What’s the Cost of Happiness?
I received an Athleta catalog in the mail a few days ago. After barely making through a day at school while sick, I drew myself a warm bath and made a mug of hot tea as soon as I walked into the house. I settled into the soothing tub and began to flip through the catalog of quality active wear. Without even realizing it, I began to dogear corners and picture myself in many of the new fall fashions. I escaped into the fantasy provided by the catalog, seeing myself smiling and relaxed like the women in the photos rather than tired and wheezy and pale like I was in reality.
Luckily, I am not an impulse buyer. A quick tally of the total was enough for me to set the catalog aside.
But still, I felt a longing. A need that wasn’t there hours before. I checked my email before heading to bed and I found messages from my two favorite clothing stores at a nearby outlet mall. Each store was running a 50% off everything sale and included an additional 20% off coupon in the email. I weighed my options. I haven’t bought much in the way of clothing lately. I have enough clothes for work but some are starting to show signs of wear and others have never fit right again since the divorce. I would like to freshen up the wardrobe. But, if I’m honest with myself, it isn’t really needed.
I closed the emails.
I could take $200 or so and buy a few key pieces from Athleta that would probably become my go-to items for several years. Or, I could take that same money and walk away with several bulging bags from the outlet mall that would update my work wardrobe for many years. But would either of those purchases bring me any happiness?
I would enjoy the hunt for a bargain at the mall or the perusal of the perfect pictures in the catalog. I would revel in the look and feel of new fabric that is sized to fit my post-divorce frame. But soon, they would simply become heaps of cotton and spandex in the hamper. Something else to fold or hang. Another item who fails to impress after an all-to-brief honeymoon period.
I’ve learned that when I feel that longing for something new it is because I feel some void in my life at the moment. Right now, that void is because I cannot be as active as I wish while my lungs are healing. I feel stuck and frustrated. Some part of me seems to think that covering my body with new clothing will make it feel better inside. I know that is a fallacy. But, damn, it sure is a persistent one.
Instead of spending that money on clothing that would bring a temporary smile, I would rather spend it on a plane ticket to visit freinds or family. Or a couple of nights in a cabin in the mountains with loved ones. If I spend the money on an experience, I may not be left with anything more tangible than pictures, but the joy in the memories will last far beyond the trip itself.
I know for sure what I do not want. I don’t want to lose the money in dribs and drabs, small mindless purchases that barely cause a ripple in my consciousness. It’s all too easy for money to flow out without us demanding anything in return.
I still feel the pull of the stores even though I know they won’t make my coughing go away or bring back my strength. While I wait to heal, I will instead spend time dreaming of upcoming trips. Even if I have to wear pants that don’t quite fit:)
Happiness isn’t found in money, but how we choose to allocate it can pay out large dividends if we make mindful choices.
When do you feel a pull to spend money? Do you give in or fight the urge? How do you choose to spend money to maximize your happiness return?