How To Be Content (Specifically in Your 20’s)
I try my best to be a content person. I’ll admit though, I have moments where contentment goes out the window. This has been especially hard lately in seeing all the different things my friends and family are doing and buying. These moments usually happen while standing in the home section of Target or looking at photos from a friends vacation or showing someone a cute house.
It’s very easy to want the things that other people have and it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have some of these things one day. Where we all run into problems is when we see our friends and family with things and think we should have the same…right now. This is usually unrealistic and can take you down a path of accruing debt and discontentment in your life.
I feel lucky to have realized this before I got in too deep, but it doesn’t always stop those feelings from popping up from time to time. I started exploring ideas in the area of contentment while I was paying off my student loans. While I was putting everything I had on my student loans, I had to learn to be content with what I had and go without all the extra “wants” in life. Let’s be honest, this is not easy. Especially, in the time where everyone posts their “highlight reel” on social media. “Look at this new car!” Look at the vacation I just took!” Look at this big house I just bought!” We’ve all seen these posts…and probably in the last few weeks. Seeing your friends and family get these things, make us want the same things. But depending on where we are in life, it may not be the right time to get have these things ourselves. It may not have been the right time for the people posting on social media either. Those posts could actually be: “I just locked myself into a $500 car payment!” I just spent $3,000 on a vacation that is all on my credit card and I can’t pay it off!” and “I just got a 30-year mortgage on a house I can barely afford!” Do you really want that? I know I sure don’t.
When my husband and I were planning our wedding and honeymoon, we knew we were going to have to save a lot to get what we wanted. We spent over a year living on a fraction of our income in order to pay for both our wedding and honeymoon. We got to go to Europe on our honeymoon for almost three weeks. We lived it up on our dream trip. The biggest difference between our trip and some other peoples trips is that we paid cash for everything and still had plenty left in our savings. We lived it up (to our standards) but we did not go overboard. We did not book to $350 a night hotels in Paris or spend $150 every dinner. We were still content with what we had put aside for this dream vacation and it was everything we had dreamed of.
Now, since this dream vacation, I have wanted to buy a house. Get married, buy a house, right? But it has not the best time for us buy yet. (*Cue sad face while I look through my dream home Pinterest board.)
One thing that has helped me in the area of contentment is reading the book, “Love Your Life, Not Theirs” by Rachel Cruze. I’ve read if a few times already and it really makes you look hard at different areas of contentment. I’m going to be listening to it on audiobook again because I’ve been struggling with contentment the last few weeks.
When it comes to contentment, these are the areas I struggle the most…
I would love to have all the new, well-made clothes from high fashion designers. My dream come true would be to dress like Kate Middleton or Meghan Markle, but the outfits they wear are usually in the hundreds or thousands of dollars. Buying the same clothes they wear is not realistic at my current income (or possibly ever). Of all the things in my life to be content about, clothes are the easiest for me. Even though I would love to have nice clothes, I enjoy spending money on things like vacations and home decor more. My biggest problem is when I let myself look at the clearance racks at Target too often. $10 here and $15 there can add up over time and before I know it I’ve spent most of my blow money for the month on clothes I really don’t need.
Stuff (specifically home decor)
Home decor is my spending weakness. I love to decorate. Whether its some new candlesticks, a new shower curtain or a new serving platter, I have a hard time holding myself back. This becomes especially hard when that item is on clearance. How can I turn down buying that cute new shower curtain when its on clearance for $3.88? Or three of them.... but I really should not buy them. I don’t need duplicates of all my home decor. It’s really not necessary. I have to tell myself almost every time I walk into a store that I’m only there to get the things we need, not things I just want. Occasionally I do give into my weakness. This is why my husband and I both have a “fun money” line in our budget. We have a specific amount of money every month that we can buy things that are not needs by are just “fun.” As long as we don’t go over the amount we each have every month, it's okay. even though we both do have “fun” money every month, I still try not to buy things we don’t need as much as I can stop myself.
I would love to already own a house like almost all of my friends and one day we will. But it has not been the right time to buy a house for my husband and me yet. We felt that we needed to get in the best place financially and wait till the “right” house came along. For us, we needed to make sure we had the money in the bank before we purchased a home. Because we all know that if we bought a house with no emergency fund, something would break the first week.
When looking to buy a home, it's very important to make sure your monthly payment is no more than 25% of your monthly take-home pay. This will make it so you are not “house poor”. Keeping your payment below 25% of your take-home pay will help you keep your head above water if you had some kind of financial emergency like a job loss.
Waiting to buy a house is hard, but it is very important to make the correct housing decision before you lock yourself into a long term mortgage commitment.
I LOVE going on trips. I love going to new places and getting to meet people who live a little differently then I do. If it were up to me, I would go on a vacation every month. That is obviously not realistic. The hardest part of not getting to go on a vacation every month is that at least one of the people I am friends with on social media is posting at an upcoming vacation, on a vacation, or is still posting about their last vacation. You know how I feel. We all have a few friends posting vacation pictures. For me, this is the hardest place to be content. I need to have real-life goals in order to not want to spend all my money on another vacation. I need to have goals that my husband and I are working towards in order to not book a spur of the moment vacation. Right now we are focusing on saving up money for a down payment on a house. Focusing on what is most important to us keeps us from booking trips. Even if it does sound like fun.
P.S. I have booked a surprise last minute weekend trip to Disney for my husband and me before. He had been at home for almost a month recovering from getting a tumor removed off his spine and was feeling a little down. He is not the type of person (neither am I) that can stay home by himself all day. He was not even allowed to drive at all. So, when he found out that he was cleared to go back to work the following week, I decided to do something to cheer him up. Disney World was, of course, the answer. I got a great deal on the last minute trip and we were only going for the weekend. I don’t regret at all spending the money after everything we had just been through. It was therapeutic for both of us and put us both in a better place mentally to get back to our normal life. Now, don’t think I’m giving you permission to drop a bunch of money on a trip every time something goes wrong, this was something completely out of the ordinary for me. Also, my husband and I are completely debt free and have an emergency fund, so we were able to just pay it. This will most likely be the only surprise trip we ever take so don’t think it’ll become the norm.