A pervasive belief in American society is that money is the answer to all of our prayers. Many Americans believe that if they only had money, they would be able to resolve all of their stress and worries. They believe the result of obtaining wealth is a life of pure and unending happiness and satisfaction. This belief, perpetuated by a never-ending stream of advertising reinforces the American consumer’s desire to buy his way to the happy life. The influence of consumerism on the American psyche shows itself everywhere we turn, from television, billboards, newspapers, marquee signs, and product packaging.
However, there is a growing movement in the United States of people who are realizing that there has got to be something more than the rat race of working, paying bills, and being stressed out over money…and they are doing something about it! They are giving up the SUVs, the palm pilots, and the sixty-hour workweeks in exchange for simpler, happier, stress-free lives. They refuse to make money their primary goal at the expense of their health, their relationships, their peace of mind, and their happiness. These people believe that they are free to live life on their own terms according to their own rules. They are not slaves to debt. They are not slaves to their jobs, and they are not slaves to their possessions. They realize that happiness is not found in material things like big houses, fancy cars, clothes, or jewelry.This movement, known as voluntary simplicity, has as many interpretations and definitions as the word happiness. However, the basic idea is downsizing your finances and living your life slightly below your means. This does not mean a life of deprivation. This does not require you to cook road kill, nor does it require you to live in a tent in the desert. Voluntary simplicity requires you to take a good hard look at your finances and find creative ways to eliminate the waste, so that you may pursue more of what truly brings you enjoyment. When you spend less, you require less to sustain your lifestyle. When you require less money to sustain your lifestyle, you need not work as many hours. When you work fewer hours, you have more time for yourself, your friends, loved ones, and meaningful pursuits.
This approach to happiness takes exceptional discipline and a focused vision for what you value most in life. Voluntary simplicity takes as much hard work as does being happy. Yet, the rewards are great. The purpose of the article was neither to provide you with the specific recipe for accomplishing this goal nor to provide you with financial tips to loosen the belt around your tight budget. There are more than enough websites, books, and articles you may find just a few key strokes away on your computer. The idea being to expand your mind to a completely new avenue that perhaps you may not have given adequate consideration to in your quest for happiness.
Piggy bank courtesy of Alan Cleaver