Being Happy With Less

Categories Simplifying

Yesterday was my birthday, and I only thought it fitting to reflect on what that means. For some, it means looking forward to being pampered and showered with presents. For others, it means spending time with loved ones. And still for some, it means absolutely nothing!

being happy with lessFrom a young age, many of us are “taught” that birthdays + holidays = gifts. We look forward to these occasions, wondering what goodies we’ll get.

But as time has gone on, I find myself coming up empty when people ask me what I want.

Usually, it’s something practical that I need anyway (like a kitchen tool), or it’s just money.

Boring! I know. But I don’t find myself looking forward to birthdays and holidays because of the spoils anymore. It’s been that way for several years now.

I’ve come to realize that being happy with less is becoming second nature to me.

Do you truly need everything you own?

Last week, I posed the question: what’s the most expensive item you own? (Sans cars and houses.)

Many of you answered similarly to me: technology (laptops/computers), and your beds.

You could argue these two things are necessary in this day and age. Most of us need something to sleep on, and most of us like using our computers to connect with others in some way. No surprises there.

I went a little further and figured my collection of clothes and makeup have cost me a pretty penny over the years. A lot of people have made the argument that small things really do add up, and I would agree.

I know many of you are of a frugal mindset, but still had purchases totaling a thousand dollars, or more. I don’t think ONE purchase is a good barometer of how frugal we are. One large purchase is such a small sample of our actual buying habits.

Instead, look around you. How many things do you own? Do you find yourself wanting more? Why not try being happy with less first?

Honestly, if I was forced to live at a bare-minimum for a few months, I know I could do without a lot of things I own. I could easily cut my wardrobe in half, for one. I could stop holding onto some stuff I’ve acquired over the years that haven’t been used in a while. I could let go of some of the more sentimental things that I keep because of the memories attached to them.

What really matters to you?

At the end of the day, my priorities are as follows:

  • My family (including my cats) and friends
  • Freedom (financial and otherwise)
  • Happiness

I value all of these highly, and I try to find a way to make my goals and purchases align with each. It can get a little tricky at times, but by having these things in mind, I’ve been buying less and less “stuff.” Because of that, everything I bring into our apartment is carefully thought out, and I avoid buying unnecessary things. Less waste is always a good thing!

Liz over at Budgeting for More had compiled a little list of her simple frugal pleasures a few weeks ago, and I really think the spirit of this post is one we can all benefit from. I have my own little series that I need to continue, with free activities that I enjoy.

I couldn’t agree more with Liz. I know I personally love taking naps on the weekend. Treasuring the moments when I get to see family. Watching my cats go crazy. Chilling out with friends. Cuddling with R. Going for a walk. Listening to music.

All of these things are free. Completely and utterly free. You don’t have to spend a cent to enjoy these simple, yet fulfilling, things. Things that make me happy and coincidentally, help me on my path toward financial independence.

I’m really learning to find happiness in the small things. The best part is that it’s liberating. Simply not wanting anything is freeing.

My grandma happens to love watching game shows, and as such, I’ve been watching them with her this week. There were several cars being given away on most of these shows. Of course, contestants were going crazy. “Yeah, give me the car!!”

Is it sad to say if I were on that show, I would be more excited about the money? I’m fine with my car, thanks. A “home office” was also being given away – well, I don’t need a new one. None of these prizes, except the vacations, were exciting me.

Obviously, I’m quite the proponent of valuing experiences over material things. I think a lot of you agree with that. If only we could get the rest of the population to see how much better life would be if they gave up on their pursuit of new stuff in lieu of experiencing all life has to offer. And no, I don’t mean the experience of driving a new car, because that newness wears off.

Try taking a new outlook on life where you learn to seek out the little things in life and find happiness in them. Most of us are just too consumed by our day-to-day happenings that we forget to stop and pause on our journey and just breathe.

Are you being happy with less, or are you still trying to figure out what you should and shouldn’t be purchasing? What truly makes you happy in life?

Erin is a total goofball who sucks at writing about herself (though she finds referring to herself in the third person amusing). When she's not editing videos, she can be found messing around in Photoshop, laughing at her cats, watching YouTube videos, playing video games, chair dancing, sipping coffee, or any random combination of the above.

58 thoughts on “Being Happy With Less

  1. Great post EM! I too am learning to live with less and spend more time on things that make me truly happy instead. There’s something in the air right now. Lots of PF bloggers are doing shopping bans, not only for the financial benefits, but also to reduce clutter. I’m so excited about it :)

    1. Yes, me too! I think it’s awesome, and it helps that more people are in it together. I’m definitely going to be cutting down on a few things by the end of the summer. It’s just not worth it anymore.

