“No one is to be found who is willing to distribute his money, yet among how many does each one of us distribute his life! In guarding their fortune men are often closefisted, yet, when it comes to the matter of wasting time, in the case of the one thing in which it is right to be miserly, they show themselves most prodigal.“ –Seneca, On the Shortness of Life.
Not too many years back, I was a money hoarder. Not the good kind of “saving for retirement and a rainy day” but an “if I don’t have enough, something bad will happen, I’ll get into debt, never get out, and lose everything.” In other words, I spent my time in scarcity-based thinking.
I believed that I didn’t have “enough” to start living the life I wanted to–as if some arbitrary dollar amount would give me permission to have fun. I worried constantly something bad would happen and I’d need money. I thought going out was wasteful and ignored how much value my friends added to my life.
Here were some of my strange money hoarding behaviors:
- I bought only the cheapest generic-brand food (and only after extensive comparison shopping would I actually buy)
- When I went out to eat with friends, I’d just get an appetizer.
- I brainwashed myself to think that any clothing item over $20 was a rip off.
- I believed that cutting my hair was a luxury I didn’t deserve.
- I declined vacations with my friends to work.
- I felt noble for staying in, avoiding fun, and putting ‘saving money’ as the highest priority in life.
While I definitely achieved my goal of saving money, I deeply regret the time that I sacrificed life to save a buck. Instead of enjoying the precious little time I have on this planet, I made money a god…which is a horrible, terrible, no good very bad way to live your life.
Looking back, it’s kind of ironic that there were many incongruities with my behavior.
- Spending 20 minutes comparing food items to save $0.20 is a waste of time.
- Choosing to be miserable around my friends to save a buck is selfish.
- Buying inexpensive clothing meant I that my clothes fell apart more often and needed to be replaced more often–more expensive in the long-run.
- Choosing to feel “unworthy” in my appearance made me de-value myself at work.
- Declining time with friends lessens the joy, happiness, and value in my life.
- At the end of my life, I don’t think I’m going to remember the great times I had sitting alone and hoarding my cash.
Slowly, over time, I started to realize that I wanted more from my life. I had cut out everything joyful, delicious, and life-enhancing–and although I could save a lot of money, I was by no means LIVING a life I was proud of. Very few people become blissfully happy by just sitting on a pile of cash.
Even more ironically, my father had taught me for my whole life that money was not an end, but a means to an end. He always taught me that money exists to help bring life-enhancing things and experiences into your life. How had this lesson been lost on me?
Gradually, I started loosening up with my wallet a little, and truly amazed myself. Spending money really helped facilitate more joy in my life. Going on vacation with friends, grabbing lunch for no reason other than because I wanted to, and buying nice clothes had a way of transforming me from the inside out. I started valuing my friends, my time, my appearance, and my happiness–not restricting myself from them.
When I look back on that time in my life, I feel like hoarding my money was not some responsible act, but a response to my own insecurities. Denying myself of everything was a way of putting myself down and making myself feel unworthy. Thinking small also helped me avoid the disappointments of having tried and failed at being happy, pretty, and successful.
While I’d still call myself as a saver and not a spender, I take time every few months to ask myself, “where am I unhappy in my life and how can I fix it?” If it involves money, I don’t hesitate to spend.
So to all of my money-hoarding friends out there, ask yourself, “am I really happy with my life? Am I taking advantage of all that I want to experience in the short span of time I’m in this world?”
If so, rock on with your bad self.
If not, buy some high-quality dark chocolate, get a pedicure, buy your best friend dinner and enjoy each other’s company. Life is meant to be savored.