Is Extreme Frugality For You?
|August 20, 2010||Posted by Roshawn Watson under Uncategorized|
By: Roshawn Watson
We all know the story. So many of us do a job we hate to pay for a consumption-focused lifestyle that we can barely afford.We trade our precious hours for a steady paycheck. Regardless of the size of that paycheck, for most people it is never quite enough. This is commonly referred to as the rat race. Recently, I read that nothing could be more insulting to the rat. Even rats know better than to stay in this ridiculous model.
From Conspicuous Consumption to Calculated Consumption
The New York Times recently reported on Tammy Strobel and her husband Logan Smith, who both made radical changes in their lifestyles because they were so fed up with the work-spend treadmill (rat race). After selling their two cars, moving from a two-bedroom apartment to a 400-square foot studio, and giving away countless clothes, dishes, books, and their TV, they now enjoy very minimalist lives with a total of just 100 personal items.
This three-year journey has profoundly changed more than just their lifestyles. Now, they are debt-free, have money to travel and give, all on a salary of just $24,000 (decreased from $40,000). Moreover, Strobel reduced her hours to allow her more time to engage in her other interests. Their core messages are: acquisition of stuff does not bring happiness and bigger is not better. In fact, new research suggests just the opposite: people are happiest when their spending is on meaningful experiences rather than stuff, when they desire something long before they purchase it, and when they stop trying to keep up with Barbie and Ken. (Remember, Barbie and Ken are broke anyway). This fascinating premise is the subject of an upcoming article by Dr. Elizabeth Dunn: “If Money Doesn’t Make You Happy Then You Probably Aren’t Spending It Right.” Moreover, research by Professor Thomas DeLeire indicates that out of the nine major categories of consumption, only spending on leisure correlated with happiness.
Researchers also recommended substituting big purchases for many little ones.The argument is that the initial enjoyment from a new purchase wears off over time, as we become acclimated to a new norm.Thus, we stop deriving pleasure from a new purchase, even if it is a phenomenal one, such as that dream mansion in the exclusive neighborhood or that Maserati that you coveted on Cribs. This acclimation is known as hedonic adaptation. However, if we instead make several little purchases for meaningful experiences and for things that we truly value, then it takes much longer to adapt. Note that researchers have determined that anticipation of purchases also increases our happiness.
Even retailers are capitalizing on marketing the experience. Last June, I went to an after-hours shopping experience at Best Buy. One reason it was so memorable was because I won a flat-screen TV. With as many people as I have told and as many subsequent purchases that I have made, Best Buy got off way cheap! Perhaps the company that has mastered this concept is Apple. Their interactive retail experience creates tremendous consumer loyalty, which was recently spoofed in the popular (but very explicit) Iphone4 vs HTC Evo youtube video. With such powerful brand equity, it is no wonder Apple just reported its highest quarterly revenue ever as net income jumps 78%.
Being Practical With Frugality
The anti-materialism premise resonates with me, yet I feel conflicted because there are so many conveniences that I enjoy and make my life easier. I certainly am a conscientious consumer, so is there a happy medium?
Absolutely. I remember when getting out of debt a few years ago, I tried the whole minimalist lifestyle, and I was completely miserable. Perhaps, I didn’t execute the minimalist lifestyle correctly, but I quickly discovered that the aforementioned research findings rung true in my life. For example, my then girlfriend and I began to do things, such as going to plays and eating out with friends, that emphasized social experiences rather than just buying stuff. Additionally, I planned my purchases so that I was primarily buying things that had tremendous value to me. By not making myself completely miserable, I was able to stick with the process of aggressively paying down my debt until I became debt-free. For more ways to stay motivated while paying debt, click here.
Although it would certainly be somewhat disingenuous for me to promote extreme austerity, I can say structuring my life so that I am no longer controlled by materialism has been extremely helpful in eliminating-debt, building wealth, and being an overall happier person. Most of us may never forego our cars and televisions; however, that does not mean that we cannot embrace the principles of “calculated consumption.” Afterall, “if money doesn’t make you happy, then you probably aren’t spending it right.”
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Too Frugal For Your Own Good
Copyright 2012, Roshawn Watson, Pharm.D., Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.