Four years ago, the focus of my blog was money. I wrote about our efforts to earn it, save it, and pay down debt. I identified with the personal finance blogosphere, and was quite wrapped up in things like calculating our net worth, and making sure it was always higher than it had been the month before.
As the years went by, my focus shifted. I’m sure that getting out of debt (other than our mortgage) had a lot to do with that, as it took off a great deal of pressure. I think that the birth of our son had something to do with it too – it gave us something much more important than money to focus on. I find that these days, I don’t know our exact net worth, and I’m ok with that. I could sit down and tally it up, but I’d rather watch my son “make a pizza” on the living room floor, using every saucepan and utensil from our kitchen. Don’t get me wrong – we’re still quite focused on building a stable financial future for our family. We pay a significant amount of extra principal on our mortgage every month, and have money automatically transferred to several savings and retirement accounts each month. I know that we live well below our means, and that’s enough for me.
These days, rather than focusing on money, I’m much more interested in living simply and mindfully. I’m a lot more likely to be reading a blog about simple living than one about interest rates and ETFs. I read a great article about money by Joshua Becker a few days ago, and I think I identify with what he’s saying much more so than I would have a few years ago. These days, I tend to view money as boxed-up time, and just as I want to make sure that we’re making the most of the time that we have, I also want to make sure that we’re spending our money wisely and consciously, in a way that fits with our overall values and goals.
I do still think about money quite a bit. I think that’s just part of my personality – I’ve enjoyed saving money since I was a little girl. I like seeing the outstanding balance on our mortgage go down each month, and I like knowing that we’re steadily building a financial cushion to protect us against future income drops or emergency situations. But I think that my relationship with money is a lot better than it was a few years ago. I understand that money is only valuable when we use it in ways that benefit ourselves or others, and that the pursuit of money can become an endless quest if we let it.
We’ve managed to avoid lifestyle inflation over the years, and I feel that our focus on simple, mindful living has helped us do so. Realizing that we have enough – and that we don’t need more stuff – is a very freeing concept, and one that allows us to focus on things that are much more important than our net worth. There has been a lot of research done over the years to determine whether money makes us happy, and the general consensus I’ve seen is that it does, up to a certain point. If a family is struggling with poverty, additional income to cover necessary expenses will indeed make them happier. But past a certain point, extra money does not equal extra happiness. It just begins to create a cycle of wanting more and more stuff, and spending more and more money. And if we’re not truly content once we have the basics covered, nothing we buy will make us content in the long run.