Do you know what it takes to be rich? It’s not money. It’s knowing your needs and controlling your wants. There’s a great deal of freedom in reducing your wants and your needs.
Will and I, we’re rich. We have everything we need, and we’re happy. And that’s why we’re rich – because it’s really not about money. We live in a nice house, not huge (1200 square feet, two bedrooms, one bath) with a decent yard. We’ve put a ton of work into the house and garden, and we’ve made it perfect for our small family. We have two vehicles that are paid in full. They’re old (a 1997 and a 2001), but they both run and when something breaks, Will can generally fix it.
Long ago, when we first were dating, Will and I talked about money. He always said that he would know he was well off when he could go to the grocery store and buy whatever he wanted whenever he wanted. We can do that now. Of course, if he wanted steak and lobster every night we couldn’t do that, but who wants to eat that way? Our whole foods plant-based diet is economically easy to maintain, and we can definitely buy whatever Will wants at the grocery store (or farmer’s market).
I used to say that I would know we have it made when we can hire a housekeeper and I can go get a massage every week. That’s never happened, but my wants have changed. I don’t want a housekeeper – our house is small, so it should be easy to keep clean (hypothetically, if I had the time to worry about it), and anyway, if we had a housekeeper, I’d probably be one of those people who insists on cleaning before s/he arrived so that the housekeeper wouldn’t know how messy we really are. And though I’d love to get professional massages more often than just birthday and Mother’s day, I don’t want them once a week – if I had them that often, they wouldn’t be special, and would maybe even start to feel like a chore.
When our kids need something, we can get it – though we always try and get it used first. I’m not one of those people who loves shopping for shopping’s sake, but if there is something I need for one of my kids, I will happily check Craigslist and go to every thrift store and used children’s goods store within a ten mile radius. There’s no challenge in buying things new – then you just drive up to the big box store of your choice and pull out your money. Buying used is like a treasure hunt. You never know where or when you’ll find it.
It’s true that we don’t get out much. There are a lot of local restaurants that are on my list to try. For the most part though, the food we make at home is better than we could get out. I don’t want to pay a lot of money for mediocre food. If I’m going to spend money on a dining experience, it’s going to be nice and it’s going to be special. I don’t understand people who eat out all the time – I wouldn’t want to deal with that hassle, and the easy way to do it, fast food, is unhealthy.
I know several people who are always obsessed with getting the newest best-of-the-best-with-honors whatever. Is there a new iphone? They have it. Was their car over two years old (that’s barely a toddler!)? They trade it in. Wouldn’t want to be caught driving something old, what would that do for their reputation? I’m not one of those people. My landlord at my office almost towed my truck once, because he assumed it was an abandoned vehicle. I don’t care. It runs, and it’s perfectly safe to drive. My brother Ricky made fun of me for it a few years ago, when he saw that I still had the truck (I’ve had it since college). He told me I could’ve traded it and it’s successor in already, and I needed to upgrade. I laughed at him and asked him if he liked having a monthly car payment, because I sure don’t.
I want a new bike, specifically, I want a bakfiets (those dutch bikes with a big box on the front). We’re rich, so we’re getting one. But we’re not those suckers that pay $3500 for a bike (I am not kidding, that’s the price for a cheap one). No, I have Will and he’s figured out how to make one for a lot less. A lot less. Like $3k less. And I’ll be happier biking around on my original homemade bike than I would be riding around on a pile of cash, which is what buying one would feel like.
We don’t want for much. Really, we don’t want for anything but time, and we’re slowly reclaiming that from the morass of needy babyhood. Life is good, we’re happy healthy and well fed. We really are rich.