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« Are You Affluent? | Main | Turns Out Giving Does Make You Wealthier (and Happier) »

November 28, 2009


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A good post for this time of year. Since we're out shopping for Christmas presents, we always find ourselves buying extra things for ourselves. It's important to make sure that you don't buy so much that you regret it later. If you live below your means, you don't have as much regret because at least your purchases will be paid for.

I think our feelings of happiness are inherently tied to our feelings of security (think back to the hierarchy of needs--we must feel secure first before we pursue other levels, etc...).

So in that respect, this makes perfect sense. If we're overspending and have no cushion, no security blanket--we are going to feel incredibly vulnerable, and therefore can't "worry" about being happy--there are too many "survival" things on the mind.

And yes--I completely agree with #3--as long as we spend within our means, there are plenty of things that enhance our lives and make them more enjoyable.

I just have to bring up one point. There's a very important distinction to be made here. Living within your means makes you happy, IF your means are enough to cover basic needs.

I guess maybe I think about this more because I live in a third world country and I know people who don't make enough to cover basic needs like having enough money to put food on the table. They're barely scraping by, definitely within their means, but month to month, and I wouldn't say they're happier than anyone living outside their means. To all the people who say, "Those people in that dirt poor tribe in Africa were the happiest people I've ever seen!" I say, "You're a tourist. You know nothing."

Just a little distinction I wanted to make, even though it's kind of sort of already there already with the addition of "building wealth."

I know exactly what you mean. We visited a Masai village in Kenya. My wife, being a retired teacher loves young children, and was quite happy when a Masai woman handed her the baby she was carrying. Unfortunately the woman quickly disappeared. One of the other ladies in our group was a nurse and said to my wife, "You had better give that baby back to the mother right away, it has meningitis". Of course, by this time the woman was nowhere to be seen. Fortunately our leader was able to locate the headman of the village and give the baby back to him. Lesson Learned.

We have travelled to many countries in the third world and that's why we realize how incredibly fortunate we are to live in the USA. I think that the concept of "Micro Loans" is working out very well in many poor countries, and of course charitable foundations such as those run by Bill Gates and Bill Clinton are doing a lot to improve life and eliminate disease in very poor countries.

Old Limey,

That is a pretty touching story. I've been to Kenya also and have seen very bad poverty there.

I live in Thailand at present, there are poor people here but it's hard to find people starving- mostly they can just maintain a simple existence: local foods, basic shelter in a one room apt and no fancy 'toys', meaning expensive cell phones or a car or even a motorcycle.

I was born and raised in the USA- I have to say that the USA doesn't hold the monopoly on great places to live- I've found a higher quality of living outside the USA in SE Asia and Europe with regard to places I've lived. Every particular place has it's warts and strong points- the USA is no exception.

So be happy to be in the USA but realize many countries and places outside the USA have it equal or better... of course some have it much worse.

It is true that all of us on this blog are incredibly lucky to be born into the right circumstances- certainly something for us all to be thankful for.


We have had three wonderful vacations in Thailand and I have also had brief stays there three times on the way to Nepal. I love the Thai people, due I believe in large part to their Buddhist beliefs and way of life. I wouldn't want to live in a little house along the edge of one of the canals as many do - that would be stretching it, but I could replicate my home there in a very nice new area of Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai for a small fraction of what it's worth here and be able to afford several servants - but then what would my wife and I do with our time if we had gardeners, a maid, a cook, and a chauffeur. The climate would be the biggest problem for us, we don't like high heat and humidity or monsoon rains.

Another wonderful place in the third world is Bali. We fell in love with Ubud, that lovely little village in central Bali where everyone is an artist. When they aren't taking care of the rice paddies, they either paint, make wood carvings, gold and silver jewelry, musical instruments, bead work, or (our personal favorites) perform classic Balinese dancing, or play the haunting music of the gamelan. The other charm of Ubud is that the Balinese are always either preparing for a festival, having a festival, or clearing up after a festival. By our fifth visit we had made friends with so many Balinese that we wore their traditional dress and attended many of their religious festivals. They live in small tribal communities, each with a school, governed by a headman and the village elders. There are few such places in the world where everyone gets enough to eat and seems perfectly happy. Bali is a Hindu island whereas the rest of Indonesia is Moslem and quite different.

