The Happy Person

If you have easy self-contentment, you might have a very, very cheap source of happiness. - Leon Kass

We all have at least one really cheap friend that we avoid hanging around, because they’re always trying to pinch pennies and it can get really frustrating. Why do they choose to live like this, Why do they act so cheap?

I think the simplest way to understand them is by looking at the opposite extreme. Think of the people that make $90,000 a year, but spend $110,000. Now ask the same questions: Why are they living like this, and why are they spending so much? I think that we all know the answer…

I was taking a course on Coursera through University of Michigan a while back, and the Professor giving the course showed us some fascinating statistics, that people are motivated by higher pay at work when they’re earning less than $80,000 annually (I’m not going to swear by this number), but once they’re earning more than that, it’s a lot harder to motivate them by giving them a higher salary.

So we asked ourselves why this would be true, and the answer is very simple: When we’re earning $50,000 and we get a raise to $55,000, we excitedly call our friends and family, run to the car dealership and upgrade our car from a Nissan Altima to a Maxima, and we then happily sit back looking around at all of our peers, recognizing that we’re doing better than most of them and just slightly worse than others.

However, when we’re earning $75,000 a year, driving a nice Acura and we get a raise to $85,000, for the next week we’re flying high and sharing the news with all of our friends, but then it hits us… we’re now sitting on the lowest rung of high class society. As we look around, we see our new friends going on vacation to Aruba, some others to Cancun, and all of them driving around in the most expensive cars. There’s no limit to how much our high class friends spend. How can we be happy? Our minds become occupied with the dream to live like our friends. Many of us just begin spending every penny we have. We’ll lease a brand new Tesla, fly around on vacation with our friends and play golf every day, but this doesn’t make us happy because we need to deal with the never ending number of bills.

Now let’s look back at our cheap friends, How’re they doing? Are they happy with what they have?

We all know that living a life pinching pennies is definitely going to be a miserable life. So we need to find some middle ground between these two extremes. The perfect balance would be to live a minimalist lifestyle and always be happy with what we have.

“Who is the wealthiest man? The one who is happy with his portion.” -Pirkei Avot

So here are 3 techniques that may be able to help us live an enjoyable, minimalist lifestyle:

  • Understand the Cause: Whenever we’re tempted to buy anything, there is a cause. We may see our friend eating a chocolate (cause) and the next day when we’re in the store we’ll feel tempted to buy one (effect). So I’m not saying that you shouldn’t buy the chocolate, after all it tastes awesome and it may be healthier than other things we’d be eating. But just take the time and recognize what caused you to want it, this will help us be aware and recognize what causes us to spend our money.
  • Mindfulness: You can be sitting in your beautiful new car, with your spouse and three children all munching on chocolate bars and feel like there’s nothing in your life! The #1 key to happiness is not buried in physical pleasures, but it’s rather based on our mindset. We’re holding the key in our hands and we just need to use it - Contemplate what could’ve gone wrong in your life and where you would be today. Just take a moment each day to appreciate how much good you actually have in your life.
  • Be Satisfied: Everyone loves an “all you can eat” restaurant. But we’ll never forget that nauseous feeling after we’ve eaten one bite too much, and we just wish we’d stopped eating earlier. So the next time we go out to eat we pace ourselves (at least our smarter friends do). The same holds true with what we purchase. Keep track of what you buy and whether you were happy afterwards, or if you wished you had just saved that money for something else. So the next time you’re in the store and want to buy something, remember how happy it made you.

Minimalism is not about being cheap, it’s about being smart. There are times that we should be spending lots of money to have fun, but it won’t be called “wasting” money because we’ll have spent it smartly. And if you feel burdened by thinking before every purchase, then don’t. Instead look through your bills once a month and follow the techniques then, it’ll make a difference.

Thank you for reading! You can find my previous LinkedIn articles here. Please comment your thoughts and share this article with your network.

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