Let’s face it, living without money is hard. Ideally, we could all just go through life being nice, and things would work out. However, after living on this planet for about two seconds, I realized that this will never happen. So I studied a subject I liked, then went out and landed a job that seemed fitting. What could go wrong, right? Well, I seem to have gotten a little case of “Keeping up with the Joneses”…that’s what went wrong.
If you’re unfamiliar with that term, it basically means that you compare yourself to your neighbors (and friends), and what they have. If they have more, you feel inferior, and want what they have. I’m not even materialistic. I don’t even crave high end goods. Yet somehow, my mind has still fallen into the trap of directly comparing myself with others, and feeling bad about it. Yeah, I have a job that I (occasionally) enjoy, and it pays my bills. The only problem is that (a) stuff (houses, food, air) in the NY/NJ area is really expensive, and (b) most of my friends make at least twice, and some even four times as much as I do. So I’ve made a decision, I’m not going to let my income determine the outcome of my life.
If all I did was stick to the stats, I would never win. Someone always has more. The only way to be truly happy in life is to appreciate what you have, make the best of it, and not worry about the other guy. I’m not saying that it’s an easy thing to do. Some of us just got wired to look left and right with jealousy. The key is to really think about it, and become aware of the situation. Also, take a look around, and you’ll find people with a lot less than you who are leading fulfilling lives. If they can do it, why can’t we?
Some things would need to change obviously. Financial responsibility most definitely has to be a part of this equation. Chances are, if you’re working in some sort of desk job like me, the money isn’t flying at you, so you need to be smart about how it gets used. Do you really need an iPhone? The cheapest option is still $70 a month. I use my ‘normal’ cell phone and pay $30 instead. So over the course of the year, I save $480! Do you really need to hit up Starbucks every day? Even if your drink is only $2.50 a day, over the course of the month that $50, over the course of the year that $600! Combine that with the cellphone, and I just saved $1080 over the course of a year. If this is part of my normal lifestyle, over 5 years, that’s $5,400. So from day 1, if I was putting that money aside for some average investments getting an 8% return per year, I would have $6,842.80 at the end of year 5. All from just staying away from the fancy phone, and not buying individual cups of coffee (I make my own).
So with this two pronged approach, I plan to get through life with a good level of happiness. I will recognize that material things aren’t that important, and it doesn’t matter what my friends have. We’re different people, and should lead different lives. If they have excess money to spend, that doesn’t mean I do, so why should I compare at all? We don’t even have the same kind of job. Then to make the most of what I do have, I stop the financial bleeding where I can, such as the tiny changes mentioned above. If you sit down and analyze your monthly spending, I’m sure you’ll find some as well. Using a tool such as Mint.com can also help you track your spending, and set goals. Remember, small things add up to big savings!
Now get back to work, and quit looking at your neighbor’s stuff! None of it matters in the big scheme of life.