This is, of course, the time of year that we traditionally give thanks for our blessings. We express gratitude for our warm homes, our families, our health, the bountiful food set before us, and whatever other good fortune has befallen us during the course of the year . . . then we dig in, and move on to other things; sports, the weather, movies, politics (and hopefully world war III does not erupt at the dinner table at this point). But what about the other 364 days of the year?
And what, pray tell, does this have to do with frugality? In a word… everything! Why? If you think about it for a moment, the very causation of overspending is exactly the opposite of gratitude and thankfulness. If we are truly content and happy with what we have in our lives at this very moment, then why would we feel the need to go out and acquire (buy) more (and more) stuff? We wouldn’t.
It’s one thing to pay lip service to thankfulness, but unless we truly feel it in our hearts we will never be completely content and will never resist that constant urge to have more. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you’re a bad person every time you buy something. And it is absolutely human nature to continually want more, in fact, I would argue not only human but all animal nature as well. It is bred into us as a survival mechanism. In a world of “survival of the fittest” and scarcity, this instinct is necessary to keep us alive. But herein lies the rub. We no longer live in that world of scarcity, but unfortunately, our basic animal instinct has not caught up with that fact. So now instead of a nice little cache of saved up nuts and berries to get us through the colder months, we have 15 pairs of shoes and 50 pieces of jewelry stashed away. And that wanting “itch” will just not go away.
Comparison is another enemy of contentedness. We don’t only live in our own little bubble, but we are constantly looking at what everyone else has. I can’t even fathom what the survival mechanism is in play here but animals definitely do this too. If you’ve ever had more than one cat, for instance, it is comical to watch them run to the other’s bowl before they have even finished their own meal, just to make sure the other cat did not get something better than they did.
If you live in a 1,500 square foot house while everyone around you is in a tiny shack you feel like a queen, but how would you feel if everyone else was living in a 4,000 square foot “McMansion”? Is there anything different about your 1,500 square foot house? No. So what changed your level of happiness?
Most people in our country live far more opulent lives than a large percent of the world’s population, even more opulent than the general population of our own country did 50 years ago. But since see we don’t see them (or remember that simpler time) we are constantly striving for something better. The problem is that there is never an end-game to this desire. And people quite literally go into debt every day because of it.
I’m not saying it is easy, and it is certainly going against the very grain of our instinctual nature but in the long run, your life will be more deeply satisfying and happy if you can fight the urge to splurge and feel the rich ample abundance of what you already have. And that, my friends, is what being frugal is all about.
Wishing you all a very happy Thanksgiving!