a little east of reality

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

being happy with less

A family tale I hadn't heard until recently concerns my favourite uncle. You may remember him as the previously blogged-about jazz-playing goat farmer and newspaper columnist. He wrote a while back about the new government in Barbados and the promises they've made about the cost of living, affordable land and housing and hospital. I loved this part:
Housing means little to one who spent his early married life happily in a tent and an old Transport Board bus. It's sad to see young Bajan couples saddling themselves with heavy mortgages for elaborate bungalows which they scarcely have time to enjoy. Go chattel, I say.
My mum confirmed that, yes, when my aunt and uncle got married they had enough to buy the land, but lived for a while in a tent, then a bus, while they saved for a house. Of course living in a tent is a little easier on a tropical island where you won't freeze to death in the process, but it struck me just how much less people could be happy with, if their expectations were different, or if they saw debt, not secondhand furniture, as the enemy.

I'm already a convert to this thinking. I used to get into debt just for lack of patience. Now I drive an old Toyota Corona and pretty much all of my furniture is secondhand. And I'm cool with that. It's not like my furniture is crappy either. I just haunted the secondhand furniture shops until something I liked came along.

In fact, I wish I'd wised up a lot earlier and realised that 'things' really shouldn't have as much magnetic power in our spending lives as they do. Recently some young friends of mine got married and as a present I gave them a book about communication in marriage and working together to stay out of debt. Stress and squabbling over financial troubles is one of the top reasons for divorce, so I couldn't think of a better way to say, 'I love you, and I want you two to stay together'.

I don't think everybody needs to live in a tent to start out right. They just need to know that 'things' really aren't the key to anyone's satisfaction and happiness in life.

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