If we have an influx of cash, our first reaction is to treat ourselves; buy ourselves something new as a reward for all of our hard work.
Now, there is nothing wrong with this, and I’m not saying that you should live life never buying yourself anything nice, but there is a cost to accumulating stuff which you should be aware of.
In short, you are buying more than just an item.
The financial cost to own things
When you make a purchase, whether that be a new pair of jeans, a new dining table, a new sofa, a new car, or a new house, there is a hidden financial cost tied to owning that item.
We usually think that the cost of the item is simply the currency we hand over in our initial purchase. What people often forget is that we now need to ‘care’ for that item.
- if we bought a rug, we have to clean, wash, and hoover it
- if we bought a pint of milk, we have to refrigerate it
- if we bought a t-shirt, we have to wash, iron, and store it somewhere
- if we bought a car, we have to tax and insure it as well as pay for fuel, service, and maintenance
- if we bought a house, we have to stay up to date with the repairs and maintenance
All of those examples demonstrate the ongoing time and/or monetary cost of owning that item and ‘caring’ for it.
And at the end of all that looking after, when the item gets to the end of its life or when we no longer want the item, we need to dispose of it or sell it. Again requiring both time and money.
The life restrictions to own things
The more things that you own, the more restrictions are placed upon your life.
You begin to believe that you NEED all of these material possessions, when in fact, you actually need very little.
Decisions become harder the more stuff you own, and you may also have to make more decisions.
For example, say you own your own home but are offered a job across the other side of the country. Your house is no longer an asset, it’s a restriction, and you now have to make decisions such as;
- should you turn the job down? (lost opportunity)
- should you sell the house? (costing more money and time)
- should you rent the house? (costing more money and time)
- should you buy another house? (costing more money and time)
- should you rent another house (costing more money and time)
- what will you do with all of the stuff in your house? (costing more money and time to either get rid of it, store it, or move it)
In a nutshell, the less stuff you own, the freer you are to make quick decisions, travel, and pivot your life in a new direction.
Stuff for stuff’s sake
Have you ever heard about those people who travel all around the work with nothing more than one carry-on suitcase? Just ONE!
I’m not saying you should live your whole life avoiding every purchase, never investing in a property, and being able to put your entire world of possessions into a small hardshell suitcase, but take a look around you – do you really need everything that you have? Or have you accumulated stuff just for the sake of accumulating it?
Chances are, it’s the latter.
Being a slave to your possessions
Once you buy a possession, it needs looking after; it needs cleaning, it needs maintenance, it needs storage, and at the ends of its life, it needs disposing of.
Although you make not know it, all of these ‘extras’ have a financial and time cost associated with them.
Without being aware of it, you’re working and living to look after your possessions.
Adopting the lean lifestyle
Many people are collecting material possessions in the belief that those items help them to live a happier life, when in actual fact, they do no such thing.
Yes, there are things that you NEED to enable you to maintain your health and freedom. So, I’m not advocating that you live in a cave with nothing more than a fig leaf to keep your private parts warm in winter.
However, there comes a point when we are no longer purchasing out of need, we’re purchasing out of greed. We want that rush of dopamine when we swipe our cards at the checkout and walk out with a bag full of new stuff and we want to be able to maintain our status in society (more on this in a future post).
Thankfully the 21st century is seeing a turning point where people are cherishing life experiences over material items, and rightly so, after all, you can’t take your possessions with you when you exit this world.
Adopt a lean lifestyle and free yourself from being a slave to your possessions, and when you do make a new purchase, calculate whether the lifetime costs and restrictions are really worth it.
- Knowing the Cost of an Opportunity
- 4 Ways to Cut Costs and Travel For Less
- How I Travelled Around Europe for 18 Days for Less Than €760
- How (& Why) To Detach Your Money From Your Time