My Perception of Money Has Changed Over The Years

I decided to go through an experiment to see if it would add any value to my life. I have 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 what it would do. It became an epiphany of sorts.
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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.

An Ode to Self Driving Cars – Because, Let’s Face It, Some Of Us Hate Driving

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I can’t wait for driverless cars.

I know it might not happen while I am still alive, but that doesn’t stop me from dreaming.

I hate driving, especially in traffic. I have given up on driving altogether in the city I live in – because the place is not exactly a driver’s paradise with its bumper-to-bumper traffic and the lack of parking space.

My location is equipped with good public transportation – I am able to catch an Uber or an autorickshaw the moment I step out of my house. So at the most, I take my car out maybe once every month.

I would like a driverless car for the following reasons though:

  • I can let my car take all the headache (or should I say bumperache?) of finding a parking slot. Or I can order it to go right back home, if there are no parking slots available anywhere.
  • Heck, I wouldn’t even need to own a car if there are driverless robocabs hovering nearby. This is what Zoox has in mind – not to sell robo cars but to offer them as taxis.
  • My elderly mom could go on a solo trip without depending on anyone.
  • People with disabilities would be able to travel on their own.
  • People who hate driving can avoid driving! Whaaaat? You thought everyone liked driving? Tsk tsk.

Change is difficult, I know. And scary. History is a key witness to such skepticism and cynicism evoked by changing circumstances. Every new discovery or invention is met with stubborn resistance. For example, the automatic elevator. Did you know elevators used to be manually lifted before? When the automatic elevators were invented, many were adamant about not using those strange machines. Too dangerous, they said. Sounds familiar? Now we know how that story ended. 

It is the story of many automated machines. Some still face flak even if they are widely in use.

Let’s take the case of automatic transmission cars. They are everywhere now. Many prefer to drive an automatic instead of a manual – it makes life easier. No stress of shifting gears, you just need to concentrate on the road. Yet, there was, and still is, a lot of resistance towards teaching new drivers how to drive using an automatic car. I know many new drivers who would prefer to learn in an automatic because they have no intention of driving a manual transmission car in the future. Once you start driving an automatic, there’s no going back. For two reasons – 1) You become accustomed to driving an automatic. 2) You end up forgetting how to drive a manual. So what was the need of teaching such drivers how to drive a manual, anyway? Many learn driving with only one intention – that of traveling from Point A to Point B; not to learn the intricacies and technicalities involved with changing gears. But as mentioned before, change is difficult. When there are alternative automated solutions, we still tend to prefer the conventional methods.

Human beings in general are terrible drivers, even if most believe otherwise. It is impossible to get a 360-degree view of our surroundings, something a machine can do effortlessly, so we cannot really blame ourselves for our mishaps. We end up speeding when we are not supposed to, we drink and drive when we are not supposed to, we get distracted easily by the smallest of things, we make clumsy mistakes that can cost lives, and yet… we have trouble trusting machines.

Self driving cars have a long way to go before they become available to the public. Preparations are in full swing – like in the case of Waymo (Google’s self driving car), which was recently tested on urban terrains.

If driverless cars are approved, I would be first in line – provided it is affordable. Did I say affordable? If only wishes were horses. Till then, I will make do with ogling small, cute cars.

An Ode to Wanting to Work After Retirement… But Also Win a Retirement Lottery

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I love work. I want to continue working even after retirement.

But I also want to win a lottery so I can retire.

Not making sense? Hear me out.

I love doing the kind of work I do but I am not exactly a fan of the corporate culture. If you read my ode to freelancing, you would understand why.

Let me add something extra to what I wrote previously. I want to win a retirement lottery.. so I can retire and do my kind of work till the end of time. I do not have to worry about bills or putting food on the plate. I can concentrate on what I like, even if it might mean making less money. Yes, what I like, might not necessarily make me rich. It’s the hard fact of life. Not every interest pays well.

