I remember feeling ecstatic whenever I bought an expensive dress.
I remember feeling accomplished after buying an expensive laptop.
I remember feeling disappointed when my fiancé gifted me inexpensive jewelry.
My happiness was derived from things. I was money-minded. And quite disgustingly so.
For me, happiness was directly correlated to the brand and the cost of the product. If someone didn’t gift me something extravagant and expensive, it meant the person didn’t love me enough.
That was me in my 20s.
Now I am in my late 30s, and things have shifted. I am no longer the person I used to be. People change over the years as they come across new life-changing experiences, perspectives, and emotions. It is practically impossible to stay the same throughout your life. I would even consider a comment like “You haven’t changed at all” an insult because that would mean I haven’t evolved with the times.
Over the years, I understood that expensive things only brought me happiness for a while. After that, I was on the lookout again for my next purchase, thinking it would bring me everlasting happiness. When I figured out what was happening, a lightbulb went off.
I decided to go through a self-initiated experiment to see if it would add any value to my life. I had heard of minimalism and seen a couple of videos. Though I was not ready to sacrifice every bit of materialistic pleasure in my life, I was willing to start small to see where it would go. I started cutting back on my purchases, not looking at shopping sites, seeking solace in the simple pleasures of life – like reading a book, going for a walk outdoors, engaging with nature, and enjoying fresh, clean air.
It was an epiphany of sorts.
I never knew so much of happiness could be derived from so little – from things that cost so little.
The little things in life that do not cost much, yet have the power to bring pure happiness. Why hadn’t I indulged in life before? Why did I only indulge in things? If I had not deliberately cut back on my purchases, seeking elsewhere for my joy, I might not have discovered the inexpensive side of happiness.
I second guess all my purchases now – I look for things that are bang for my buck. I compare prices and choose products that are the most cost-effective. I ask myself a couple of questions before spending my money on anything – “Am I buying this for myself? Or to show someone else that I can buy it?“, “Do I see myself using this product 2-3 months from now, or is it just a fad?” “Do I really need this product right now? Will my life become easier with this product?” If the answers are positive, I go ahead with the purchase without hesitation.
Life has a way of grounding you. It teaches you ultimately how important it is to save or invest and not spend unnecessarily.
With minimalism came the change in thought process. I do not wish for anyone to gift me anything expensive anymore. I instead wish people gifted me something handmade. I realize now that the most valuable thing anyone can gift you is their time. And what better than a handmade gift to beautifully represent time – the time that the giver graciously spent on making the gift for you. Time is beautifully unique. Each second of your time is a part of your life that you will not get back. It becomes even more exclusive when a person dedicates it solely to you. When someone’s time is spent on you, with you, or making something for you – that undoubtedly becomes the best one-of-a-kind personalized gift that anyone could offer.
This realization about handmade gifts made me recommend the same to others. To my surprise, I found little takers for handmade gifts. This lack of enthusiasm might be because it is not easy to gift someone your time. I am a sucker for handmade gifts, though. I get misty-eyed each time I get one – this precious time wrapped with a bow.
I came to recognize boredom as an enemy to my wallet. Retail therapy happened whenever I got bored. To get rid of this habit, I began learning new, interesting things. I learned from books, classes, online videos – again, stuff that did not cost much money.
Human beings are adaptive creatures – so adaptive that our desires can expand manifold if there is enough space to accommodate them. Consider a room with furniture and décor filled up in each and every corner. The room would tend to look stuffy and closed. The room is your breathing space. The furniture – your desires. The more furniture in the room, the more stuffy it gets, the more difficult it is to navigate without tripping over something. This room is magical and will try to expand itself to bring in more breathing space, but we tactlessly keep stuffing it with more inessential things to fill the space up.
How to unstuff a stuffy room? Very simple. Remove some of the furniture. In other words, reduce your desires.
Desires can be trimmed by steering clear of things you are most likely to splurge on. For example, if you tend to spend a lot of money on shopping sites, the simple remedy is to stop browsing shopping sites. If brands tempt you, stop visiting the stores that display those brands. It might seem difficult at first, but over time, you will master the skill of avoiding materialistic temptations. Delayed gratification will become second nature. You will become a pro in saying “no” to things that you are not ready for or do not add any value or meaning to your life.
This strategy worked well for me. I can now be happy with little. I have no intention of going back to my old self. If happiness is so cheap, why even bother looking elsewhere?
This behavior is not akin to being a miser. It is about finding a way that is more sustainable. A route to happiness that anyone and everyone, of any income level, can attain without emptying their pockets.