I know this may be hard for some of you to believe but I was a bit irked this morning on my bus ride into work. I was in my seat reading my daily free fishwrap when I took a second to notice and realize that every single person around me was on their phone. As my fellow CTA riders were engulfed and engaged on their mobile devices, I took the liberty to glance at some of their screens to see what was so interesting.
One gal was searching for “on sale specials” for purses FOR ONLY several hundred dollars, as she sat with a coach purse in tow. A guy was checking out new smart phones while on the one he has. And another guy was checking out borrowing options for a jet ski.
When in the hell did we get to be so stupid with our personal finances? Granted I don’t know these people, whether they were searching for gifts, what kind of debt loads (if any) they are carrying or whether they were just checking these things out for fun. But I do know that what you spend your money on is a reflection on your values. Show me a month’s worth of receipts and I will show you what that person places as a priority in their life.
I’m not against stuff. I am against stuff having me. There’s this warped perception in our culture that hyper consuming is a sure way to feel good about yourself and that the latest and greatest trends and gadgets are all must have items.
A month and a half from now my wife will join me in the debt free club. During this time we have cut our cost of living down to around $20,000 a year and have found greater value in time spent together over stuff. Stuff really is just stuff. Very little of it I have found has improved my quality of life. My fondest memories from this past weekend included lunch out with friends, a quiet afternoon laying near the lakefront with my wife and talking with my nephew about what is going on his life. Designer clothes, expensive watches, and a smartphone never entered the equation.
Instead I buy “experienced clothing,” and save 15% of my income towards retirement vehicles. I do not own a cell phone, but you better believe the second my kid is born I’m opening an ESA and contributing the maximum amount every year for their college education. My wife and I have passed on lavish vacations, but I write a check out every month to my home church.
Stuff is just stuff. No peace of mind nor financial security comes from a fleeced car, a chic closet or endless information at your fingertips. One intentional choice leads to another and for me I will take financial peace over “things” every day of the week.