The free-spirited, barefoot hippy in me wants to start this post with a proclamation that money has absolutely nothing to do with happiness. And I really like to believe that, someday, that will be true, and that maybe that is already true in certain pockets of existence. But today, at least in the part of the world I inhabit, money and happiness are very much linked together. Because if I don’t have enough money for the food needed to keep my stomach full and my body working, I’m inevitably going to be grumpy. And if I cannot afford clothing to cover that body, I’m not going to get very far before my butt-naked self gets thrown into somewhere not very nice.
Of course, the above examples are extreme. But the truth is that we use money to help fulfill all kinds of needs and wants in our day to day lives. And unless you want to begin some kind of communal sharing living situation (which came up in pretty much every other conversation I had throughout college [if this sounds appealing to you, check out thesimpleway.org]), you will have to develop a good relationship with money in order to experience happiness.
Allow me to be crystal-clear: I am in no way saying that having more money equals having more happiness. I do not believe that is how it works. But I do believe that there are a few very common – and dangerous – mentalities concerning money that make being happy more difficult.
- Ignorance – It has been said that ‘ignorance is bliss.’ Not with money, people! I am always in shock when a friend has no idea what is in their checking account, yet is swiping their debit card for dinner and/or a movie and/or a latte. If this is your money management style, the fear of reality keeps you living in a fantasy world…until overdraft charges begin to pile up and you have to borrow money to cover rent. Knowing you have very little money is not fun, but it can be the start of making some positive changes.
- Hoarding – Hoarding is a very sad and very serious issue where, basically, a person clings to certain things and is unable to get rid of them. Hoarding can manifest in many ways, and one of those ways is with money. This often has to do with control and the fear of the uncertain future. This is not the same as saving. It is an inability or unwillingness to spend money on anything but the bare essentials. People who do this have such a tight grip on their funds in hopes that, when disaster ultimately strikes, they will be as prepared as possible. Overcoming this mentality first requires a commitment to understanding the underlying causes.
- Materialism – This is the classic ‘keeping up with Joneses’ where happiness is as elusive as the ever-changing desire for more and better stuff. People of this mentality are constantly chasing contentment through material possessions, whether through shoes, cars, the latest technology, the nicest house, and so on. But the problem is that, while sometimes a new item can help us feel happy, real happiness does not come from anything. Often, people who struggle with this mindset find themselves feeling empty when the ‘new thing happiness’ wears off. A good way to begin to change this is by shifting one’s focus away from material gains and onto other, more fulfilling parts of life.
So what does a good money mentality look like? Tune in next time…!