Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
- Leonardo da Vinci
I was once told and always told: keep studying hard and working hard so that you will earn enough money to buy whatever you want in your coming life.
I was also once told: life is short and limited. Simply because you can’t bring everything into the tomb when you passed away, it’s important to carpe diem (Latin: seize the day) and enjoy your life as much as you can.
Well, who won’t willing to do that? Born and be raised up in this materialism-enriched world, everyone wants to have enough cash in the pocket, spectacular numbers showing up on account summary from ATM machine as if that figure defines success and happiness.
The truth is, we were all wrongly taught or influenced since childhood.
After living in this world for 25 years, I gradually realized that almost all the things that bring you true happiness have nothing to do with money.
Living by paycheck
It was two years ago when I got my first credit card approved after getting paid from the first job for 5 months or so. Prior to that moment, it had been always my dream, or more specifically saying, my desire, to get my very first credit card in life. I was rejected by banks three times, simply because I didn’t work enough long, or I didn’t have enough saving in my account. The moment when I received that letter, as I could feel the physical little piece of plastic inside, I felt freaking awesome.
That was the moment when I was on the highest point of my life roller coaster, and I didn’t realize that things would deteriorate so fast after that.
I began endless shopping. I bought things that I’d put on wishlist a few years back, I bought things that I even didn’t really look into before, just by the magic power of the plastic piece inside my wallet. As if it’s shouting out, “Use me, swipe my magnetic strip!”
I was living from paycheck to paycheck, living for paycheck, living for stuff, but I was not living at all.
- Ryan N, the Minimalists
Living by paycheck, literally that was my life after I received my first credit card bill.
The endless paying-back for credit card bill started, and I found it started to be painful, because the speed I spent was faster than the speed I earned.
Maybe we will make a stop about my story here. Most people had similar first-credit-card experience as told above.
Sometimes, I believe lessons are learned via hard ways. Wasn’t it because the alert of rocket high credit card bill reminding me to reduce expenses, I would not ever have the idea to rethink about spending.
Why don’t we start it from the beginning? Setting a right attitude towards credit card consuming behaviors will help us to prevent such wallet-bleeding actions before they started to disrupt your financial freedom.
The dangerous thing about advertisements is that they all want you to believe that you really need these things.
Advertisements are polluting our life and culture. They are everywhere we go, they infiltrate into almost every single aspect of our life, and every moment of our day. If you picked a magazine you will notice people in luxury clothes, driving super cars and wear ridiculously high-priced sneakers. We are like little puppies being stringed by Mother Ads, wherever they want us to go and seek, we will go and start to dig. We dig for more satisfaction by consuming material objects. The dangerous thing about advertisement is that they all want you to believe that you really need these things. You will raise up your social status if you wearing them, using them, and showing them off, and so your friends will do.
Among them all, credit card is a social symbol.
However this symbol is not compulsory. We have the right to say no to a credit card, we can have better control over our own finance rather than relying on spending tomorrow’s money for shopping today, whereas we can completely afford with an adequate and decent saving amount in bank.
I was quite luck to find out in an early stage of my career about how a controlled expense will benefit me much in the upcoming future, and I’d like to share the trio-questioning approach that I always used when I was facing difficulty in making a decision during shopping.
Try to ask yourself these three questions before making an impulsive decision to buy something:
- Do you like it ?
- Do you need it?
- Does it suit you?
If any answer of these questions appears to be a “NO”, then don’t buy, because you are gonna regret it.
Under most of cases there will only be a “YES” towards the first question, a bit of certainty towards the second and a bit of uncertainty towards the last one, so I’ve come up with a modified version of these trio:
- Will you still like it 5 years from now?
- Will you still need it 5 years from now?
- Will it still suits you 5 years from now?
Still, if any answer of these questions appears to be a “NO”, then don’t do impulsive buying.
Let’s treat credit card as a consumer product
If credit card is a consumer product (actually it really is nowadays as banks are mailing out cards to tease you to activate them), the trio-questioning approach still applies:
Do you really like the card?
Do you really need that card?
Does that card really suit you and make your life better, even in the future?
Then we probably could be more resolute towards our standing points from the beginning.
If any answer of these is a “NO”, and you have sufficient saving to support your daily life, we can affirmatively say good bye to credit card.
Welcome to the new age of financial minimalism.