The Mentality of More

the-mentality-of-more

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.

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  • Michael Solari April 21, 2014

    It’s all about finding that balance. It’s hard to do and easy to get caught up on what your friends are doing. I usually go back to goals to bring me back to reality 🙂

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney April 21, 2014

      Goals are definitely a good starting point. I just want to help people set goals that expand their lives rather than shrink them.

  • Holly Johnson April 21, 2014

    To me, frugality is about getting “more” out of life by cutting out the things I don’t truly care about. I don’t think there is anything wrong with striving for better things in your life. I just try not to strive for things that aren’t truly important to me.

    • Tonya April 21, 2014

      This is exactly how I feel. I’m cutting back on things that aren’t bringing value to my life, so I CAN do more of the things I want to do. I have to say though, I’m still not quite where I want to be with more. There is more I want to do (mostly do and not buy, if that makes sense), but my budget is fairly…er I mean VERY tight!

      • Matt @ momanddadmoney April 21, 2014

        I think you’re on the right path though! We can’t all just immediately buy whatever we want. This is more about a long-term vision of adding more of what you love rather than instant gratification.

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney April 21, 2014

      I think that’s a great mindset. I cut plenty of things out of my life as well and will definitely continue to do so. But I’m trying to do it more from the standpoint of wanting something bigger rather than just cutting out for its own sake.

  • JNEW April 21, 2014

    It is all about finding a balance…. and paying attention. In fact I think THAT is the key to personal finance overall.

    Most of us have this default to “want it now”— for instant gratification. What I have found, is that just a little self control over the years has allowed me to come pretty close to having it all.

    Here is what I mean. For the first 5 years of our marriage we were pretty much living above our means. Not on purpose, but there was a lot going on. We just had a baby, bought a townhome and a family car, and were starting to incur new expenses like child care, etc.
    As a result, personal finance was not about getting ahead and investing for the future because I was spending all my time looking for 0% credit card transfers, was stressed, and my net worth was going the wrong way.

    So I turned the tide. I started to pay attention to where our money was going and noticed that I was being thrown off course as a result of non- monthly expenses that “surprised ” me. So I kept track of them and noticed ( duh) that they were all pretty predictable after all. Property taxes, car repairs, vacations etc… simply needed to be estimated and escrowed— just like the bank does for you when you get a mortgage. So my $2000 property tax that is due in November of every year now gets paid monthly ($166.67/month) into a special savings account I call my Tax Escrow account . When the bill arrives– the money is there and I am stress free. And it allows you to know what your true annual costs are —- an important number to know.

    Before this epiphany — I used to have to raid my savings account ( or what I thought was savings ) to pay this bill. And the savings I thought I had, disappeared—- and that stressed me out.
    The end of the story is that after dealing with this issue– I had a handle on the true amount that I was able to save and never needed to raid it for “unexpected” costs. This has allowed me to actually start investing that savings, reap the benefits of compounding, and now I have a significant net worth and the ability to splurge in the short term (occasionally) and provide for my retirement as well.
    Its funny how people seem to think saving is restricting– somehow crimping your lifestyle…. but the truth of the matter is that savings is actually the OPPOSITE. It frees you from the treadmill, it frees you from the lenders and it provides flexibility and opportunities!
    Best of all, it makes the “Joneses” start wondering how the heck you were able to pay off your mortgage so early and pay cash for your cars !

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney April 21, 2014

      Great story! What a perfect example of how a little awareness can make all the difference. And I completely agree with you on that point. That’s why we continue to track our spending even though we don’t have a traditional budget. I just think that it’s so important to know where your money is going.

      As for your saving practice, we do the exact same thing. I actually just wrote about it: http://momanddadmoney.com/make-irregular-expenses-regular/. That little trick has made our lives SO much easier and less stressful. Like you say, it’s incredibly freeing.

      Thanks for sharing such a positive story.

  • chutchison April 21, 2014

    Excellent article Matt! I just started blogging about our society’s “money mentality” about a year or so ago. I try to publish something every week, but I am going to be out of town this week. I would love to post this on my blog as a “guest post” this week. I do not have much of a following yet, but I love your work! I would appreciate your blessing before I do.
    TX! Chip

  • John S @ Frugal Rules April 21, 2014

    As others have said, it’s all about that balance. Finding that can be difficult at times, but that by no means should hold you back from trying to reach it. Of course, money is important but at the end of the day I want my family to be happy and have the opportunities it needs/wants and in many cases it’s not going to happen through “less”. That’s a big part of the reason why I left the corporate world actually, I wanted to have the chance to go after things that our family wants without being held back by a variety of factors.

