Thursday, April 06, 2006

Gandhi on Budgeting

"As long as you derive inner help and comfort from anything, you should keep it. If you were to give it up in a mood of self-sacrifice or out of a stern sense of duty, you would continue to want it back, and that unsatisfied want would make trouble for you. Only give up a thing when you want some other condition so much that the thing no longer has any attraction for you, or when it seems to interfere with that which is more greatly desired."-- Mahatma Gandhi

I read this quote the other day, and it blew me away. In just a few simple but powerful sentences, Gandhi lays out a clear path to budgeting and consuming in a way that is fulfilling and satisfying.

  • Don't force yourself to give up things just because you should, because it'll hurt more than it'll help. This is so true. When you deny yourself something and tell yourself it's because it's bad or wasteful of you to spend money on it, you feel deprived and unhappy, with the persistent feeling in the back of your mind that if you could only go ahead and buy whatever-it-is, you'd feel better. It's the perfect recipe for splurging on things you'll regret. It's just not a sustainable pattern. If you want to cut back, the real way to do it is to...
  • Identify your priorities and goals, and use them to make decisions about what's worth spending on. Whether you want to retire early, get out of debt, buy a house, stay home with kids, take a more fulfilling but lower-paying job, travel the world, give more money away... whatever it is you really want, you can consciously match it up against the items in your budget, and figure out which is more important to you. That's how real changes occur-- when you get to the point where "the thing no longer has any attraction to you" because "you want some other condition so much." (Or if getting rid of "any attraction" is a little too much to ask, you just have to become conscious of how spending on X would "interfere with that which is more greatly desired.") But no matter how much you want to reach your goals for the future, you shouldn't give up everything in the present. You just need to find a balance and...
  • Figure out what things genuinely bring you "inner help and comfort." I think the key to this is that you have to really think through what's truly important to you, because it's so easy to go on auto-pilot. There are a lot of things that we buy and do because they bring us a pleasure that's fleeting and superficial on a certain level, and we assume that they're making us happy-- but a closer examination reveals otherwise. (And when I say "we," that definitely includes me.) But if we do the soul-searching, we can keep the things that are most important to our happiness and fulfillment today while doing a better job of reaching our goals for the future.
That Gandhi fellow sure was wise, wasn't he?

1 comment:

Kay said...

Nice post. I've mentioned it in my notice about the new Carnival of Personal Finance at http://dontmesswithtaxes.typepad.com/dont_mess_with_taxes/2006/04/gate_is_now_ope.html