    1. Thanks Lauren! Honestly, while I appreciate my family thinking of things to get me, they’re usually unnecessary, which leads to not being excited about material things.

  2. Some of the most entertaining moments with my kids involve little to no money: camping, going to a park, playing card games, etc.

    I’m also like you when it comes to holidays. I never want anything. The best gift I recently received was on Father’s Day. It was a picture of my kids holding signs saying “We Love You!” It may sound cheesy but those are the presents I like to receive.

    Dear Dividend

    1. Aw, that’s such a cute present! Meaningful things like that are really the best. DIY gifts are awesome for that reason (most of the time).

  3. Happy Happy Birthday, EM!! I’m with you on not really knowing what to get for my birthday or holidays, too – most of the time I figure I can just buy whatever I wanted/needed. I do, however, create a ready made list for B so he’ll just click what to buy me – no surprise at all, but at least I’ll know I’m getting something I want and that’s practical (usually it’s kitchen stuff, too).

    1. Thank you Anna!! I was pretty bummed that I wouldn’t be with R this birthday, but we don’t really exchange gifts that much. I should really have a list for him, considering I’m hard to shop for! He would much prefer that, as he’s been scared of getting me something I won’t like ever since we started dating, haha.

    1. Thanks Tonya, especially for the compliment =). I think I have a lot of PF bloggers to thank for having this mindset early on. The important thing is, you got there!

  4. Happy Birthday!!!!! And I wish that I figured out what you figured out about 10 years ago. I have definitely come to the realization that simple is better. I really do not need much to make me happy. My hubby and I recently spent a good portion of the day walking Central Park and chatting. The whole experience was free from a financial perspective but rich from a personal experience perspective. And those are the sort of experiences I want in my life now.

    1. Thanks Shannon! Central Park trips are awesome. My boyfriend and I went there for the day once and had a little picnic. It’s such a great place to people watch (another fun free activity) and connect.

  5. Happy Birthday!

    I’m not even all that frugal but I cringe at gift-giving occasions because there’s not really much I need. Or even want. Sure, new clothes are nice but it’s all just stuff. I could do without the stuff and clutter and mess. But having a nice experience (a dinner, a show, or maybe even a free hike on a beautiful day) is way more up my alley. And usually cheaper!

    1. Thanks Kirsten!

      Oh yes, “cringe inducing” is what I would describe as my reaction, too. I’m simply grateful for the time I get to spend with my family during the holidays. We don’t need to exchange gifts to make it special.

  6. Thanks so much for the mention E.M.! You’ve got a great message here. I really think that less is more. And simplicity is actually complicated because it goes against the message that our society tells us: that we need stuff and things to be happy. We need to keep up with the Joneses. We need to have lots of money, fancy cars and nice designer handbags to be happy.

    I’ve also found that as I’ve gotten older I’ve come to appreciate the little moments in life much more. I used to never have patience for a game or just relaxing. I was always running around or doing something like shopping. Now I feel that the days go so fast. Time is flying and all I want to do is slow down and embrace the moment.

    AND Happy Birthday!!!

    1. No problem at all! Maybe it does have something to do with getting a little older =). I am realizing that time is absolutely flying by, and I want to cherish the time I have with the people I love, before it’s too late. In light of things like that, “stuff” seems so trivial.

      Thank you!

  7. Happy birthday! I find I’m happy with less; like you I love watching our cats play and snooze on the sofa. Knowing they’re happy and content with life is all I need. I don’t need material possessions to do that for me! :)

    1. Thanks Nicola! Don’t cats live such an easy life? I look at mine and realize they find contentment in the simplest things, and I think it’s an awesome way to live.

  8. YES to all of this! I am trying to get better about wanting less “stuff”. It costs money and doesn’t bring me as much happiness as being able to be my own boss does!

    PS- happy belated birthday!!!

    1. Thanks! I find that if we drill down to what truly makes us happy, we’ll realize that spending on stuff is probably taking us away from that.

  9. Happy Birthday! I too wish more people would find a way to arrive at the same conclusion as you did that less is more. I feel more free now than ever because I aim to live consciously.

  10. Happy birthday! I find myself being happy with what I have for the most part, and I’ve moved around enough that I ALWAYS ask myself “do I want to move this?” It works. For me. :]

    1. Thanks Traci! That’s a very good question to ask. After our recent move, I think we could do with less stuff to trudge up the stairs next time (well, hopefully we don’t encounter stairs next time!).

    1. Thanks Melanie! I used to hate shopping for clothes, and be okay with other things, but I’m really starting to dislike going shopping more and more. It doesn’t help that my mom likes to go shopping when she’s bored, which I think is pointless, but hey!

