Why do we want so much stuff?

Donna WillanMoney cents

Why do we want so much stuff? I reflected on this in my last column and we really, really don’t need so much stuff; yet many of us seem to be hooked into this culture of wanting more and spending more. But why?

When I think about it we really only need a few things: food, a house, a car (modest), clothes (modest), school fees, good insurance, investments and some fun. So yes, these all cost a lot, but we still consume so much more than our basic needs. Think how much money we could save, and how clutter free our lives would be, if we wanted and consumed less. What would I do with that extra cash?? Invest it and retire earlier – now that seems to be a real need. Or have more holidays – again that feels like a wonderful thing to be doing rather than buying and buying.

A friend of mine is a card carrying member of the Church of Stop Shopping. She never gives birthday gifts and never receives them either. It’s really wonderful, her life is not cluttered, her home is beautiful and simple, and the things she does have are each really special. And she is the most generous person I know both with her time and money, she simply does not buy-into unnecessary purchases. She often makes me think about the way we spend and buy, on others as much as ourselves and family.

Perhaps reducing our ‘wants’ is the true secret to effective personal budgeting? If we started only spending on what we need we would have a much tighter handle on what the monthly expenses are, as many of these are constant; secondly we would be able to save and invest more, and that equals more fun (holidays, earlier retirement etc.); and thirdly we would be able to donate a little something every month to a cause we really care about, perhaps the SPCA, the Highway Hospice or the Rape Crisis hotline – we could use our money to make a small difference in someone else’s life. Imagine how great we could feel if we made this shift! I’m going to try for less ‘unnecessary wants’ in my life!

Next week I will reflect on something I am always grappling with; saving money versus saving time – is it a real saving if it takes double the time? What is time worth when we are budgeting??

Money Cents blog

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