It Is Not About Willpower

Categories Personal Finance

Many friends and family have wondered openly if I have vast willpower to not succumb to the siren calls of consumerism. I often find that odd since I always feel that I shop more than I want to. The following are instances where I know it is not about willpower for myself.

Buying Stuff

I tend to be a rather lazy person. I would much prefer to laze around all day reading books than to run around taking care of things that I own. So it has nothing to do with willpower when I tend to not buy things. When you do not buy very many things, you save time and energy on reviewing and shopping for the product. You also save time and energy from cleaning, storing, maintaining, repairing, insuring and eventually disposing of the product. It is due to my ability to foresee that long holding period of whatever item I buy, which stops me cold from wanting to bring it into my life. In addition to all that, nowadays I worry about the environmental impact of all the material goods and it is no wonder few objects hold much interest for me.

If you do not have a value system, it is very easy to fall for the baubles that corporations sell you. I often say, you need a plan since you are competing with companies with elaborate game plans to separate you from your money.

Services

Sometimes it is just simpler to do it yourself with automation. I mow my flat lawn with a push lawnmower and my little dog hangs out with me while I do it. It takes minimal time and it is very enjoyable. Prior to this we had hired out our lawn care. This involved unlocking my front gates and being careful that my dog did not run out. Then there was all the ruckus of gas lawn mowers, trimmers, leaf blowers and their raking up grass clippings dutifully. I simply decided to minimize all of this by not watering my grass (it simply greens up whenever it rains), using my push lawn mower and leaving the clippings on the lawn. I was beginning to notice that some lawn services were adding extra steps which I did not need. I do not think it was intentional but it was the way many of their clients wanted it. In fact, if my lawn care starts to bother me, rather than hiring a lawn care service, I will rip out the lawn instead.

I have taken this approach for many errands around my home. I simplify the entire process to the point that it would be ridiculous to hire anyone else to do it.

Anything that requires extra skills such as electrical and plumbing, I leave it to the pros of course.

Design Systems & Automate

There is a reason, I set up my accounts to automatically pay every bill even my credit card in full monthly. Automating is simple. There is a reason I write an investment plan so that when the market has a seizure, I already know what I will do. Constantly having to make decisions is extremely fatiguing.

Automating your diet, your clothing, your errands, your finances, your fitness, your health routines. I could go on but I think you get the idea. Doing this will free up time and energy for you to do other things or do nothing at all if you want.

Willpower

Willpower can easily be exhausted. I could never use willpower to prevent myself from eating white carbs. I simply have to keep it out of the house. It is simple and it is effective.

When it comes to financial independence, you have to want something that is counter to buying things. For myself, it has always been my disdain for clutter which stops me. Plus also being generally lazy helps. Shopping takes energy and time, I find it rather exhausting and mind numbing.

Even if something is free and I don’t need it, I do not take it, because it will soon be clutter. If something is a great deal but I don’t need it, this will also soon be clutter. That is my thinking process. Your material goods do not magically vanish just because you don’t want them anymore. It ends up as trash or stored in someone else’s bottomless storage. Best not to buy it in the first place. Saving money is almost never on my mind when I think of buying things now. I would much rather pay more and be able to keep a well made durable product then pay 1/10th the price and end up needing to buy it again and again.

I tend to veer toward the simpler side of anything. Buying lots of things add hassles into my life. And needing to hire services adds additional friction that I would rather not deal with.

I think of shopping like investing in a way. Folks who fiddle around with their investments have a higher chance of doing bad things to themselves. The same applies with shopping. Stay out of malls and you will tend to be less tempted. And never shop as a form of entertainment. For those who do that, I have no solution for you whatsoever.

It is easy to make a list of strategies for people. But in reality someone who is not interested will simply think of all the ways it will not work for them. For those who are interested in simplifying, there are a myriad of resources online to help you. It all begins with you deciding if that’s what you want.

But the last time I checked, I know of no one who wants clutter or unnecessary complexity in their lives. When people discover something they want even more such as early retirement, it is difficult to stop someone from trying almost anything to save money. And they often do it with great fervor. Like I say all the time, money is a mental game. There are infinite ways to get there so do not be fooled by anyone telling you otherwise.

Figure out what else you may want that wasting money on consumerism would run counter to. If you can figure that out, the doing part is very easy. You will not be able to unsee this for yourself once you can see it. Your real issue would be to uncover what the greater goal is for you.

I am an incredibly pragmatic person but I would not discount the above as woo woo. I will say it again, money is a mental game- do not discount that.

In Summary

  • I value simplicity and minimalism versus the buying of more stuff.
  • I value skills versus the hassle of dealing with hired services.
  • I value my freedom and optionality versus paying for an inflated lifestyle that I do not even want.
  • I value automation and systems versus rethinking the mundane recurring tasks regularly.

Will power can be exhausted. But guiding principles if they ring true for you, will not.