It’s the time of year when you’ll probably see lots of messages saying how much money you can save by spending money on some great shopping deals. Despite the promises, be assured that there are better ways to both save money and find even greater contentment for yourself and the people you care about.
The start of a new year is always a very tempting time to “invest” in new gadgets, workout equipment, and more. While it might feel good to buy things that feel like a commitment to making positive changes in the new year, this can be something that I call a False First Step—the purchase feels like you’ve taken a real step towards our goals but all you’ve done is just spent money.
Before going out and buying #allthethings, consider an opposite approach that might bring you contentment that lasts much longer.
To start off, here are two questions you might want to ask to sort out what might be a False First Step:
- Do the things I want to buy actually get me closer to doing what matters most to me or do I already have enough to get it done?
- And more importantly, are the things I’m buying allowing me to serve others in the most meaningful possible way?
This same line of questioning applies to the things we own as well.
- Am I actively using most of the things I have or could I use something I have already?
- Do the things I have allow me to best serve others in the most meaningful way possible?
If you find that the answer to those questions is anything close to a “no”, it might be time to examine what you can do with the excess stuff in your life. Instead of looking for contentment through the purchase of new things, you can give new life to those things by putting them in someone else’s hands.
Here are two ways you can find your own contentment this year by owning less and giving more.
1. Give new life to your unneeded things by giving them to someone else
If you have boxes still packed from the last time you moved or tupperware bins tucked away in a closet that haven’t been opened in a few years, it may be time to pull them out and recapture some of the value they once had to you.
Everything we have that we don’t use or need weighs down on us in some way. Most likely, you spent well-earned money to buy it, it now takes up space or time and energy to maintain, and that value is now just sitting somewhere not being used. If you’re no longer interested in using it yourself, you can breathe new life into it by donating it or giving it to someone that would use it. This accomplishes two things:
- You get to feel great about creating some more space in your home
- What you gave away will create contentment for someone who might appreciate it more
In this way, it’s a win-win on both sides of the equation.
2. Instead of shopping as a family activity, find a fun way to volunteer for a cause you care about
It’s been shown that volunteering may be good for your body and mind, it won’t bring any additional clutter into your home, and it usually doesn’t cost any money to do.
Just like giving away something you no longer need has a double-positive effect, volunteering creates positive waves in the work that you do and you get to feel great about what you helped accomplish as well.
It doesn’t matter what the exact cause is, as long as everyone is on board to get together and work on something together—that’s a big part of what makes it such a rewarding experience. You may be surprised at just how much better it feels than a dose of retail therapy—if you find a particular activity that you really enjoy, try setting up a recurring date to volunteer regularly.
It’s likely that you’ll learn to appreciate more of what you already have while finding great contentment in serving others instead of spending more.
After three years of living as a minimalist, I have yet to find a downside to owning less stuff having given away about 50% of the things we used to own. You don’t have to do that to find your own contentment as well, but I do encourage you to ask yourself some of the above questions and realign your choices however you see fit.