Recently, my husband’s red Prius took a real beating on its left end side. We were at the grocery store, of course, when a little old lady’s cart blew from the corral she had just pushed it into across the parking lot at record speed. It was coming straight for us while we unloaded our groceries in the back, and I did my best to stop it. Unfortunately, I didn’t move fast enough, and our car wound up with the type of shifty-edged scratch you just cannot hide.
But, there’s something freeing about driving a 2009 Toyota that’s worth around $2,000. Where a lot of people would have freaked out over the damage, we just shrugged and kept unloading our stuff. We haven’t paid a car payment for years, so it’s not like the damage devalued our depreciating asset any more than it does on its own. Heck, half the time the backseat is filled with cracker crumbs and the kids’ DVDs anyway. If there was a person on Earth who cared less about cars than me, I would be surprised.
At the end of the day, I just can’t care about how I look driving an older car or whether gravity swings a shopping cart into its side. And I would rather ride a skateboard than pay a car payment ever again.
Five Ways Life Gets Better When You Don’t Have Nice Things
The older I get, the more I realize I don’t really care about nice things in general. This is mainly because caring creates a lot of work!
Imagine the scenario above with a slight twist; envision me having a more expensive, nicer car with a equally luxurious car payment.
If I actually owed money on my car or it were worth anything, I may have wanted to get the scratch fixed, either by filing a comprehensive claim with my auto insurance or paying out-of-pocket. I would have had to call around and perhaps even drive around to get quotes for the repair. I would’ve also had to crunch the numbers to see if paying to have the damage fixed was worth it.
To me, all of that equals stress and wasted time — time I would rather spend doing almost anything else.
This is why I don’t care about having nice things — with only a few exceptions. When you have nice things, you’re forced to expend mental energy caring for them (or worrying about them). And I just don’t want to — not now and not ever. I think this attitude makes my life better in too many ways to count. Here’s why:
#1: Nice things are almost always worth less after you buy them.
We all know that new cars depreciate at rapid speed. You pay $30,000 for a new car one day and, no matter what you do, it will eventually be worth $10,000, then $5,000, then next to nothing.
The same is true with new purses. New clothes. Nice shoes. The newest and best video game console on the market. Whatever it is you want, it will likely never hold its value the way you wished it would. In the end, that means lost wealth for you and little to show for your pricey tastes.
By not playing the game — by not constantly pursuing the newest and the best — you can save considerable sums of money over the years. And that doesn’t even include the interest payments most people pay on nice, expensive items.
#2: You can’t control what happens to your stuff.
Stuff happens, and there’s no way to protect the nice things you own all the time. You can keep plastic on your new furniture 24/7 or only wear your pricey jewelry for special occasions, but maybe the dog eats through your covers and your couch and one of your diamond earrings gets lost during a night out. There is nothing you can do to protect everything you own, no matter how hard you try.
With that in mind, maybe it’s not worth trying to protect $35,000 cars, $2,000 leather coats, and handbags that cost as much as a year in community college. Maybe it’s time to stop and just give it all up. If you’ll never win, why play?
#3: You save time.
Another important benefit of not having nice stuff is the fact that you don’t have to spend time searching for the next few, fancy thing. When you’re happy with what you have, you don’t have to shop for the latest fashions or worry if you’re up-to-date. You don’t have to scour the web for the newest models, gadgets, and household décor, so you can spend your time doing other things.
If you enjoy shopping, then that’s one thing. But what if you loathe shopping like I do? In that case, you probably already know just how freeing it is to avoid the mall unless you absolutely have to go.
#4: You stay under the radar.
Another thing that’s great about not having a lot of fancy stuff is that it lets you stay under the radar as you build wealth. Most people my husband and I know probably have no clue we are working our way towards financial independence right now, because we don’t have a lot of nice things to show off.
I mean, we share a 2009 Toyota Prius for heaven’s sake, and I wear clothes until they fall apart and my embarrassed husband throws them in the trash. There’s nothing wrong with being so happy with what you have that you don’t feel the need to impress anyone. If anything, I think staying under the radar allows you to live as your authentic self.
#5: Less Stress
In the span of one week a few years ago, our neighbor’s dog ate one of my daughter’s shoes twice. My youngest child loses at least one earring weekly at minimum, and my oldest is a pro at thinning the knees in all her nice pants. But, I don’t really worry about those things because most of their clothes are secondhand, and the rest were cheap. I also buy their nickel-free, cubic zirconia earrings by the dozen for less than $2 per pair at Claire’s.
Not having a bunch of nice stuff to worry about is freeing because it allows you to focus on the more important aspects of your life. You don’t have to worry about losing your sunglasses when you paid $10 for them at Shoe Carnival, and you don’t have to worry about kids being messy and ruining clothes when you bought them for $2 from a bin in someone’s garage.
When it comes to bigger stuff like cars and boats and fancy designer clothes, the amount of stress you can save simply multiplies. A lost earring is one thing, but what happens if your car catches fire? If it wasn’t that nice to begin with, well, you don’t have to lose any sleep over it.
The Bottom Line
We all have stuff in our lives we care about, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having and working for nice things. But, I still think there’s a point where the pursuit of material possessions takes up more time and life force than it’s worth.
Where do you draw the line? Really, only you can decide how much stuff you need and what you’re willing fight for. But, with less “stuff” to worry about, you might find you have more time to fight for something else — the life you truly want.
Holly Johnson is an award-winning personal finance writer and the author of . Johnson shares her obsession with frugality, budgeting, and travel at .