On Money

A big part of my goal in adjusting our family’s lifestyle is saving money. You always hear that saving is good, you’ll need it someday–you’ll be unable to work due to getting hit by a truck, you’ll be laid off, your house will burn down, or some similar catastrophe, such as getting old and frail, will occur. But saving money because something awful might happen is like living your life as if it’s one long march to the grave.

I started to think that we should be saving money for good things that might happen. Maybe we’ll have a baby or an awesome idea for a new business or we’ll be invited to a destination wedding somewhere really exotic. Going to work every day and saving for the good, as well as for the expected (pump up those 401(k)s and IRAs!), is a lot easier than living day-in and day-out in survivalist mode.

In the book The Art of Possibility, Roz and Ben Zander write:

Many people’s lives are in daily jeopardy, and they must and do concentrate on staying alive, as any one of us would if held up on the street or lost at sea. That is not the same as survival-thinking, which is the undiscriminating, ongoing attitude that life is dangerous and that one must put one’s energy into looking out for Number One.

True scarcity and scarcity-thinking are different phenomena as well. There are regions of the world where resources are locally scarce, where people lack for their most fundamental needs. However, scarcity-thinking is an attitude as prevalent among the well-heeled as among the down-at-heel, and remains unaltered by a change in circumstances….This attitude prompts us to seek to acquire more for ourselves no matter how much we have and to treat others as competitors no matter how little they have. Scarcity-thinking and real scarcity are interactive in the simple sense that the frenzied  accumulation of resources by some leaves others without enough, in a world that has the means to supply the basic needs of everyone.

As the Zanders described so much better than I could do, it’s scarcity-thinking–that marketing-driven, never get enough, “you deserve a break today” thinking–that I want to get divorced from. Our marriage has limped along for far too long. I’m not 100% sure where to file the paperwork for this dissolution of relations, but I will certainly be writing about my process here on the blog.

For now my new mantra is: “I have enough.” Looking around at my house and my yard and my husband and my cats (cue “Our House“), I know that life we have is good and we don’t need any more than good food, good friends, and close family to get by. It’s completely cheesy, I know, but I’m not a clever enough writer to take the cheese out of this sentiment.

And, so, while that truck may be barreling down the highway headed for my tiny (almost paid for) Honda Fit, I choose to save instead for that destination wedding in Fiji that I’m sure someone is going to invite me to attend. If the truck gets to me before the wedding invitation, so be it, the money will be there. But at least I will have toiled the hours in my office box dreaming of Fiji instead of contemplating how I’ll look in a full-body cast.

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