A lot of personal finance advice is about learning how to live with less.
Spend less money. Buy fewer things. Go out to eat a little bit less often.
And there’s certainly a place for all of that. A big place actually. Hell, I practice a lot of it myself every single day.
But there’s a problem with that mentality.
If you let it consume you, if your entire life starts centering around cutting things out, the world becomes a very small place.
You start missing out on opportunities. Your start spending less time with friends and family. You stop reaching for things you really want.
You become so focused on the idea of “less”, that the idea of “more” feels dirty. It feels greedy. Maybe even a little evil.
And that’s a big problem.
Because when it’s used right, “more” is one of the greatest weapons we have at our disposal.
The vilification of “more”
In the world of personal finance, the word “more” is usually associated with things like a bigger house, a nicer car, more gadgets for mom and dad and more toys for the kids.
In other words, it’s more “stuff”.
None of those things are inherently bad, but when they’re the focus it’s often a sign that priorities are a little out of order. It’s the whole “keeping up with the Joneses” thing where you’re accumulating more stuff just because it’s the thing to do, not because it’s bringing you genuine happiness.
And yes, this can be a big problem.
It can lead to debt. It can lead to financial insecurity. And most of all, it can lead to unhappiness.
But “more” can be so much more
A few months ago, just before I decided to start my company, I was doing a lot of thinking about what I wanted from life. And I realized something.
I was a little tired of worrying about money.
It frustrated me that the primary factor in choosing an apartment was cost.
It frustrated me that I worried about our grocery spending, which honestly caused some tension in our marriage.
It frustrated me that we weren’t putting more money towards college savings.
Now, the reality is that we live comfortably. We have everything we need and more. I’m certainly not in need of any kind of pity party.
And most days I would have fought these feelings by reminding myself how much I already DID have and that none of the things I was worrying about were NECESSARY for a happy life.
But this time was different.
I didn’t want to settle.
I didn’t want to just accept the “reality”.
I wanted to give my family every opportunity to live our lives in all the ways that truly made us happy, without limit.
I wanted to stop thinking about money as a restriction and start thinking about it as an opportunity.
I wanted more.
What “more” should be
This isn’t about buying the biggest house or the nicest car. This isn’t a status or ego thing.
It’s simply about the ability to make decisions without money being a factor.
Think back when to you went through the exercise of imagining your ideal life. If you haven’t done that yet, I would highly recommend at least reading through the article now, if not going through all the steps. That exercise might be the most important part of getting your financial life on track.
What is that exercise really about?
It’s about clearly defining the things that matter in your life so that you can make them MORE prevalent.
See, life can’t be about deprivation. It can’t be a race to the bottom until the day you figure out how to spend no money.
That’s just as quick a route to misery as spending wildly and racking up piles of debt.
Life is about figuring out what you want, what makes you happy, and doing your best to make more of it.
You have permission to want “more”
It’s okay to want to spend money on things that make you happy, even if they’re a little silly or expensive.
It’s okay to want to be able to take your family out to dinner, or on a ski trip, or to Disney World.
It’s okay to want to earn more money if that would give you the opportunity to do more of all of those things you love.
It’s actually a good thing if you want to use your money to create MORE happiness in your life.
It’s healthy. It should be encouraged.
Because when you start thinking this way, you open yourself up to so much opportunity.
You start seeing career paths that can pay you more and give you more flexibility with your time.
You start seeing saving as a path to chasing your dreams.
You stop thinking about what you CAN’T do and start thinking about what you CAN.
You start trying to make your life richer instead of emptier.
“Less” still has its place
Now, before you get too carried away with this newfound “more, more, more!” mentality and go blow all your savings on the new thing with the cool new thing because I told you it was okay, let’s take a step back and acknowledge that it can’t be all about “more” any more than it can be all about “less”.
Less still has its place, and it’s still an important one.
If you want to spend MORE on the things that ARE important to you, you might have to spend LESS on the things that AREN’T important.
If you want MORE time for a certain activity, you might have to spend LESS time on something else.
There are still tradeoffs to make. There always will be.
But this isn’t ABOUT cutting back. It’s about creating more of what you love. Creating less of what you don’t love is just a natural extension of that. But it’s not the starting point.
“Less” is not the goal. “More” is. “Less” is just a tool.
What’s your mindset?
More than anything, this is about mindset. It’s about how you’re approaching the problem.
And that might sound a little woo woo, but the mindset really matters.
It can make the difference between a plan you’re excited about and one you dread. One that creates opportunities and one that limits them.
One that succeeds and one that fails.
So, what kind of life are you trying to create?
Are you building it up or tearing it down?
Because I don’t know about you, but I want a life that has more of the things I love.