Since romanticism has spread globally like an airborne virus, it was almost inevitable that I would also get infected in the end. I had been a hopeless romantic for many years, and it was a struggle all the way through.
Movies like The Princess Bride or Serendipity, unfortunately watched during the formative young stages of life, had familiarized me with concepts such as true love, waiting for the one and soulmates, and, for insisting on those unrealistic expectations of love, I paid the price.
I was lonely and in pain for many years.
Art and entertainment, especially literature and cinema, have been feeding the public with bullshit stories and useless, harmful, utopian ways of being for two and a half centuries now.
So in the context of being a hopeless romantic, there was a time when I was utterly indifferent towards money.
You Don’t Have to Starve to Be an Artist
I had recently rediscovered my passion at the time, which was to be an author, and most people used to mock me, saying I would starve to death.
My response was “As long as I do what I love, I don’t give a shit about money. I could live in a cardboard box if I were to write”.
Oh my God, I was naive.
How can you feed on love, you idiot? What are you going to eat? Your pages?
No matter how important love is, it won’t fill an empty stomach.
I had the luxury to be romantic and a dreamer because I was lucky enough to have my parents around. Otherwise, I would end up like Knut Hamsun’s protagonist in “Hunger”.
What I was unable to distinguish at the time was the invisible but tangible way in which all things connect.
In order to write you need a clear head, you need ideas, you need mental energy. You need the opportunity to experience some things, and you definitely need to feel safe about what tomorrow brings.
You need some stability and certainty.
Therefore, you need to grow up and get a job that pays consistently.
Yes, a job robs you of many hours and energy during the day, but it’s a compromise you have to make. You need to sacrifice something to move towards your goal.
But now thanks to your job, you got some money in your account. Maybe you can rent a small flat and pay its bills. You buy a beautiful ergonomic desk and a comfortable chair. You optimize your surroundings to bring the best out of you.
You make your place unique and personal and beautiful. You buy a piece of art, you rescue a stray dog and become the best pals, you play the kind of music that excites you without worrying you might annoy someone.
In your place you are entirely free, for the first time in your life, to express yourself honestly.
“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction” Virginia Woolf noted, but I wouldn’t limit that solely to women.
Anyone who longs for artistic expression is in desperate need of these two prerequisites.
Your very own place, where everything is how you want it to be, where nobody messes with your stuff and your notes, where nobody opens the door disrespectfully when you write since they don’t regard what you do as work.
You have solitude, privacy, independence and you are distraction-free. It’s been a while since the last time you were so productive, not only because you have your own place, but because having a job puts your day in order.
You work, let’s say, 9 to 5, so then you know 5 to 9 would be your writing time. When the whole day is in front of you, you think you have time, and you postpone, and you procrastinate, and you do nothing eventually. But when you only have five hours to write at least a page or two, you get serious.
Ok, but now the combination of a full-time job and exhausting writing sessions wears you out. You need to rest and replenish your energy.
Now that you have money you can invest in a good mattress, some nice sets of linens and a memory foam orthopedic pillow. The quality of your sleep skyrockets and you wake up relaxed and refreshed.
The quality of what you put inside your body upscales as well. You no longer go for the cheaper option out there, but for the more nutritious one. You afford it now.
You get energized and healthy, and that shows on your skin and your mood, and that’s important because mood affects your perception and you have to like what you write at least some of the times. That’s what encourages you to continue with excitement and passion.
Once in a while, you need to feel you are good at what you love.
The list of benefits goes on, but you get the point.
To get things done, you need energy. To replenish that energy you need rest, food, some stability and safety, so as not to get worn out of worrying about survival and the future.
Money can guarantee you those things.
Only after you have satisfied these basic needs, you can move on with self-actualization, as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs suggest.
So if you want to fulfill your dreams, achieve your goals, build something that lasts and make an actual impact in the world, first you have to eat.
Money is Not the Enemy
As a guy who has no steady job, no place of his own and he is still relying to some extent on his parents, I am really fed up with all these romantic nonsense like “money can buy a house but not a home” or “money can buy a book but not knowledge” or “money can buy you a clock but not time”.
How about money can help you buy a house so you can turn it into a home?
