It’s Okay To Not Spend Money

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In America, spending money is a rite of passage. Spend, spend, spend. And when you’re done spending come back and spend some more.

Everywhere you turn, you are inundated with advertisements; buy this, buy that, this can help you do this, that can help you do that. No sooner do you find a product then you’ve got another product telling you it’s better than the other product.

And it’s not just products. It’s people. It’s your parents, your friends, your co-workers, people you see on the street, people you see on social media. They’re doing this, they’re doing that, you need to do it too, you need to keep up.

In truth, so little of what we buy actually matters. If you’ve got a pair of pants, your legs are covered. Do you need the best pants, the newest pair? No. A pair that fits, a pair you like, that’s all that matters.

And of course you feel better when you wear a good pair of pants, maybe even an expensive pair, and there’s nothing wrong with buying that pair of pants. If you have the money, go for it. Buy one pair, maybe even buy two. But buy them because you want them, not because someone told you to.

Or, don’t buy the pants. That’s harder to do. To walk into a store and not buy something that you like, something you think you need, something that will, so very obviously, make you feel good. That’s called discipline. To see the food on the plate and know how good it will taste, but not touch it.

And it’s tough, not buying the pants, not eating the food — walking out of the store, backing away from the table as if it to say: you know what, I have enough.

But this is what we must do if we are to survive. Because to consume so endlessly, all it does is create waste. Not just physical waste, but emotional waste, too.

You see it when a person dies, all the things they leave behind; some of it is important, yes, but much of it is not. It is just crap that has been collected because to acquire things, in this country, is to be alive.

And nobody gives a eulogy and talks about the things people owned. They don’t say — Jim had five cars, two houses, six television sets, fifty pairs of pants, a hundred pairs of shoes. They don’t say any of that. They say — Jim was a good guy. He was a husband, a father, and he was….

When you die, nobody will remember the things you owned. They will just remember the person you were.

So, all that pressure to keep up, forget it. Buy what you like, what you can afford, but don’t buy because you are trying to keep up with everyone else, and don’t buy because you think the thing you are buying will complete you.

Nothing you buy will ever make you feel more complete than being content with what you already have. And even if what you have is nothing, embrace it for what it is, because a person can have everything and still feel empty.

It’s a spiritual sickness, this quest for more. And it’ll kill you from within if you don’t stop it before it’s too late.

Wrote for the New York Times, New York Magazine, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Vice, Fader, Vibe, XXL, MTV News, many other places.

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