A Month Without
Episode #9 of the course Financial wellbeing: How to worry less about money by Maureen McGuinness
We can earn more. We can spend less. Be default, we often focus on the former: increasing our income. As we explored at the start of the course, more money doesn’t necessarily equate with financial wellbeing. We could have a high income but be physically unhealthy and anxious.
Instant gratification is one of the behavioral hurdles that we can train ourselves to overcome. Delayed gratification is about discipline. The ability to resist giving in to our impulses. This step involves temporary deprivation of what we would ordinarily not think twice about allowing ourselves.
Benefits of temporary deprivation
We look at our purchases more critically
We can more easily differentiate between something that will provide us with value and something that will provide us with temporary joy.
We make better use of what we already have
When I went a month without purchasing or reading magazines, I re-read some of the magazines I already had. Since I hadn’t read them for a little while, I realized there were some articles I had skipped when I first read them. I also read more articles online.
We put the brakes on compulsory consumption
Going without helps us notice other areas of our lives where we’ve been on autopilot–consuming mindlessly.
We free up time and money for other activities
When we buy a product, we’re not just paying with money. We also pay with our time–time to earn money to purchase the item, time to go to the shop or find the shop online, and time to look after the item after we’ve taken it home.
We learn how little we need to get by
When we consume frequently without considering what we purchase, it’s easy to keep consuming at the same rate or increase our consumption. Hedonic adaptation explains why we quite often increase our level of consumption, but hedonic adaptation can also help us reduce our consumption. Since we get used to any change, good or bad, in the long-run we can get used to consuming less and less with no significant impact on our wellbeing.
We question our assumptions
We reinforce that more is better by consuming more. When we stop or slow down our consumption, we are in a better position to question what we assume is right for us. We no longer inherit the assumptions of others and instead begin living life on our terms.
We fuel our creativity
If we’ve set a rule not to use our car for a month, we will either not travel anywhere that’s further than a reasonable walking distance, or we may ask a friend or family member to carpool, or we may use public transport, or we may borrow a bike, or we may use a Zipcar. By trying out these different methods for a month, we’ll either realize that we prefer a car for getting around, or we’ll realize that using public transport/cycling/walking is more enjoyable.
Ideas for a month without…
If you’re unsure what to try, here are a just a handful of ideas. Try a month without…
Buying coffee on the go
Your smart phone
Spending money on anything except rent/mortgage, bills, and food
How to want less
One of the best things about trying “a month without” is that you open the door to opportunity. If you can go a month without buying coffee, can you also go two months without buying coffee? What else can you go without for a month, six months, or a year? This step is not about spending less per se, but spending with more intention. An experiment in regularly interrupting “go with the flow” consumerism.
As The Minimalists always say, “Ask yourself: How might my life be better with less?”
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