How about money can help you buy a book so you can read it and gain some knowledge?
How about money can’t buy you time but can buy you a car and help you save time by eliminating waiting for the bus?
Money can be the means that lead to a better life, but only if you let it.
“It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver” — Ayn Rand
On second thought, it may not be that easy. Most people are walking contradictions. That makes them either hypocrite or confused and unaware of their true self and inner desires.
They exclaim with absolute certainty that “money is the root of all evil” and yet they are the ones that buy more lottery tickets than anyone else or try their luck day and night with gambling.
The truth they refuse to accept is they would love to see themselves in some rich guy’s four hundred leather oxford shoes.
But they want it easy, they don’t want to put in the hard work, so they feed themselves the comforting lie that money is bad, that money makes you unhappy, to relieve some of the guilt of their bad choices and mediocre lifestyle.
Even if they manage to get their hands deep inside the cookie jar though, due to some unexpected inheritance or gambling wins, chances are after a while they will still be where they started, due to one fundamental reason;
They are completely clueless of handling money correctly and wisely.
Because money is a tool and you need some skillfulness in order to use it, you need some basic knowledge, and you certainly need to have read the manual first, like you would have done with your fridge, your dishwasher or anything else.
Money is neither good nor bad, but like most things, it is about how you use it.
And how we use money is defined by our misconceptions, by certain inherented mindsets, as Robert Kiyosaki describes in his Rich Dad Poor Dad book. It’s these misconceptions that sabotage our ability to save, invest and acquire wealth.
What to Do Instead
Considering adopting these certain attitudes and practices may turn your life around a little bit:
1) Stop demonizing money
Money is not your enemy. Considering it as one will only make it harder for you to use it for a better and decent life. If you only see it as a bad corruptive thing, then you will subconsciously find ways to get rid of it.
2) Your small, seemingly insignificant, expenses that pile up across time are in fact crucial and make a difference
Let’s say every morning you buy a coffee and a bagel on your way to work, roughly 3–4 euros. In one month it’s about 100 euros and in a year 1200 euros. Now gather all these small spending habits that serve no purpose at all, and you could save up to two to three salaries a year or even more. Don’t take that to an extreme, of course, and deny yourself everything, but understand that some habits are better to be narrowed down to just once or twice a week, let’s say.
3) Start saving today
What I mean is this: don’t waste what you kept from managing these aforementioned small expenses to other also insignificant, unnecessary things. Open a different bank account explicitly for your savings instead. That’s another mistake people make, having one account for everything, which brings me to my fourth point.
4) Have different accounts
One for each purpose: bills, savings, investments, and personal usage. This way you know what you spend and how you spend it and you keep things clean and tidy.
5) Automate your finances
Sometimes the rich stay rich not because they work harder or smarter than you, but because they have understood and accepted the weakness of human spirit, so they move away what helps them give in to consumeristic distractions. Their money is automatically sent to their accounts before they have the chance to spend it.
6) Still money is dead money
Just by having it stashed under your mattress, inside a shoebox or in the very back of a drawer you will never make more, but, by transacting a little bit from time to time, you will always have less and less. Take calculated risks and invest. The truth is you have to be willing to lose money to make money.
7) You are not financially secure just because you have a job
You can have a six-figure salary and still struggle from payday to payday. In the end, it’s not about how much money you make, but how much money stays in your wallet.
8) If you don’t afford to lose it, you don’t afford it at all
How many times haven’t we considered buying something on a whim just because we have the money? But that shouldn’t be the criteria for a possible buy. Only if you can replace something, you can afford it. Otherwise, you will get nervous and irritable every time your children play around your brand new smart TV, for example.
9) Debt won’t go away on its own
You can look the other way, but someday it will creep up on you. However, the best way to deal with debt is never allowing it to exist. It’s a devious hydra that pops two heads when you cut one down. That’s why you need this following attitude.
10) Adapt and don’t get attached
Be willing to change your buying habits, because situations change, financial crises happen, and you can’t keep up with your old lifestyle for long before you go bankrupt. You will often need to re-evaluate your needs and arrange them appropriately.
After all, that is essentially what motivates us in life; satisfying our needs.