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney April 21, 2014

      Great stuff John. It’s a big reason I ended up deciding to go the self-employment route as well. I felt like it gave me the best chance to really give us what we wanted over the long-term, though it will certainly be an uphill journey to get there!

  • Brian @ Luke1428 April 21, 2014

    “…make decisions without money being a factor…” I think that’s the essence financial freedom. Sadly, money can easily become the determining factor in many of our decisions and it simply shouldn’t be the only one.

  • Done by Forty April 21, 2014

    Really solid stuff, Matt. I do fall prey to the ‘less’ mentality. It’s tricky to know when your tactics are in that goldilocks zone. Good goals canibalize one another, too. My fancy pants vacation is fulfilling a goal of more travel, but it hurts my goal of early financial independence. Balance, as always, is tricky.

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney April 21, 2014

      “Good goals canibalize one another, too.” Very true. Spending money on one thing usually means spending less on another thing, unless you simply make more money! (Easier said than done, of course). My real goal with this post is just to help people refocus AWAY from the cutting out and TOWARDS the positive things they’re building. But no, finding the right balance is definitely not always easy.

  • Jacob @ iHeartBudgets April 21, 2014

    You’ve got it! I try to explain this when I do budgets for people. You can SAVE MORE and SPEND MORE at the same time. The idea is, you cut out all the crap that doesn’t matter (and usually there’s a bunch of it), and then save a lot more money, while spending more on everything you care about.

    Enjoying life, saving more and spending more are not mutually exclusive 🙂

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney April 22, 2014

      Love that last line! I think that really epitomizes a healthy attitude toward life and money.

  • TF White April 21, 2014

    Great article! I agree with your perspective- it’s the abundance mentality. I wish more people had it.

  • I think it’s about balance and knowing why you are cutting what you are cutting. For us, we cut things that don’t bring us much enjoyment to enable a lot more free time in the not-so-distant future. But that doesn’t stop us from enjoying the now (more than we should, some frugality bloggers often say!)

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney April 22, 2014

      Well I think that your last statement pretty much sums up perfectly why I wrote this article. Who’s to say how much you should be enjoying the now? Isn’t that what money is supposed to be for? To give you the ability to do the things that bring you happiness? It frustrates me when I see people beating themselves up over spending money, or celebrating purely because they spent less in a particular month. There’s value to cutting things out when there’s a clear goal in mind, but the cutting out itself can’t be the end goal.

  • Pauline @RFIndependence April 21, 2014

    For me abundance is important, so you don’t have to question whether you can do this or that when you feel like it. I know the things I want are reasonable anyway, if I want a car, I want a mid range, reliable car, not a Ferrari, and I don’t want to ponder if I can afford it or if it will break me financially. That’s why I want more, but it is not stuff, it is freedom.

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney April 22, 2014

      I agree with you. In the end it’s about the freedom to do what you want. But even if you wanted a Ferrari, would that really be bad? If you pursued it to the detriment of your family or other important goals, then sure. Balance is still important, as plenty of people have mentioned. But wanting nice things is not automatically a vice.

  • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer April 22, 2014

    Awesome post, Matt. We really had to learn our lesson about this concept when we first started paying off debt. At first, it was “no, no, no”. We finally learned that we need to choose value-based purchasing decisions over saving money, and it’s made our journey much, much more gratifying.

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney April 22, 2014

      I like that term, “value-based purchasing”. It’s just as important to be able to enjoy spending money on things you value as it to cut spending on things you don’t.

  • Derr April 25, 2014

    tried to read through bet fell asleep in the middle

  • Free to Pursue April 25, 2014

    “Life is about figuring out what you want, what makes you happy, and doing your best to make more of it.” What a great quote. That’s what I strive to do every day.

    When I truly honed in on this way of living, great things started to happen. Our savings rate gradually went from 10% to 30%+ and I started fully understanding what was bringing me lasting happiness: time with friends and loved ones, reading/learning, exercise, time in nature and travel. Now, my time and effort are highly focused on these things. I no longer medicate myself with activities and spending that is not aligned with what brings me lasting joy. It is so liberating.

    I hope everyone can find this balance. The feeling it brings is beyond words.

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney April 25, 2014

      “I no longer medicate myself with activities and spending that is not aligned with what brings me lasting joy.” I love that line! And it’s great to hear that you’re finding so much benefit from this mindset. It’s one thing to say it, it’s another to really live it. Thanks for sharing!

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