The following blog post is part of The Road to Financial Wellness blog tour. The Road to Financial Wellness is a three-month, grassroots campaign promoting financial empowerment on a national level and encourages people to pursue their dream lifestyle. Find out more about local events near you and come see me at the stop in San Diego!
I always considered myself to be a left-brained humanitarian, interested in changing the world through vague ideas and niceness. Even though I never knew exactly what I wanted to do when I grew up, I knew that I wanted to do good in the world. (See what I mean about vague ideas?)
My plans for doing good varied from charity work abroad to teaching and becoming a chef (??) to working as a therapist. I had a huge drive to help people but felt utterly confused about how to harness my desire to serve others because I didn’t really agree with the systems that existed.
Around that time, I stumbled across a quote that perfectly articulated my frustrations:
“ ‘Normal’ is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to a job that you need so you can pay for the clothes, car and the house that you leave empty all day in order to afford to live in it.
— Ellen Goodman
Shortly after reading the quote, my sister linked me to an article: Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed.
In the article, David Cain dives into the ways in which we have been programmed to live a certain kind of life—the very life I never wanted. Work, spend, consume and repeat until you die.
He continues on to explain that as people who live in a developed, “first world” country, we are programmed to be mindless consumers. The entire pre-determined structure of our lives (9-5 until 65) pushes us towards consumption and waste because we have no spare time. Regardless of our salaries, we are poor when it comes to time. By the end of an eight-hour day in the office, we are so emotionally and physically tired that we are happy to spend money to ease our pain.
So we do. We spend the money and the cycle continues.
Some people are okay with this structure, others whole-heartedly embrace it and certain people don’t ever realize that it even exists.
But there’s a fourth group as well: the rebels.
People rebel in all sorts of ways: starting businesses, early retirement, freelancing, tiny living, going off the grid and “semi” retirement.
I’m still not sure which path I will choose (or if I’ll choose something else altogether).
But there is one thing I know with certainty: the quickest way to create the change I crave is to align my spending with my values.
As we enter an era of rapid climate change and the next mass extinction, I know that I want to part of the solution and not, you know, contributing to the demise of our planet. How I spend will be one of the biggest ways I can do that.
That doesn’t mean I’ll never end a long day with Costco pizza, Netflix and wine (yum) but it does mean that I’m trying to be more mindful about how I spend and consume.
How we spend (or don’t) spend our money is directly related to our moral beliefs and our hope (or lack thereof) for a better future.
In other words, your money is bigger than you.
Your money, and how you spend it, is a direct reflection of you and the impact you will have on the world.
When I read that article as a seventeen year old, I realized that money is a big freaking deal, but not for the reasons I had previously thought.