  11. Happy Belated Birthday E.M. Sorry I missed it!

    I totally agree with you about stuff. In fact birthdays for me are over-rated. As far as birthday gifts go, the best birthday gift to give me is to offer to help me do some kind of clean up project. I find these are overwhelming and having company to tackle the job makes it much more tolerable and almost enjoyable. Alas, I don’t get that much. Why do people just want to buy you stuff that just gets put aside and really adds no value or meaning to your life?

    1. Thanks Deb!

      Yeah, I mostly think birthdays are overrated. No one really celebrates them much in my family anymore. It seems that once we reach 16 birthdays stop mattering, unless it’s a milestone one.

      I think we need to fight the traditional gift model =). I know the best thing I can often do for my mom is just help her out around the house. I think “IOU” books are a cute idea because of that.

  12. Happy Belated EM :)

    I’m totally getting to this point, and I think a lot of people are. We’re all talking about minimalism and needing less, etc. I’m all for downsizing. I think it would be wild to be able to move most things in a suitcase or two :)

    1. Thanks Alicia!

      I agree, though I really don’t know if we’ll ever be able to do that. Maybe growing up in a house filled with a decent amount of stuff has made me think it’s impossible for me, but the thought of having to buy at least a few things every time we move is a little daunting. I know the boyfriend wouldn’t be happy without a bed, couch, or TV.

  13. I keep a list of things I need, I either ask for my birthday or a holiday or break down and get it myself. Most of the time it’s kitchen tools or household items but that “mundaness” doesn’t bother me. It means less I have to spend on life stuff and more money to spend as I please and when I like.

    1. That’s a great way to look at it. I do keep a list of practical things I’d like for Christmas, but my family enjoys buying “fun” gifts. I got my grandma a phone set last year and she was thrilled, so I don’t see the point in being against giving practical gifts.

  14. So true. I could get rid of 90% of the things I own, and honestly probably never notice they were missing. I have a favorite pair of jeans. I enjoy a refridgerator. And even though I realize this, it’s very hard for me to overcome my pack-rat habits and just dump everything. Although, I am getting better.

    I hope you had a great birthday :)

    1. I really need to get to work on my clothes. I, too, have a few favorite items, especially where jeans are concerned. I never touch anything else. So awful! My dad is a pack-rat, and I’m afraid to follow in his footsteps.

      Thank you!

    1. Exactly! I enjoy going out to eat at times, and new technology definitely make my life easier, but is it going to bring me eternal happiness? Nope.

  15. I, too, have found that I’m starting to want “boring” things as gifts, such as cash or things I really need. I now value practicality over novelty/trendy. But I admit, I still think I have a long way to go in regards to impulse spending.

    1. I love practical gifts! I don’t keep up with trends much. Sometimes I think a new trend is cute, but I can’t bring myself to overhaul my wardrobe in light of it. I’ve never been one to buy new outfits every week.

      Impulse spending is its own beast! It’s so easy to think, in the moment, that it’s *only* a few dollars, but here and there, it can get out of hand.

  16. I’m kind of forced to be happy with less because of student loans and grad school. I think I’d have more trouble being happy with less if those expenses were out of the equation (which they will be sooner rather than later). For now I’m going to try to focus on being happy with what I do have.

    1. I sometimes feel like I have been “forced” into it as well. Without our student loans, we would have a decent amount to put away for whatever we wanted. On the other hand, I am glad to have this experience, as it has shown me that I am okay with less. I always wonder how my financial habits would have turned out if I didn’t have student loans to pay back.

  17. Happy birthday!

    I’m finding that I used to find fulfillment in spending money on useless junk, now I find happiness in saving/investing for the future of my family (and future kids).

    I think it’s a matter of rationalising your values and working out what is really important to you.

    1. Thank you!

      Yep, defining your values and prioritizing really does help to put things into perspective. It’s great you’ve found happiness in saving and investing!

  18. Happy birthday fellow Cancerian!

    So true. Hit home on my birthday, as I got really sick and went to the doctor on the day. Cost heaps as it was on a Sunday, but health is worth more than money.

    1. Thank you! Ah, trips to the hospital always have me worried about costs, but our lives and our health are very much worth it in the end. It’s all about perspective.

  19. I am happy with less to a certain point, but I am not super minimalist. It’s all about balance, I think. We keep the things that make us happy and get rid of everything else for the most part.

  20. Happy, happy birthday!!! I just celebrated mine too, and all of the money I got is going toward bills, which is fine by me. Improving our financial situation is much more gratifying to me than anything I could ever buy. Less is definitely better. :-)

  21. Since I started spending less I have to say that it has been an eye opening experience and I wish I would have done it sooner. I’m happy to be getting rid of my debt and that spending less is helping me achieve that.

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