One of the few books that I actually own is The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. (I normally prefer checking out books from the library since it's FREE-ninty nine)
I bought the book a few years ago when I realized that something in my life wasn't quite right. I was young, had a really good job, awesome friends and family (well, I still have those) but for some reason, I felt that I wasn't "happy". I bought the book and admittedly only read about half of it. To this day I still haven't finished. But from the parts that I did read, I got one really awesome personal finance lesson.
But first, I guess I should explain the concept of the book? Gretchen explains that she started her "Happiness Project" for many of the same reasons I felt unhappy. She had a really good life but for some reason just didn't feel "happy". So she embarked upon a project to teach herself how to find more happiness in every day life.
Before she embarked upon her project, she came up with the "Twelve Commandments" that she wanted to live her life by. Her first commandment was to "Be Gretchen".
As you read through the book (well, at least the first half of it... I can't speak for the second half ;) ) she keeps coming back to this idea of "being Gretchen". It's a really profound idea, actually, that really just boils down to accepting yourself for who you are. Stop wishing or hoping that you're going to be like someone else, that you're going to like the same things that they like or do the same things that they do. Comparing yourself and trying to live someone else's life will do nothing but cause you unhappiness!
In the book, her "be Gretchen" commandment really comes into play during the month where she challenged herself to have more fun. During that challenge, she realized that being Gretchen was one of the biggest keys to having more fun. In order to have more fun, she had to accept who she was. She writes:
"I love the idea of playing chess, going to a lecture on international markets, doing crossword puzzles, getting a pedicure, eating dinner at a hot new restaurant, or having a subscription to the opera or season tickets to the Knicks. I can see exactly why other people enjoy these activities. I wish I enjoyed them. But I don't."
Later, she explains that idea another way: "What's fun for you may not be fun for other people-- and vice versa."
This was such a profound revelation for me. To have more fun and get the most out of life, you've got to do things that you enjoy. But to figure out what you enjoy, you've got to "be Gretchen"-- to accept yourself for who you are and decide what you like and what you don't like!
[And right now you're probably saying, "Okay... but how does this fit into saving money?"]
I think that one of the best things you can do to cut down on your spending is to prioritize what's important to you, and be sure that you're only spending money on those priorities. Don't spend money on the stuff that isn't important to you or you don't really like doing!
But to prioritize, you must figure out what is important to you and what isn't-- and the only way to do that is to "be Gretchen"-- to accept yourself for who you are. It's one big chain reaction and it all starts with just being yourself.
For my visual learners, I drew a flow chart. You are welcome.
Just as Gretchen explained in the quote above, you might like the idea of eating dinner at a hot new restaurant, but that isn't actually your idea of fun. It's someone else's idea of fun. So every dollar you spend at that restaurant (or some other thing that you don't actually like doing) is a complete waste.
Take some time to just be yourself. Decide what you like to do. Don't think about anyone else's hobbies or goals, think about your own. And then make sure your finances line up with those priorities.
Funny side story about this topic: I've been planning to write this post for over 3 months now. When my brother and his wife came to visit us in November, I had a list of blog post ideas written on my cork board. Among the "normal" blog post ideas (open a 401k! make homemade popcorn! cut your own hair!) I had written "Be Gretchen". When my brother and sister-in-law saw it, they said it sounded like I was going to advocate for identity theft. Like, "if you need money, 'Be Gretchen' and steal her money!" hahaha
Are there any activities that you've realized other people like but you just don't enjoy?
A good example of this in my life is clothes shopping. Try as I might, I just don't like trying on clothes or browsing clothing websites. Two of my best friends looooove it (HIIIII K & M!) but I just don't. So I don't have a very big clothing budget because it doesn't bring me much enjoyment!