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I recently read a great article titled “Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed: The Real Reason for the Forty-Hour Workweek” and it really resonated with me. The author David Cain recently got an engineering job after backpacking and traveling for nine months. During his nine months of traveling he focused on the little things, spending little money (because money was scarce), exercising, meditating, and enjoying his travels. He was basically living the simple life (I know it's ironic because traveling seems like an indulgence and not simple at all).
Since he began working again, he has been spending without an awareness of where his money is going since he is making more money. He spends money on small purchases like daily coffees, things that are insignificant but add up over the long run and not something he would savor and enjoy slowly like he would when he was traveling.
He mentions that our lifestyle has already been designed because we have more money but less time. The 9-5 daily grind is exhausting to say the least, and we have only our weekends and evenings to enjoy ourselves. Hence, he argues that many of us resort to consumerism to “cheer ourselves up”.
The More We Have the More We Spend
Another thing that David Cain stated is that the more we have the more we tend to spend. It is called the Parkinsons Law whereby if you are given 20 minutes to do something you get your stuff done. If you are given an unlimited amount of time we tend to dawdle. We can't help it, it is human nature.
David Cain argues that the Parkinsons Law can be applied similarly to the concept of money. The more money we have, the more we tend to spend. It is the idea of the lack of scarcity.
I Couldn't Agree More
Since I recently posted on the subject “Would You Rather Have Time or Money” I have often thought about how I seem to be spending more even though I am making more money.
I am more “lax” with what I am spending on. I have less time to look for deals, I have less time to look for coupons, and I have less time to prepare meals (though I am getting better at this because of my batch cooking these days). Convenience tends to trump consciousness and preparing meals.
However, I do find that because I am working 50+ hours per week, I am finding the need to escape and to buy more clothes (though I still buy only on sale items), go on getaway holidays (even long weekends that cost me $500 per trip) to help me feel better. When I was working less, I had more time, I was less stressed, and I was happy to be at home and felt less of the pull or drive to “get away from it all” or “escape the rat race”.
How to Fix This
I'm not sure how this can be fixed unless you work less (though David Cain argues it is often 0 or 40 hours per week, there is nothing in between).
Some things that might help may include:
- Taking time out in your schedule (meaning writing it in your agenda to make yourself accountable) to do the simple things that help us cope with the daily grind, such as exercise, meditation, practicing gratitude for what we have, and of course, eating healthy.
- Paying yourself first and foremost- when you do this, you take out money from your back account, and it makes you feel like your money is more scarce than it is, hence you will spend less
- Try and work from home or work more flexibly- if you work from home, you can still be productive at work and also be somewhat more productive in your home life, which decreases stress and decreases the need to buy lunch or coffee out. Many businesses are aiming for having staff work from home these days.
Readers, what do you think? Do you feel that your lifestyle has been designed? If you cut down on your work, or reduced the number of hours per week, do you think you are more conscious about your spending?
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