We could easily spend the rest of our days there but only during the few Fall months that have really nice weather.

This post was perfect for me right now since this is the time of year that I'm asked all the time, "What do you want for Christmas?" This year, I decided to take the question seriously and sat down to make a real list of what I actually want...

I ended up with a list of 38 things...half of those were not actually physical items. They were trips I wanted to take to visit friends in other cities, new experiences like a Haunted Tour of Galveston, simple outings like to see a funny play or take a trip to the zoo, and a few were even just wishes to have more people in my life like a hiking or walking buddy.

The other half were items I put off because of needless spending like black leather boots or clothes, gadgets that cost too much like a digital video camera or a Roomba, and things that I don't actually need other than to own them like books I remember when I was a kid but left at home when I moved out.

Making the list was an interesting activity since I just kept repeating to myself, "What would make your life better or make you smile?" When I was done, I looked it over again and was surprised at what I had come up with. I was also really happy with some of the ideas. I am more excited now about finding a hiking buddy than about receiving any of the "stuff".

Anyone else just need a few more friends in your life or trips with loved ones?

After reading several books on "getting rich" topic, I found that all financial gurus are always talking about one and the same thing: If you really want to become rich, you must save every month from 10 up to 50 percent of your income. When a good sum of money is gathered, go and invest them in something which will bring you a passive income! 50% from that passive income you should reinvest again.

It's like a whole mechanism which is working for you. I think that saving is a very important part of our life!

Haha, Old Limey, you almost ended up with a new member of the family! All joking aside, that's really sad.

And yes, definitely, the micro-loans idea is so much better than just throwing aid at poverty.

FMF - I think you're right, and most people have benefited financially from this downturn like you and haven't hurt at all.

In finance investment banks are paying $500-700,000/person bonuses this year and the good times really are back!

I buy stuff that has to meet a desire AND a need. That can include a Porsche 911 if I had no car, but I've got a vehicle already.

I pretty much think FMF is right on target with this one. Luxuries are fine if you can easliy afford them. Emphasis on the phrase "easily afford". You also have to consider whether luxuries are worth the hassle. i.e. Is buying an extra car or a 2nd house really worth the time & hassle in maintenance etc. even if you can easily afford them??? That goes for smaller luxuries as well.

Old Limey,

I agree with you that the weather in Thailand is too hot for most of the year... if you did have a place in Chiang Mai you could have help to take care of the house but you could do the gardening yourself. My wife & I do our own cleaning here because we value the privacy inside our home and since it's a pretty small place, cleaning is easy to manage.

Ubud, Bali is a nice place - a bit too many tourists and hawkers but very nice otherwise. One of my fun adventures was going to the temple at Agung mountain and hiking up to the summit (from 3000' to 10000') with a guide, leaving at 11pm and getting to the summit just after sunrise. Going up through the steep jungle mountain - no real clear trails- was like something out of Indiana Jones.


There's a good youtube video of a group climbing Mt. Agung in Bali. It sure looks very challenging indeed, more so than Mt. Whitney, CA, the highest peak in the continental USA, which has a good trail to the summit. As you know, Agung is a very sacred mountain and the nearby temple at Besakih holds many ceremonies to keep the Gods happy and prevent another eruption like the one in 1963.

Old Limey,

I've done Mt Whitney a few times as a day hike summit- it has a really nice trail up to the top.

You are right about Besakih, we had to make some prayers and offerings before climbing. Many stories of people who disappeared while climbing the mountain... certainly a climb to take seriously. Great fun though! More vertical climbing than Mt Whitney (7k gain vs 6k gain) although less high altitude effects.


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