I grew up in a home where there was always plenty. Plenty of snacks, games, movies, craft materials, pillows & blankets, love, encouragement, honesty, and trust. That does not mean that money and good temperaments were always in abundance. I certainly did not receive everything I wanted on demand. There were many occasions that my requests for new technology, dining out, or sleepovers were disappointingly rejected or at least suspended to a later date. As a child, teenager, and to be honest a young adult, I often reacted to rejection with a less-than-desired attitude and a blunt expression that what I already had was not enough to satisfy all of my needs and desires.
I believe that I can fairly generalize that the majority of Americans (and perhaps many citizens of the developed world) grow up convinced that their needs are not being met, regardless of full bellies and warm blankets, not to mention the constant awareness of pop culture, liberty to travel, or ability to open a bank account. In the past century, an interesting combination of the Industrial Revolution maximizing production and efficiency; social movements providing new freedoms and privileges to cultural, ethnic, and gender groups; and the digital age constantly touting the latest and greatest things created a very high standard of living that is deceptively perceived to be necessary. There is an incessant societal push to reach a level of success that allocates enough resources to gratify each abd every indulgence. To be clear, my perception is not that Americans are all mindless, greedy, and selfish consumers. However, I observe that there are enormous external stimuli that drive this excessive “need to succeed” and that satisfaction and serenity seem to be rarely attained when the focus is on filling a void instead of recognizing that perhaps enough has already been achieved.
My post-collegiate era of life has been the closest I have ever been to living in need. Although I definitely do not claim full self-sufficiency, the real world of bills and expenses is starting to catch up with me and I spend a significant amount of time monitoring how I spend my money. This somewhat new attention to detail in my personal bookkeeping has helped (forced) me to carefully consider what things I really need to get by and what things are superfluous and can be eliminated. I have a whole new appreciation for coupons, fresh (and free) produce from my grandparent’s garden, the value of leftovers, and the humble mindset required to accept generosity and charity from other people.
While I am optimistic that I will not be meticulously counting pennies for the rest of my life, I am content to be living rather simply right now. I would be fraudulent in saying that I no longer make wish lists for when my bank account is eventually replenished. However, I hope that I retain this appreciation for a modest lifestyle that values quality over quantity. I am far more resourceful, creative, and frugal with my financial resources and belongings now than I have ever been and I can already see how the compulsory financial austerity is developing patience and perseverance that always eluded me. My present inability to satisfy every passing whim constantly hacks down my pride, and I must admit that I like the “me” that has emerged with fewer unnecessary possessions and more genuine delight.