Can you embrace value over digits?


Anyone who knows me knows I have a real problem with self help books and blogs destined to preach financial freedom. Not because they are intrinsically evil of course, but just because so many of them preach falsehoods and wishy washy claims about how you should be living your life. And the graphic design on them is usually terrible too. Basically: it's very rarely that a blog article or self help excerpt actually makes me think.

Aled and I were discussing Mr Money Mustache yesterday, in a conversation prompted by his 'Low Information Diet' post (he essentially says we don't have a civic duty to watch the news and we should only expose ourselves to information that advances our goals, which I think is appalling advice, but he also speaks a lot of sense about the proverbial time-consumer that is social media). I started reading a few of his other article, willing myself to give the guy a chance. 

And, to be fair to him, a simple paragraph about an Ecuadorean souvenir kind of got to me.

"UGH", I instinctively recoiled. "I hate it when people try and tell me I don't need to live with all my STUFF. I love my STUFF! especially my clothes. They make me who I am, my clothes are me and how I express myself and without them, I can never fully be myself."

But I read on and actually discovered some truth in what the guy was saying. He wasn't promoting minimalism (that wasn't his main line of thought, anyway) but asking us to question the value of the objects we surround ourselves with.

Do you need the branded version, or are you, deep down, justifying slightly more expensive purchases because you're keeping up with the Joneses.

I started to think about what I spend my money on: clothes, mainly (after the obvious expenditures like rent, food and transport). But WHY do I buy clothes? Is it because I want to indulge in luxury brands and then namedrop them into a conversation? Is it because I want to emulate my favourite celebrity? Nope, none of these. I spend on fashion because I am a creative, perhaps somewhat quirky personality and self expression is a value and experience that I hold very dear.

If I wore the same all black outfit day-to-day, I would not feel I was missing out on my brands, or my extensive wardrobe, I would feel like I was an imposter being forced into conformity.

For some atheletes, sport practise is a huge part of their identity. We take them seriously when they define sports as integral to who they are. So why do we turn our noses up at those who consider fashion to be one of the crucial facets of their personality?

So Mr Money Mustache makes a fantastic point - if you truly examine your habits of consumption and you can only see imitation, rivalry and questionable motives justifying that expenditure, it's time to reassess where that money might be better doing. Perhaps sitting in a bank accumulating interest, perhaps in the form of an investment. 

But, if you spend money on something that is seemingly frivolous: clothes, make-up, or a hobby, but on deeper consideration is part and parcel to your happiness and self-fulfillment, then don't let anyone else tell you that it is a waste of resources.

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