Contentment Through Appreciating The Basics

by guest on July 28, 2011

in Personal Finance


[The following is a guest post by No Debt MBA, who is trying to pay for an MBA from a top 5 business school in cash.]

A few nights ago a big storm rolled through and rain poured down.  I lay in bed listening to the rain pound on the roof and felt a huge sense of luxury and appreciation that I was warm, dry and comfortable in bed instead of out in the rain.

It got me thinking that, though there are hardships, things we don’t have and areas for improvement in all of our lives, by and large we are incredibly fortunate.

Contentment Through Appreciating The Basics

When I go to buy groceries each week I can buy enough to feed my family without worry.  I can walk to the store because I am in good health.  I have access to good health care that I can afford.  I live in a country where you can get a free education through high school, often one that is of excellent quality as was my experience.

When it is cold outside I have shelter, heat, blankets, and tea or hot cocoa to keep me warm.  When it is hot I have fans and cool water to drink.  I have clean water for drinking, cooking and bathing and a sanitary way to dispose of waste and use the restroom.  If I want to talk to my family or friends I can just call or email.  If a family member fell ill I could be on a flight to see them the same day.

Listing it all out I feel incredibly lucky to have all of these advantages though I know that on a day to day basis I might take some or all of these completely for granted.  I think stopping and truly appreciating what I do have helps me feel more content and want fewer things in general.

After thinking about this as I nodded off to sleep that night I felt at peace and the constant to-do list in my head got quiet.  The next day I appreciated the sunshine, the good weather, my morning caffeine fix and breakfast without feeling the least bit deprived.

When I hit that level of contentment the idea of decluttering my life, buying less and putting away a little more of my money seems simple and obvious.  I don’t feel like I need new clothes, ice cream cones, far away vacations, concert tickets or dinners in restaurants.  Instead I crave time and flexibility.

Contentment Through Desiring Simple Things

I want more time with my SO, I can never seem to get enough, and the flexibility to just take a day off to spend together on impulse.  I want quality time with friends and family without errands nagging at the back of my mind.  I want time and flexibility to pursue project ideas that have sat idle for too long.

Contentment As A Means To Financial Independence

That time and flexibility is exactly what saving buys you once you reach financial independence in my mind.  Not that you would stop working, but that you could do so closer to your own terms and interests.  The contentment also enables you to cut your spending to increase your savings and reach the goal faster.

So I wonder if there’s a way to take this content mindset and extend it.  Take advantage of it for weeks, months, or even years.  It feels happy and good and would be good for me but I don’t know if I can make it last.

As I continue to work towards  my goal of graduating debt-free, feeling content with what I have becomes increasingly important and it will be even more important when I graduate so I don’t fall prey to lifestyle inflation.  Contentment, I think, is a great tool to combat frugal fatigue and burnout, something I’m worried about over the next two years.

Though I’ll be paying for my first year of business school in cash, I have a long way to go before I can be certain that it will be the same for the second.  A little extra saving and a little less temptation to spend would be helpful to me in my graduate student lifestyle.  Overall, I’m committed to keeping debt out of my life, it hinders the freedom, peace and contentment that I’m trying to achieve.

photo by Evgeni Dinev

Reader Questions:

  1. What brings you contentment in your life?
  2. Do you have moments where you appreciate the very basic comforts in your life?
  3. Do you think that feeling helps you be more frugal?
  4. How can I consistently appreciate what I have?

© 2011, guest. All rights reserved.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jon -- Free Money Wisdom

Contentment in any and every stage of life is essential. (1 Timothy 6:6 “But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.”) If you cannot be content with your present stage in life then amassing all the riches in the world will be useless. Great post!


2 Amanda L Grossman

Great post, and I love that you are working to get through business school without debt. Contentment is really key, and you are right, it is so easy to take things for granted.


3 Kay Lynn @ Bucksome Boomer

I think it’s wonderful that you already know what’s really important in life and it’s not stuff (although I do love my smart phone). Great article on gratitude.


4 Marie at FamilyMoneyValues

What a nice post! I think that far too many of us are leading such hectic lives that we don’t realize and enjoy the basics that truely do provide contentment. Thanks for the reminder.


5 Squirrelers

I always think about how thankful I am to have the basics. Really, it helps put everything into perspective. Some people simply can’t find food, medical care, or shelter. I can, and am thankful for that. Thinking about the alternative most days gets me thankful. These things, plus of course family, are things to be thankful for.


6 mbhunter

A friend a couple of nights ago said that “faith, family, and health” were most important. Everything else is secondary. Money isn’t on that list.


7 101 Centavos

As trite as it may sound, it *is* the basic little things in life that spark realizations of contentment: a good bowl of oatmeal, warm blankets and the SO on a cold cold day, a ripe tomato in the garden.


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