“Can’t buy me love.” Who hasn’t heard that before? But there are plenty of things money can’t buy, and even a few things money can “buy.” First, let’s get the negatives out of the way and look at the things money can’t buy.
Money Can’t Buy…
Love. At least not true love. True love is not for sale, not for any price. It is the deepest of human connections and is invaluable. However, money can be an instrument to show your love for another. You can give money freely to those in need, without expectation of repayment. You can use money to provide shelter for those you love. But if you think you can flash cash and stuff money can buy to find love, you will live a lonely life.
Happiness. Back when I was broke, I made a connection between my emotions and my spending pattern. I was an emotional shopper. When I was sad, I bought something. When I was happy, I bought something. Hey, at least I was consistent!
Spending money in an effort to influence our own emotions just doesn’t work because dollar bills are just band-aids. We have to identify the real reasons we are sad and do what we can, within our power, to turn those emotions around. Buying video games does not work. I can tell you from experience.
Contentment. All the money in the world isn’t enough to satisfy an insatiable appetite for stuff. Have you ever seen those lottery winner documentaries on television? You know, the ones where the auto mechanic wins the lottery and all he ever wanted was to own his own home. So he buys a home…a huge one, and suddenly has an urge to fill that home with 18th century gold statues and other seemingly ridiculous collections.
On the other hand, if we are content, no amount of money can influence our spending. If we are happy with our current home, why buy a new one? Never been interested in expensive jewlery? Why start hoarding it after a big windfall?
Respect. I have no more respect for the guy driving a Mercedes than the guy driving an old station wagon. In fact, because I’m wired the way I am, I have more respect for the guy driving that station wagon. This reminds me of a story about my old doctor in the town I used to live in. He had a large practice and I assumed he made very good money (and I’m sure he did). I already respected the guy, but one day my wife and I saw him and his family out and about. They were driving a late model family station wagon–I think it was a Ford.
Then I began to notice he wore the same clothes I did, shopped at the same stores I did, and basically looked nothing like most doctors I knew. He lived in a modest home, mowed his own grass, changed his own oil, and basically lived a frugal lifestyle. I later learned that he spent his money on travel – doing medical mission work. I sure miss that guy!
Money Can Buy…
Options. I spent the better part of my 20s in a dead-end job. Why? Well, for a lot of reasons. My wife and I married young, had our first child young, and because I wasted a good bit of time in college the first go around, I had little in the way of education or professional experience. When I did land a decent-paying job, I certainly had to hang on to it. After all, I was a husband and father, and owner of a small pile of debt from school and years of frivolous spending in those newlywed years.
Being debt free, and having a solid emergency fund, means you have options. I like to say that my BS-tolerance has gone way down since becoming debt free. If I find a job absolutely untenable, I can find a new one. If we decide we don’t like the town we live in, we can move. I would have loved to have the same freedom ten years ago.
Peace. It’s been said that there is no softer pillow in the world than having money in the bank. When we were deep in debt, I counted credit card payments instead of sheep. I literally stayed awake at night poring over Excel spreadsheets listing our debts, projecting when we may get out of debt, and imagining what like must feel like without payments.
Now, I can rest easy, knowing we no longer have credit card debt. Knowing we can tackle a small-to-medium emergency without skipping a beat. Knowing we are saving for our future, and for our children. To borrow a line from my old credit card pals, that my friends, is priceless.
*This article was featured in the Carnival of Money Stories: Independence Day Edition hosted by Out of Debt Again