Two questions have been rattling around in my brain lately. Both have an effect on how we spend and save our money.
1. How Do You Define Yourself?
I guess I haven’t thought about it too much until the other day when I overheard someone say that their house defines them. I thought that was odd, but perhaps others think that way. Is it a clear case of things vs. experiences? Not exactly.
Can things make you happy? Research says no. Studies have shown that people are happier when they spend their money on experiences rather than things. Supposedly a trip makes you happier than a new couch. You get used to the couch in a week or so and the thrill of a new one fades quickly. You can enjoy a trip when you take it and many times later when you remember all the fun you had. So the happiness lasts longer.
Does where you live make you happy? Does a bigger house make possible more family get-togethers? Holiday meals? And do those kinds of experiences make you happy? I’d guess it depends on the family. What if your living place makes it more likely for you to have friends over for a cookout, brunch, or to watch a football game on tv? Does that bring happiness? It could definitely liven up your life.
I don’t define myself by where I live. I do define myself by my family. We’ve always centered our life around our kids and the extended family. We’ve had some pretty good experiences travelling with family that have become part of the family stories.
We have not put a lot of money into our house over the years. It is adequate and was big enough for a family of 6. We looked at it as a warm place in every way. I don’t think we ever defined ourselves in terms of our house. So it seems strange to me that someone would.
You can define yourself in any way you like, but I hope that you make the choice based on your own values and not some arbitrary value that others think is important.
2. “The Good Life” or “A Good Life”?
Lately I’ve been thinking about the difference between “the good life” and “a good life.” I choose the second and am happy to have the chance to make a good life. My mom is my role model here. She was always determined to make something good happen no matter the circumstances. She is my hero in that. I can’t think of any better goal.
So my house might not be magazine photo worthy, but I continue to try to make a good life for us and our extended family. It’s how I define myself and I’m content with that.
We’ve put our money towards our highest priorities–education for our four children. We’ve never regretted that and are so grateful that our family has stayed close. Our money has gone to the things we value most. That’s a good life for us.
No we don’t have “the good life” as defined by many people, but we have a very satisfying life. To me that’s the best riches of all.
How does all of this affect your financial plans? Plenty! How you define yourself and what kind of lifestyle you want will affect your spending. You might be tempted to spend money keeping up a certain image even when you can’t afford it. Worse, it takes money away from your goals that really matter to you. What can you do about this?
1. Keep a list of your priorities to stay on track to achieve your goals. Keep the list where you will see it often. You can even make a picture collage of your goals and put it on the refrigerator. Whatever works for you.
2. Review your goals from time to time to make sure that they reflect your values.
3. Don’t let other people’s expectations drain money away from your true goals. Keep a picture in your wallet of one of your top goals. You’ll see it every time you are tempted to waste money. It will motivate you to put that wallet away!
4. Tell your kids how you are saving to achieve your goals. They will learn from your example how to handle money and you will be more motivated to keep up the good work!
5. Take pride in your progress and achievements. Celebrate when you achieve certain milestones on the way to making your goals. You are truly building “a good life.”
How do you define yourself? What is the good life for you? How do you keep on track to achieve your money goals?
Staying on target IS difficult, but important. It reminds me of something my son’s kindergarten teacher used to say all the time: “Stick to the point.” I thought that was funny and could just imagine how that came up so often in class. We all need to remind ourselves to stick to the point and stay on track! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Carol!
Susan Neal says
Big questions, Maggie, big questions you’re posing here!
I agree that ‘things’ don’t make you happy, but there’s that old saying that at least you can be miserable in comfort 😉
I define myself as someone who’s seeking to become more creative and self-aware – I’ve recently escaped from a stressful job in which I felt trapped for many years. I stuck with it due to inertia and fear of financial insecurity, and I’m determined never to make the same mistake again.
I think a good life is one in which you never stop growing and learning – it’s also about having a fulfilling occupation and warm, positive relationships that nurture and challenge you.
Carol B says
Excellent points! I’ve actually never thought about how I define myself. I am now. Not sure I have an answer yet, but certainly has me thinking. I have often thought about “making a good life” and what that means for me and my family. Not always easy to stay “on target” in this crazy roller coaster of life that we ride, but I do my best. Nice action plan to help people like me stay on track.
You have hit it on the head here. Everything that glitters ain’t gold. This common cliche comes to mind. But it’s relevant and it’s the honest to God truth. You choose how good your life is. No one or nothing can define that for you. It’s all in what you make it.
Great post and thanks for sharing,
Tanya, that is a good way to put it. Those memories will provide a good foundation for your family to continue to grow and meet the challenges that life always throws our way.
I don’t think we should feel guilty about wanting things so much when we’re younger. After all, we were all about toys! As we get older we still like toys, but we begin to value other things more. Like our kids!
Kristin, all those changes can really keep you in a whirl! Even when changes are positive they can be stressful. Many studies have shown that people who have religious faith of some kind (not necessarily going to church) are better able to handle change and stress. Turning over our stress to a higher power seems to be key.
Someone once told me that they believed in education because it was something that can never be taken away from you. I guess that’s true even if you don’t get a job because of it.
Tanya @ Eat Laugh Purr says
Great post, Maggie! I will say when I was younger “things” meant more to me than they do today. Now I value experiences and security/freedom. While I am not a homeowner yet, when I think of a home, I don’t necessarily think about it defining me in the sense of – is it big enough or in the right location – but of the family inside and all the memories we’ve made/will make together. So in that way, yes, my family home does define me but not in a keeping up with the Joneses kind of way.
Newly married and a new mom, I’ve questioned what it is that defines me since all of these life changes happened. What it all keeps coming back to is my faith. Everything else, unfortunately, could be taken away.
Corina, I like how you put it: what’s under your roof is what’s important. The people of course, not the furniture! Isn’t it funny how the times of struggle often are cherished as being so important later? I think it’s because it was when we pulled together strongly for our goals. Someone who has been through the rough times with you is often a person with whom you have a stronger relationship.
Yes, sharing financial goals and how we get there is a great way to teach kids about money. It should not be a forbidden subject!
Thanks for your comment, Corina. Enjoy your weekend!
Thanks so much, Kali. We get so busy taking care of our families that it’s easy to feel down about finances sometimes. It really helps to remind ourselves that we are working towards goals that are important to us!
Corina Ramos says
I’ve never defined myself with the material things I have or what I don’t have. I’m like you in that what is under my roof is what truly defines me. That and my faith.
I’ve been on both sides of the financial stick and the happiest times were when we were in the struggle believe it or not :). You’ve shared a great action plan we can all follow. #4, being an example to our kids is the most important one. 🙂
Great post Maggie! Happy Friday :)!
Yes, I’ve been really lucky with my Mom & family. I wish you had that too, Sicorra. Yet everyone can set their priorities to build happiness.
I know some things are very appreciated too! Thanks for your comment!
Enjoy your weekend!
Kali @CommonSenseMillennial says
This was quite thought-provoking – I love the action plan! Great advice. I’m bookmarking this one to come back to when I start feeling negative or down about how we’re doing financially (hey, it happens from time to time). Thanks for this one, great read.
You’ve covered a lot of excellent points! I envy you for having such a wonderful Mom and a close family. Mine is the exact opposite.
When it comes to things versus experiences I find that my husband and I are somewhat different. I love to travel, and while he does enjoy it too, he enjoys a new computer a whole lot more 🙂
Have a great weekend!!