As a parent, one of the biggest things I try to teach my kids is that you don’t need lots of stuff to be happy. The problem is, we live in the UK in 2015. We watch TV, use the internet, buy magazines. This means the lesson I’m trying to teach my kids is regularly diluted. Sometimes I feel like we make ten steps forward only to leap fifteen back.
Still, I really think it’s a lesson worth persevering over. There is so much evidence pointing to the fact that material wealth and possessions don’t equal happiness (and in many cases actually have the opposite effect) that I don’t want my girls to fall into the trap of wanting stuff, getting it, being miserable and then wanting more stuff. You just have to watch the insanely brilliant document Happy to see that having stuff certainly does not equal happiness.
The photo at the top of this post is what my living room looks like this morning. It’s clean, tidy and decluttered. This is because we’ve been trying to sell some of the things we no longer need or use (baby stuff, mainly) as well as buying less. The money we’re saving goes towards other things: a cleaner, a holiday next summer, a new car. Things, services and experiences which add value to our life rather than sitting unused or unworn in a cupboard. That’s the difference between a good and a bad purchase, I guess.
Watching The True Cost (another mind-blowing documentary) has really made me think about what we buy and where it comes from. I’ve made a pledge to myself to be more considered over purchases and avoid stupid impulse buys of cheap stuff that, in the long run, won’t make me happy.
This type of attitude has taken a while to adjust to. It’s so easy to drop £50 on a couple of jumpers or a pair of shoes, especially when there are messages everywhere telling us we need this stuff. Still, I feel like we might actually be getting there with it. Frog has started to save up her weekly pocket money rather than splurging it on sweets and magazines full of free plastic tat, which makes me think that perhaps some of these ideas are filtering down to her.
Anyway, I’m not arguing for a product-less existence. I mentioned above that we recently bought a new car. Our old car was on its way out, with a myriad of problems that were going to cost more to fix than the car was actually worth. It was no longer big enough for us as a family of four and it ate petrol like I eat cake on a bad day. We took out a loan with the bank (although would have considered another option if we needed a bad credit car loan) and, once we’d fixed our monthly repayment budget to one we could easily afford, started choosing a car in our price bracket. It all felt very grown up and responsible.
A couple of months on and this purchase is still proving a good one. It’s made us realise that really thinking about something before you buy it is the way forward, and it’s OK to forego some luxuries in favour of other ones. As I declutter and start to sell or donate the things we don’t need any more I’ve become way more picky about new things we have in the house – there’s no point getting rid of one thing only to replace it with two more things I don’t really need.
Tell me, what do you spend money on that you consider a luxury worth spending for? How do you make decisions over purchases? Are you an impulse buyer or a considered shopper?
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