Over the weekend my wife and I had a pleasant staycation in downtown Chicago. An even more unpleasant surprise is that my power over purchase was tested. At the onset I felt incredibly confident that I had mastered power over purchase. I mean I equate Wal-Mart and Aldi with grocery shopping, think Salvation Army for clothes shopping and can run a zero based budget with the best of them.
But once we got settled into our temporary base, something unknowingly and unintentionally entered my frame of thinking. Maybe it was the combination of: a gorgeous view of the downtown skyline, new(er) residential furnishings, amenities that come with high-rise living and an unspoken attitude about living in a downtown urban setting. I felt an urge and compulsion to flash back to my previously dead (but now I think in a coma) hyper-consuming self. Two thoughts I had over the weekend were: which restaurants we could eat out at rather than making the food we brought to make, and if we budgeted 25% of our take home pay we could afford to live downtown (currently we budget 15% of our take home pay towards rent).
To kill the suspense we stuck to the plan and ate in and opted for the beautiful skyline views from the glass windows inside our accommodations as opposed to going out and painting the town. But I am left thinking, why is it in my nature and instinct to spend? Back at our home on the north side we do not have an operating television, do not have a laptop and have no newspaper subscriptions. I like to think we have substantially cut back on our exposure to advertisements that push for hyper-consumption. But still, encased in a downtown environment I instinctively wanted to spend, and I’m dying to know why?
I find studies in human behavior quite intriguing and am even more enamored with this since I was my own subject. I mean I literally had to pull myself back and say to myself, “WHOA!!! Hold on, you live on a budget and below your means, now stop it!” But if a soldier trained in the Ramsey and Yeager ways could fall victim just to the thoughts, I can very easily see how our culture and “American way” breeds hyper-consumption.
Now I don’t believe that the concept of having nice things is evil. Personally, I just never want those nice things to have me. I’d rather dumpster dive or hop on freecycle to furnish my house one day rather than buy brand new from a mega-store national chain. With the difference in price I’d rather invest and build wealth to: retire with dignity, build a college scholarship fund, travel the world with my wife, etc. This is a personal choice and I definitely don’t look down or condemn anyone who chooses to have nice things. I mean, if you’re net worth is over $1 million dollars and you want to buy (in cash) a brand new car, dude, go ahead and do it! And I’ll be rooting for you all the way the home.
Ultimately I’m just not into stuff. After all, my favorite part of the weekend was lying on the couch in the “fancy digs” with my wife wrapped around my arms. Stuff will come and go and technically speaking one can never have enough. I am enjoying the journey. From being pre-Ramsey all the way up to now, looking back on everything, I love my scaled down lifestyle and would not change it for anything in the world, in fact I can’t even picture living differently. Though tempting knowing that our household could afford “downtown” living, I’ll take a pass. Living below our means and financial peace is more important to me.