  Within a week I wasn’t any much happier than when I got it all.

That of course is a minor example, but the same thing does end up applying to those that have sudden windfalls of money.  The lower amount you might easily miss it, but the effect does kick in regardless of how much you win (yes even the poor soul that will win the $1.5 billion dollar lotto in the US).  Because of one very simple little fact: money doesn’t change who you are.  In larger amounts it just more obvious to see your personality based on your spending.  So if before you have a windfall you can’t keep track of your spending and suck at understanding you taxes, then afterwards it will be the same.  Just you will buy bigger things and not keep track of them and get even more confused on your taxes.  The shift just may be more obvious with a sudden windfall of money.  Feel free to search out a few documentaries on this fact, they tend to be rather interesting to see how someone can blow through several million dollars in less than five years.

Saving to retire early is a very similar process, it just takes longer to have it happen and smaller amounts.  So before having a lot of savings, I tended to value quality items and not buy cheap things that break easily.  I also tended to keep things until they actually break or can no longer be used.  And now with over $400,000 in investments, I tend to buy things that last and avoid cheap crap that breaks easily. And despite it all I still tend to save money, even when I really don’t have to it.  For example, most of the time I don’t spend all my spending cash in a month.  Savings is a habit with me that I fully expect not to really break even when I don’t have to do it anymore. Why? Because something always comes up…good or bad and the cash is usually handy to have at that point.

This isn’t to say you never change, because saving for retirement has changed me. Just not my core values and beliefs in life.  Rather I just seem to become more of myself as I get older and have more saved.  I dislike kissing ass to people in charge and I even dislike it more when I’m in charge of something.  Now I just be honest with people and tend to push the edge of what would be socially acceptable when someone is trying to make themselves look good or be impressive.  I’m not mean about it, but I just won’t put up with it. Or the fact, I tend to judge people less for their spending choices now.  I get some people REALLY value that annual trip to Mexico, so if that is what they love so be it.  I just personally don’t have that much interest in it (or more precisely I don’t get going to the same location every time).  People just value different things and that is okay.

In the end, you can get everything you want in life and be happy or miserable because the money or things really don’t matter too much.  It’s what’s going on in your head that matters the most.  So yes, please save something for your retirement, but more importantly ask yourself what exactly you plan to do with it.  Start a business that you had in your head for years with no pressure of making a profit.  Or perhaps learning some skills you never had time for.  In short, you need a why…why am I doing this…without that it’s just a big old pile of money.

Learning About Yourself

So far this month I’ve written more than I ever thought possible in a single month.  I’m currently at ~39,000 words on my novel.  Which for those that are curious that would be about 156 pages or 78 blog posts.  I really do think I will hit the 50,000 word goal by Nov 30.

Yet while finishing the first draft of my novel is a good thing to achieve from all this time I’ve been putting in, I’ve also learned more about myself than I thought possible.

When I started this challenge this month, I had this idea in my head of what kind of writer that I am.  I needed quiet to write, I needed to not be too tired, and I needed to somewhat interested in what I was writing.  I also thought I was a writer that worked best with a bit of plot developed and then make up the rest as I go.  I also tended to to write from the start to the end.

Now I have learned all of that was excuses.  Excusing to prevent myself from writing, excuses on how I thought I worked.  Now I know I can write just about anywhere at anytime in any mood including 10:30pm, when exhausted, with music blasting away in my ears with a scene I couldn’t care less about.

I also learned that it is ok to make stuff up as you go. Tangents are fine.  You may not use it, but it may turn into an important scene in the book.  But the most important lesson that I’ve learned as a writer is this: writing is not editing and vice versa.

For years I would read what I had previously written and edit instead of writing. Thus never actually finishing the book and editing the first chapter like seven times over.  Now I’ve finally learned to just shut down that part of my brain and just focus on writing for a while.  So it doesn’t matter if I have plot paradox (fix it later), different character hair colour (fix it later), change the family tree (fix it later), really crappy pacing (fix it later)…end of the world on the wrong day of the week (fix it later).

So yes I’ll have a tonne of editing work to do at the end of this month, but that’s ok because that is editing…not writing.

The other things I’ve learned about myself are:

  • I do very well with bar charts and daily writing goals to get something done.  Yes the pace of 1667 words a day is a bit high to do all the time, but ~1000 words are more reasonable.
  • I do well with some kind of writing support.  Just someone to talk to about it and help keep myself sane during the process.
  • Writing 2000 words is hard, but 200 is easy.  So I tend to write in little blocks of 200 words or so.  Then I do another 200…until you end up at 2000.
  • Just how much damn time I was wasting at month because of movies and Netflix…it’s mind blowing when I gave those up for the month to do this.

So of course I realized that if a person can write 1000 words a day 8o% of the time you can write 292,000 words a year…or one novel, one non-fiction book, a blog three times a week and a collection of short stories.  ALL of them in one year even with a full time job (granted they might not been edited yet, but you get the idea).

Yet the best thing of all about this month was this…for the first time in my adult life I feel utter no guilt about my writing.  I used to have a constant feeling in my mind that I should be working on writing, but not do it.  This month I haven’t felt that at all and it is the best feeling in the world.

In the end, I now know I don’t have to save $500,000 to be a writer.  I can do that today and right now but just writing…shockingly obvious I know, but I can say I really didn’t fully understand that until this month.

So what have you done that taught you a lot about yourself?  Did it change your view of the world?  If so, how?