Money Monday: Struggling with the New Poverty Mindset

They say money can’t buy happiness, but I’ve seen the smile a purchase can put on the face of a loved one, and felt the warmth of being loved and valued because I was able to buy some desired object.

When I buy things for my wife and children it’s hard not to notice the joy they express in having some new thing that they desired to have. It’s also hard not to notice the swelling in my heart at having brought them joy. It’s natural to want to bring joy to our loved ones, and it’s natural for them to find joy in some thoughtfully selected gift. The trouble is, although having the thing that they were gifted does bring them a short bit of happiness, it doesn’t last. The pleasure of new things wears away rapidly, which leaves a hole for another new thing to fill, and on and on the cycle goes.¬†If we relegate our happiness on the procuring of new things, we will live financially strained lives.

My wife doesn’t need me to buy her new things all of the time, nor do my children. The don’t need me to buy them everything they want either. However, with the “new poverty mindset” I’m drawn to buying them things to make them happy, even though I know now that it won’t, and that saving and providing a better life for them would result in great happiness in their lives, and reduced stress for myself. The struggle is between these two modes of thinking. On the one hand I’m drawn to spend everything for the immediate joy on their faces at having something that they desire. On the other hand I’m drawn to be frugal and save, so that we can be more financially stable.

The second path is more of a head path then a heart path. It’s somewhat like saying follow the GPS as opposed to the directions I know by heart, except that the directions I know by heart don’t lead me to where I ultimately want to go. The “shortcut” to happiness turns our to be an illusion. This is because, as it is said, “money can’t buy happiness”. Properly managing my money won’t bring happiness either, but it will bring a state in which happiness can be enjoyed for longer without the daily gnawing fear and dread of looming bills and creditors. Happiness isn’t a thing to be bought, it’s a moment to be thoroughly enjoyed, and it cannot be enjoyed to it’s fullest if deep inside the moment that brought it about is a fear of what will come from spending money that should have otherwise been saved, or spent more wisely.

The truth is that my family will be happy just having me, plain old me. I knew this to be true, as I see the huge smile on his face as he comes running to Daddy. I know this to be true as I see the glint of wonder and awe in my daughter’s eyes. I know this to be true as I hear my wife gently sigh as I hug her. My family loves me, and they are quite content with what they have, though things do come by that grab their attention. Still, my struggle remains. The draw of that old familiar path to happiness remains.