1. The current dillema is abundance.
We actually do have too much time, creative potential, resources, clothes, money, and food.
Sometimes it does not feel that way, but we are living in a time of abundance.
The clarification is that it is material abundance.
Life abundance is a different thing and that is what I have been figuring out.
2. What is an abundant life?
That is what we are really thinking about, but I never was taught about. I only believe it because I have seen glimpses of it: people who are genuinely happy and have financial success.
Sure, there are people who have great careers and a social life that is in shambles-- this is different. You see it, you can kind of feel it. It is real.
3. Happiness is a skill?
I think happiness may have a skill to it. Things like a gratitude practice, looking on the bright side of things, social grace, how to deal with situations.
There are material parts to it to, but I am really convinced that it is closer to having control of your time, no money worries, a really exciting project, and a good social life more than a high-job title, accolades from a professional organization, and a nice sports car.
4. The good news?
If it is something more closely tied to actions and practice, then it is something that is more widely available. Not everyone can afford a $60,000 car, but maybe, with the right training, everyone can afford an abundant life.
5. What should I spend money on?
Stuff that adds to your central abundant life.
I spent 2 years logging every expense I had in an excel document. How I did it was I did all my spending using two credit cards. When the monthly bill came in, I would go line by line and add every expense into a category. By hand, instead of with an automated program, helped me process really what was going on.
I think it is misleading to over simplify things, so my caveat is that, well these are some guidelines I have noticed.
- Experiences - Some things are just fun. For me, I do not get as much out of going to a concert mainly because I never really got into music. I tend to like experiences that are active like a weird bike race, or pandemonium in the park [LINK]. We went to Alaska and I spent a lot of money on a guided kayak trip and that was worth it. We saw whales up close, blowspouts, and puffins flying from the water, and sea otters. The smell of the cold ocean is nice when you are warm. Do what you like.
- Eating out - With friends is fun. But I am moving towards eating out cheaply because it is mainly the people I am with, more than the price of the food. I want good food, but I mean, I have eaten at expensive restaurants, they are good, but so is really good dim sum. Have you had food court noodles in Chicago China Town? Or the dumplings there? Or the $40 omakase we had on Oahu recommended by a college friend / Yelp elite / food blogger? These are some of my most memorable meals because of who I was with and the delicious food. When you spend $100 or $200 a person, the service is better, the space is nice, the ingredients, but more often than not, I am finding it hard to find a really good restaurant. Especially when home cooking can go so well.
- Tools - I would put this broadly. If you are a musician, your instrument may be a tool. But, boy oh boy, be careful. Solve problems that you have. It is easy to buy something special and delightful, but if your joy is making music, use your $50 guitar and make music. Use your point and shoot camera or cell phone and make photos. The tools do not hinder you, your skills do. The tools that are worth it would be ones to take raw materials and create (woodworking tools, cooking tools), quality ones mean that they help you achieve something, some friction in creation. Avoid status symbols.
- Skills - A book on photographic composition more than a new lens. A private archery lesson with a coach more than a new bow. A weekend out camping and practicing setting up a tent, more than...a new spork. The idea is an emphasis on action. Participation. Creation. And frankly, there is so much information available for free and through the physical and digital library, that when you are starting out...you would save money just learning on your own.
- Travel - this goes with all of the above. Make it part of your life, and it does not need to be a life-changing kind of trip. When you travel, focus on getting to talk to real people, meeting people, those conversations are fun. Try doing your hobby in that area: busking in London, geocaching with a local club, taking a cooking class.
- Health - This is one where find something you like doing and do that. Emphasis on doing more than buying gear. In fact, for the first month of any sport, do it everyday and do not buy gear. By the end of the month, you will have 1) an idea if you actually like doing it and 2) a better idea of characteristics in gear you actually will use and 3) you might have made a friend that will sell you used gear. However, this is one that can be so difficult to maintain, that I would just spend the money on it and figure out how to make it cheaper.
6. Any last tips?
None of these things have to be expensive. Once you figure it out, most can be free or low cost.
Experiences are getting a group of friends together and playing frisbee in a park and grilling.
Eating out could be a beer at a brewery or tacos at a truck or a good salad at a friends house.
Tools you can buy used.
Skills you can get the basics from a course, teacher, or friend, then teach yourself progressively.
Travel you can go to the other side of town, take a roadtrip, take a bike trip, take a train trip, take a bus trip.
Health you can walk, you can run, you can do something fun, you can buy something heavy like a bag of rice and carry it around :p
Notice that there is a skill to doing things that is developed progressively may minimize or even eliminates the need for money.