British Pounds

Money Solves Money Problems

…and that’s all it solves.

If you’re broke, money helps.

It’ll buy you food, put a roof over your head and clothes on your back. Shoes on your feet. Gas in your car.

Money isn’t a magic potion that makes life perfect. It won’t make you happy. It won’t buy you friends … not the type of friends you want. Money won’t keep you from dying.

A lot of people think money is the answer to all of their problems. As if having money would change who they are. If they had money, then they’d do all the things they’re only  able to dream of doing.

Money isn’t the answer. And money doesn’t change who you are, it only exposes and amplifies who you are. Good or bad. If you had money, you might do some of the things you dream of doing…

Maybe.

Maybe you’d take that trip to Ireland you’ve been talking about your entire life. Or maybe you wouldn’t. Actions express priorities. If something is important to you, you’ll make it happen. If it’s not important, you’ll make an excuse.

And what better excuse than money?

It’s easy to tell yourself that [insert your dream here] is too expensive. You look at your bank account and you’re not even sure how you’re going to make it until next payday without starving.

If only you had more money … then you’d be able.

How long have you been telling yourself the same story?

What if you’d saved just $50 a month for all those years? How much could you have saved? If instead of buying that outfit that’s hanging in your closet with the tags still attached, you’d put that money towards your dream?

The truth is, your dreams don’t really matter to you. The shit you spend your money on … those things are what your care about the most. What you say you care about isn’t important.

But how you spend your money…

That’s the action that expresses your priorities.

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Lunch atop a Skyscraper, 1932

Does the World Need Poor People?

Before I get too far into this article, I want to be clear about something. By “poor,” I’m not talking about people who are starving in remote corners of the world (or just around the corner.) I mean the people who exist at the very bottom of our capitalist society. People who earn minimum wage or those who work in the American factories of Asia. The people who earn enough to pay the bills and put food on the table. People who are getting by, but just barely.

Does the world need these people?

I wonder if our lives might actually depend upon the poor remaining poor. It seems to me that poor people are paying the price for (or are absorbing the costs of) our consumer lifestyles and our demand for cheap merchandise. To keep the cost of the products we buy as low as possible, the wages of the people producing them must be equally low, whether it’s an iPad or a Big Mac.

We need poor people to subsidize our lifestyles.

Without them, we wouldn’t be able to afford to have the things we have. We’re able to own the things we do because of cheap labor (and poor people.) If it wasn’t for minimum wage workers, our sandwiches at lunch would cost much more than they do now. Without Asian factory workers earning a couple of dollars a day assembling iPads, most of us wouldn’t be able to afford to own one.

A lot has been made of America’s middle class being the “backbone” of America, but it’s the poor that allow the middle class to exist. Without their sacrifices, our lives wouldn’t be as comfortable as they are. It’s their toil that’s built our lifestyles.

We need poor people.

If you object to corporations exploiting cheap labor, consider that these jobs are providing an income to people who need it…poor people need work too. If you’re opposed to foreign workers earning a couple of dollars a day, consider that, while applying American standards to foreign situations might seem like a noble way of approaching the issue, living standards vary dramatically around the globe and such comparisons may not be valid.

“The wages these jobs provide are not enough to get workers into the middle class. But they are enough to provide for food, shelter and transportation. And they often allow people to pay for schooling for themselves and family members.” ~ Source

If you’re not comfortable supporting these things, you have options.

Become a conscious consumer and spend your money in a way that represents your values.

As a consumer, you have the power to affect change by choosing how and where your money is spent. Ask yourself how your lifestyle might demand cheap labor, outsourced jobs, and Asian sweat shops. When making purchases, consider fair trade products, items that are sustainably and locally sourced, and/or buy secondhand. Check out the FreeCycle Network.

“Each time we buy a product or a service, we place a vote of confidence in that producer or service provider – every source of raw material, every practice of environmental standards, every form of employee relations and every form of communication with the public. Everything that company or group does is something we support. Everything that company or service provider does and believes, we’ve said yes, go ahead and keep doing it.” ~ Source

Or opt out of consumerism entirely.

The money you spend on shit you don’t need doesn’t grow on trees. It has to be earned. The more you spend, the more money you need, and the more you have to work. Alternatively, the less you spend, the less money you need, and the less you have to work. The less you have to work, the more time you have to do things that are meaningful, like spending time with your family.

“To live fully, we must learn to use things and love people, and not love things and use people.”

The bottom line is that your choices have consequences. And things aren’t always as simple as they seem. It’s your responsibility as a consumer to educate yourself about the purchases you make and make decisions you’re comfortable with. If you’re okay with owning products that came from a factory where workers have committed suicide due to poor working conditions, that’s a choice you have to make (and live with.) It’s more than a product you’re buying…your purchase is a statement of your support for the entire process involved in getting that product into your hands (and what happens with it after you’re done.)

Educate yourself.

Without Money, We'd All be Rich

Live a Rich Life Without a lot of Money

One of the most common questions I’m asked is:

It’s very difficult, if not impossible, financially for some people to do what you do. How do you do it?

Since I began writing Hundred Goals, I’ve tried to encourage people to live minimally, and within their means. Despite the subtle financial advice I offer, people still seem confused, and sometimes even offended, that I’m able to live the way that I do. I’ve actually been accused of being a drug dealer. For some reason, I just can’t seem to convince people that, financially, they can do exactly the same things I’m doing.

I’m not rich.

The truth is, I live on less than $20,000 a year. But despite my limited budget, I still manage to do a lot of amazing things. I’ve backpacked around Europe, learned how to surf in Hawaii, toured the White House, and watched the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland. It’s not because I’m rich that I’m able to do these things. I’m able to do these things because I’ve taken the necessary steps to live within my financial means.

If you’re finding it financially challenging to live the life of your dreams, here’s my advice to you:

Eliminate all of your debt, and avoid incurring any new debt. If you’re always paying debts from your past, it’s impossible to live in the moment. Pay off your debts, and avoid any new debt. Live within your means.

Avoid buying shit you don’t need. Only spend money on things of value. The rest is just bullshit. Don’t waste your money.

Don’t pay attention to other people. What other people have, or where they go for vacation isn’t important. Know what you value, and stay focused on the goals that you’ve set for yourself. Don’t be distracted by other people.

You can’t have everything you want. You can have anything you want in life, but you can’t have everything. Whatever you want, you can have it. But having it will probably mean giving up something else. Sacrifice the things you don’t value so that you can have the things you do.

Make life a priority. If you want something, you can’t just expect it to happen. You have to make it happen.  Don’t sit around thinking about all of the things you want to do with your life. Do them! Stop thinking, and start doing.

It’s really that simple…but also easier said than done.

It takes a lot of dedication and determination to get out of debt. It’s a battle that must be fought EVERY.DAMN.DAY. And it isn’t easy to ignore what other people have, or what they’re doing. But instead of feeling jealous of them, be happy for them. Focus on your goals, and your dreams. Stop thinking about the life you’ll have someday, and start living the life you want today!

And stop buying stupid shit you don’t need. Seriously. Stop.