There are times I have wished wealth was distributed equally with everyone. So that each and every person living on this planet can do what they like, and not just the wealthy. I do not mean going on expensive holidays or owning luxurious homes. Just the basic freedom to do what one likes. That in itself can make anyone happy. But, that’s not how the world works, and it might never work that way. The top 1% own 43% of the world’s wealth. Society thrives on income discrimination. The fact is no one is self-made. It takes many people to make one man’s business successful, but all the monetary benefits go only to a select few.

What would happen if I win a retirement lottery:

  • I would quit work.
  • I can finally avoid annual performance reviews. My last few didn’t go too well.
  • Start freelancing again.
  • Face less pressure.
  • Better mental health.
  • Choose the type of work I want to do.
  • Work from anywhere in the world. No location constrictions.

It is everyone’s secret dream. To win a lottery. It is the easiest way out to escape the rat race.

I haven’t bought a lottery ticket ever in my life. But the dream of winning one persists. 

An Ode to Freelancing and Its Biggest Benefit – The Freedom It Gives You!

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My dream is to get back to freelancing one day.

Having done it before, I know how fulfilling it can be. There are many advantages of being your own boss. You decide what projects to take up. You decide whether to say yes or no to a client. You decide how much time you want to spend on your work.

I started doing freelance work around 10 years back. I began my journey by carrying out some research on the best freelancer websites. Finally, I registered on Fiverr and instantly got some clients because of my portfolio. It was easier back then to find customers, unlike today, when the competition is fierce.

I was a freelance content writer. My work on Fiverr involved creating marketing copies for startups. My clients appreciated my work and gave me good reviews. Looking back, I am so proud of myself for getting the freelance writing gigs on my own. When I got my first $100 from freelancing, I felt on top of the moon. Frankly, even if it were just $10, I would have felt elated because this was proof that I could survive independently. It gave me confidence.

Throughout our life, we are on the lookout for confirmation that we are well equipped to face any challenges that come our way. We are skeptical, though, because we were never taught to venture out on our own. There was always someone to help us, guide us at every stage of our life – at school, competitions, college, corporate life. We could depend on someone (a parent or a teacher, or a manager) to help us out.

With freelancing, you are on your own.

You have to figure things out.

You have to decide how to get money.

You have to research and find out what sells.

It’s all you!

To be a successful freelancer, you need to hustle.

Needless to say, every little profit you get out of it feels like a big deal. Plus, the freedom to work from home and the ultimate control you have over your work is unmatched.

Freelancing is special. It gives you that sense of achievement and fulfillment when work starts coming your way. It is the feeling I yearn for now.

I stopped freelancing 2 years after starting it. The reasons being, my sleep cycle got messed up, and the pay did not match my hard work at the time. I would sleep at 5 AM and wake up at noon. There was no discipline in my life. I had a few passive income streams that paid a few bills, but more was needed. That’s when I decided to get back into the corporate world. I thought I would continue with my side hustles. But life had other plans. My work responsibilities at my day job increased. I had no time left for something I enjoyed.

Does freelancing count as work experience? Does it help your career? Let me tell you this. I got my job after the recruiter saw my freelancing work. All the hard work paid off. I know many freelancers (web developers, graphic designers, writers) getting a corporate job after building a solid portfolio of impressive projects. So I would consider it as a work experience. People are afraid of mentioning “freelancer” in their work resume. They are afraid that the recruiters might think it is a fancy way to say you haven’t worked for some time. The best way to prove naysayers wrong is by building a good portfolio of your freelancing work. No recruiter would say no to a freelancer who has done notable work.

Does freelancing pay well? Yes, it does. Freelancing is hard though, and it is not for everyone. Start small and easy. When you start getting overbooked for a month or two, increase your rate by 10-15%. You don’t have to wait till the annual performance review to get a raise!

Freelancing is the future of work. People are quitting big corporate jobs because working for yourself is mentally more peaceful. I would love to get back to it one day to be my own boss again.

There’s a funny quote out there that goes “I can’t wait to earn a lot of money and quit. So I can start doing the work I like.” Truer words have never been spoken.