In my life I have gone from being poor to poorer, back to poor and then to middle class. Growing up, my family perpetually hovered over the poverty line. All of my clothes were hand-me-downs, as were all of our vehicles (well, except the one that was bought from a junkyard for $50). There were many nights when my dinner consisted of a can of beans or corn. We had a roof over our heads, though, so we were wealthier than some.
All of that is to say that I understand poverty and the mindset it creates. We had it better than a lot of people, that’s for sure, but I know what it’s like to grow up thinking that one day — one day — you’ll be rich and you can buy all of the things that you want. You’ll have a big house and nice cars and so much more. You’ll be rich and you’ll make sure people know it.
To give an example, when I was a teenager and started making my own money, I would always make sure to get to-go cups if they had the restaurant logo on them because I wanted people to see that I could afford to eat at said restaurant. “Ha!” The cup would say, “that’s right, I can afford to eat at Bono’s!” (Hey, now. Bono’s is fancy af to a teenager…) That is what poverty does to you.
Then I met my soon-to-be husband and his family. He was raised in a middle class household with parents who were of the idea that if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. When we started dating, his parents still used the microwave they were given as a wedding present 20 years prior (it finally broke a couple of years ago. RIP sweet old microwave…). They didn’t have a huge house or brand new cars, but they took care of what they had and made it home. They were happy with enough.
And that’s when it hit me: If you can’t be happy with enough you’ll never be happy with more, because at some point more becomes still not enough.
Ambition is not a bad thing and wanting more or better is how we progress in life. However, if you’re so caught up in how you’re perceived by others that you forget to live your life you’ll never be truly happy. The happiest people I know are the ones who work hard, can pay their bills and splurge every once in a while.
I’m not saying that poverty should be cherished, either. Living in poverty is sad, frustrating and at times soul crushing. It creates issues for people that last a long time. Although I am grateful for the lessons I learned as a kid and the empathy it taught me, I still often wonder who and where I would be had I grown up in a middle class or wealthy family.
So, I would say that money buys happiness to an extent. Money is the number one stressor of most relationships, and having enough money to live comfortably takes away that particular stress, which in turn makes you happier.
On the other hand, the love of money can quickly turn to greed, which can then harden the heart. Can you truly be happy if you’re numb to the world because all you can think about is how to make more money? How to seem more successful? I don’t think I could be.
I would much rather my husband and I have jobs that we enjoy even if they don’t pay a lot than for one or both of us to hate our jobs. A happy spouse makes a happy house. How can you be happy if you hate something that takes up such a substantial part of your life?