photo by Uh “¦ Bob
You cannot buy your way to happiness. There, I said it. I talk a lot about money on this site, but there is one thing I like to keep in mind as I am writing articles for My Two Dollars. And that is that no matter how much you make and how much you spend, you cannot possibly buy your way to happiness. Believe me, I tried. I got into debt chasing some happiness. It did not make me happier, but rather it made me miserable because of the debt I had piled up. So if you have already learned this lesson, this post is not for you. But if you are still struggling with learning that being a consumer does not make you happy, please keep reading!
Everyone struggles with the notion of “if I only had X, Y or Z, my life would be better!“. Including myself! I have learned to shut it off for the most part, but it still creeps back in once in a while. (MacBook Air, anyone?) Even if you never saw an ad on TV, heard one on the radio, or read one in a magazine, you still would be carrying around the “if only” gene with you. We have all been programmed to consume in order to improve our lives by everyone else around us as well, with or without the advertising: Neighbor got a new cool car? Man, how nice it would be if I could get one too! We all do it – the key is to learn to adapt to it and see through exactly what it is.
Advertising is designed to make you think you can have a better life – pills will make you slimmer or happier, certain food will make you energetic, alcohol enables you to have a good time, buying a Jaguar makes you a very cool dude. The idea of a “better life” is appealing to everyone; that’s why stuff is sold that way. Ad agencies get paid the big bucks to make you think you need a new TV, a new car, new clothes, etc – consume and then consume some more – go on, it will make you happy!
No, it won’t. It might in the short term, but it won’t long term. Here is why:
You are not your stuff. You are not what you own, how much money you have, the size of your house, your flat screen TV or your new car. In the end, none of this matters at all. None of it. It’s nice stuff to have, don’t get me wrong, and if you can afford it and have room for it in your life, go for it. But keep in mind that your stuff does not make you who you are. You know that license plate you see sometimes that says “He who dies with the most toys wins“? Actually, he who dies is dead and doesn’t win anything, and you don’t even get to take any toys with you! The reality of it is that you are more than the sum of your stuff, and the key to happiness is to start thinking as such.
You are your health.
You are your interests and hobbies.
You are your relationships.
You are your sense of purpose.
You are your dreams.
Having a large bank account is fantastic, as long as you are happy with how you built it up. Having a new BMW is great, as long as how you bought it makes you happy. We all want to be comfortable in life – and we all get a maximum of about 100 years on this planet. But basing your existence on what you have is not going to make you a happy person in the long run. Save for retirement, of course. Save for a house, of course. But don’t look to consumption to make you happy, it will only make you miserable. Work to pay yourself for your efforts, not some multi-billion dollar company that sells a product that they want you to think that you need. Chances are, you don’t need it at all. You are not your stuff, and your stuff is not you. If you are interested, one of my favorite documentaries on “stuff” is Affluenza, which you can watch on YouTube now.