I had my first yoga class on Wednesday morning. It's harder than it looks. Downward dog is no joke.
I got a copy of the latest Yoga Journal magazine (well, in real life, they get sent to my job and I just happened to grab this copy). And there's an article in there about being happy with much less.
Now, of course it's about only buying food and underwear and working less so you have more time to practice yoga, which I am not about to do, but there were a few thought provoking points in the article.
"In order to afford things, you have to work long hours, leaving you less time for what truly sustains you. ... An expensive lifestyle also limits your choice of career, forcing you to take a high-paying job that may not be fulfilling."
Every day I go to work, I wonder what for. Granted, I enjoy what I do and I am ambitious, hoping to climb the rungs to get to the point where I am paid well to do whatever I want. The problem is, more often than not I am going to work simply to crank out whatever needs to be done before I can go home. I just want the paycheck to pay for the things I've bought years ago, no longer have and probably never needed (hence, my credit card debt).
But there's a difference between purposeful simplicity and reactive simplicity.
"Self-denial will backfire. "Don't say to yourself, 'I'm not going to have this or that.' Instead of focusing on what you're denying yourself, focus on what's really healthy or, in this case, on whatever gives you true satisfaction."
For example, I am ready to break out my checkbook and buy a new wardrobe. I was pinching pennies so tight for a while that I didn't do any new clothes shopping for a while and now I have a handful of ratty sweaters and button-down shirts with too-short sleeves.
Every morning I wake up, look in the closet and my shoulders slump. "I can't wear any of this," I lament silently to myself.
Self-denial in this instance has really backfired. I need new clothes, but rather than buy and replace things little by little, I'm ready to blow a whole wad on new stuff. And we all know I don't have the money for that.
This is a perfect example of being penny wise and pound foolish (Flexo at Consumer Commentary has a great post about that you should read. Click here.)
Obviously, I don't go to work naked, so what I own must work pretty well. While I do need new things, the article made me think about why I need them and how badly do I need them.
"Train yourself to reflect before your buy something. Why do you want it? Do you really need it, or are you trying to escape negative emotions?"
I often shop out of boredom or because I'm feeling down. There's something exciting about a new shiny thing or smelling new fabric. But, of course, it's temporary.
Still, I think the most important message here is to always have a purpose. Being debt free for the sake of being debt free really isn't inspiring and I suspect you'll eventually be in debt again.
But if you want to be debt free so you can go back to school and train as a musician, that's a purpose. If you're buying the coat because you'll freeze if you don't, that's purpose. Quitting eating dinner out because you want to learn to be more creative in the kitchen is less painful than cooking at home for no other reason than it's cheaper.
Here's a list of tips I adapted from the article on deciding what's essential:
Identify what gives you energy. Figure out what activities drain you and which ones juice you up. Do more of the latter and less of the former.
Talk about it. Sometimes we consume (whether shopping or eating or draining other people) because we don't know what's bothering us. Sometimes we can only figure it out if we talk it out.
Slow down. You can't really experience things if you rush through them. Only by slowing down can you learn what deeply satisfies you.
Confront the numbers. You can't live the champagne life on beer money for long. Look at your spending record and see where you're leaking money on unimportant things.
Visualize the simple life. Write down the things you wish you didn't spend so much time, energy or money on. Next, write down the things you wish you could have or do. Looking at both lists, figure out how you can reconcile the two.