Tax day is upon us, which has most people reflecting on their net salary for the year. “If we just had a little more money,” said, well, everyone I have ever known. Most people, myself included, are great at fooling themselves into thinking that just a wee bit more money would solve their problems. After all, we really need a bigger so and so, and we of course could use more whatchamacallit. No matter how much we have, we think we need just at tad bit more to be comfortable.
You all know where this is going, right? When we get the next bit of money, we use it on something we “need,” just in time to come up with something else that we “need.” So the cycle continues, and we pine once more, thinking again that the next raise or inheritance or lottery win will fix things.
When I catch myself in this financial trap, I try and pull myself back a bit. I remind myself that I made it just fine when I was in graduate school living on peanuts for pay. Or how when I got my first job, and was going to be making significantly less than a public school teacher, I called my mom and said, “how am I ever going to use all that money!” Oh how quickly I found things to spend it on. And I learned what my friends were making, and I became jealous – even though I loved my job and felt blessed to go to work every morning. I think of all of the people in the world – heck even in this land of opportunity USA who would give anything to make every month the salary that I think is just a bit shy of enough.
It helps if every once in a while, I take a moment to remind myself of the difference between needs and wants. We all learned somewhere in middle school that humans need a few basic things to survive: like food, water, shelter, and clothing. When we got a bit more advanced in our schooling, we probably learned about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which expands this list to include safety, love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. Now what I notice when I read this list, is that beyond food and shelter, (and maybe safety), not much of the rest of our needs can be met through spending money. We can fool ourselves into thinking that bigger boobs, a smaller waist, or a straighter nose will give us more self esteem, or that buying gifts for someone will bring us more love, but we all know that those external attempts don’t work if we don’t have some deep internal love for ourselves. Money is something we can quantify – we can track it with spreadsheets and budgets. So we often project our feelings of inadequacy to our bank accounts. A little more money is all I need…
A bigger house in a nicer neighborhood or a newer car might make us safer, for sure. But fancier cable, new shoes, and more gadgets will hardly make us happier or meet our deepest needs. So when like me, you begin to feel like your money isn’t enough, look around at the love you share with family and friends. Money can’t buy that. Yes, we do have real needs that cost money, but overall, what we have now is probably more than enough. Instead of wanting a little more money, how about focusing on spending a little more time away from your cell phone, or giving a little more away to a charity that you believe in. Make a little more room in your day to roll around on the floor with your kids. If there is anything we could all use a little more of, it’s probably kindness – shown to ourselves and to others – and that doesn’t cost a penny.