I think the idea of splurging a little to feel rich while not being rich and in particular while paying off debt is misguided and up there along with “what kind of candy bars do you have in your weight loss plan?”. It seems obviously self-contradictory, so why does it exist? The reason is that it is trying to reconcile one frame of mind (the formerly wasteful) with a new frame of mind (the frugal), that is, one end of the scale with another end of the scale. This contains the “problem of opposing goals” which makes for a weak strategy.

Everywhere you go, people want your money or propose some kind of monetary solution to your problem. Sometimes they propose a problem as well. For instance, it is said that clothes make the man. And so a large industry exists to make men and remake them every season. An equally large industry exists to make you feel “unmade” or bad about yourself if you’re not wearing some particular garment? In particular it creates a “conscience” asking how can you feel good about yourself if you are not in the process of buying something?

With time, easily.

The answer is to change the focus from feeling rich about consuming something you can buy to feeling rich about doing something you can do.

Instead of spending time on paying for your clothes, spend time on improving the body (wealth) the clothes temporarily covers and feel rich when you are running up the stairs while others take the elevator or feel rich when you are not uncomfortable on the beach.

Instead of feeling rich by splurging on some flashy trinket, the more things I no longer neeeeeeeeeed to buy to be happy, the richer I feel.

Money (and time) has the problem of being a finite non-renewable resource. Hence associating the feeling of richness with expending them is a losing game. However, this is not the case for skills and networking.

Sometimes it costs money to learn skills or time to make connections, but it also costs effort. It is not something anyone can go out and buy and so they are apart from consumer goods. It does not matter whether you have a million dollars or one dollar. It will take you a few years to get in shape, establish a network, or learn to service a diesel engine, regardless. This is wealth that nobody can take away from you.

I feel rich when I can spend such wealth. Unlike money or time when you get poorer by spending it, “spending” skills in the sense of creating or “spending network” in the sense of connecting does not make you poor. It does in many instances make you richer as it builds experience or further connections. For these, spend freely. For the finite resources; those are precious. Hang on to them to build above-mentioned infinite resources and don’t use them simply for a short term fix.

Originally posted 2009-05-27 01:53:26.