The Heretical Truth About Money

Mainstream culture tells us to buy as much stuff as possible. Hence the success of Walmart.

Upscale mainstream culture tells us to buy the most expensive stuff possible. Hence the success of designer labels and Ferraris.

Mainstream wisdom is that buying lots of stuff and/or expensive stuff  will give us happiness, status and popularity.

The heretical truth is the opposite: we should live well below our means. We should buy as little stuff as possible, and expensive stuff only if it will last a lot longer than average.

This heretical path protects the earth, since the production and transportation of most stuff plunders the earth’s limited resources and hastens climate change. It also is the path of happiness and being rich in what matters.

My husband and I live well below our means. We own just one car; I carpool to work and Thor commutes by bicycle. We have solar panels that produce a little more electricity than we use. We choose to not own a TV. We have a garden that supports bees and birds, rather than a lawn.  We break the rules of consumerism at Christmastime. We focus on people, experiences, God and nature rather than stuff.

Our popularity and status don’t seem to suffer for any of this. We’ve got lots of friends, and our status in our community is fine. We’re happy. We’re rich in what matters.

Most of the stuff we own in the U.S. is about our wants, not our needs. It’s not even our deepest wants. Our purchases are often driven by our insecurities, like my horrified response of buying costly cosmetics when a little girl thought I was a grandma. (Thank goodness the Dalai Lama’s wisdom helped me recover from that misguidedness.)

Rather than go into counseling to work on those insecurities (and I speak as a former counselor), I suggest getting your spouse or friend to support you in not buying more stuff. Work from the outside in. It costs less and gets faster, better results.

Get family and friends to take nature walks with you instead of going shopping. Or get involved in a good, loving place of worship.  Decide to live a good story. Volunteer to serve meals to street people who will value your presence and a bit of friendly conversation. Go to a rally against climate change.  Stretch yourself by climbing a mountain, either literal or figurative.  These things and many others can make us rich in what matters.

Try walking the path of heresy about money and materialism. Diamond-Cut Life will support you in that path. My husband and I are heretics living below our means, and we’re happy. We also have ample money saved for retirement. And we give away 5% of our annual gross income to organizations like Green Empowerment, because abundance should flow toward need. Research has repeatedly shown that both giving is proven to increase happiness.  I just attended a first-rate workshop by Scott Crabtree of Happy Brain Science that reminded me of this.   (Note: this blog receives no  money as a result of any recommendations.)

If this post makes no sense to you, Diamond-Cut Life is not a blog you would want to subscribe to. Instead, you would need mainstream blogs that encourage you to embrace the status quo. Blogs than run ads and assume you should steadily buy stuff.

But if you want to explore the path of heresy, keep coming back. (It takes less than a minute to subscribe, upper right of site.) If you want to be rich in what matters, then Diamond-Cut Life is for you.

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  • Antoinette
    April 6, 2014

    Fabulous, what a website it is! This weblog
    provides useful information to us, keep it up.

  • Alison
    October 10, 2013

    This is the first time I’ve seen John Wooden’s creed. Thanks for sharing it. Interesting that his creed doesn’t mention either money or winning (I’m assuming that as a successful coach he must have won a lot. I tend to worry about the prices that get paid in the course of intense competition and a tight focus on winning. But that’s a subject for a different post :).

    I agree with you that a shelter against a rainy day is valuable, whatever the size of it. I love your phrase “helps anyone, of any income, live more freely and fully”. Shelter, savings account, no matter what it’s called, is only possible with focus and discipline. Funny to think that in some times and places, THAT was mainstream, and rampant materialism was not even an option.

    Thanks for teaching us about John Wooden’s Seven Point Creed, my friend.

  • Colleen
    October 10, 2013

    This post, about being rich in what matters — not money — made me want to share something I recently landed on: John Wooden’s Seven Point Creed, which his father gave to him when young. John Wooden, who lived from 1910-2010, was considered by some to be the best coach of all time (led the legendary UCLA Bruins basketball team).

    #1 Be true to yourself.
    #2 Make each day your masterpiece.
    #3 Help others.
    #4 Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.
    #5 Make friendship a fine art.
    #6 Build a shelter against a rainy day.
    #7 Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day.

    I love all of these. The only one that remotely relates to money is #6. But that gets me to my point/comment on your post: by *not* putting a focus on money/status/things, the practical result oftentimes is just that, “a shelter against a rainy day.” Having that shelter, however small (and years ago, for me, it was quite small!) helps anyone, of any income, live more freely and fully.

  • Scott Crabtree
    October 10, 2013

    Great blog Alison! Thanks for sharing your wisdom with all of us. And thanks for the kind mention too! I’m so glad you enjoyed the workshop. :)

    Keep up the good work!
    Chief Happiness Officer

    • Alison
      October 10, 2013

      Thanks for coming by, Scott. In the office we’re still buzzing about your workshop.

  • Mike
    October 9, 2013

    There’s been a lot of the accidental publishing on blogs but several of us lately! Another great post, Alison. Just the other day I needed a new pair of dress shoes for work. I asked one of my girlfriends where they recommended and she said Macy’s. I recoiled. One, I’m really hard on shoes in general because I have big clown feet. And two, I buy nice looking but as inexpensive as possible clothing. I’m wayyyyy past the day of needing to impress anyone with an outer shell in decoration, ya know? Oh btw, I keep meaning to tell you I love your husband’s name :)

    • Alison
      October 10, 2013

      Mike, I feel better hearing I’m not the only one with technical problems. Definitely with you on the nice-looking but inexpensive clothing (I’m big on clothes from Goodwill, but I’m forced to buy expensive shoes because I have narrow feet . . . love your description of your big clown feet). You’re ahead of me on not worrying about your appearance. I devote too much time and thought to mine; I’d like to become a better heretic about our culture’s standards of how women are supposed to look! Finally, Thor gets a big kick out of his name, too. When people who meet him remark that he is the god of thunder, he modestly replies, “I just do that part-time”.

      Going over to visit your blog now. Always a good experience.