I once knew a man who decided he wanted a dog. So he spent months researching various breeds until he finally decided on one. He then found a breeder and paid $400 cash for the dog.
Over the next few weeks he bought food, treats, dishes, collars, leashes, toys, grooming tools and lotions to keep the critters away from the new family member. Of course, he didn’t want his dog reproducing with the neighbor’s mutt so off to the vet he went, only to return a few days later with a lighter wallet and a few pats on the back from the vet for making the reasonable decision.
It wasn’t long before he realized the dog needed crate for his home to assist in puppy training. The dog liked to tag along so another crate was purchased and installed in the car.
But the crate took up most of the luggage space so he began researching new SUVs that would give him and the dog more room. It only made sense. And why stop there when a storage carrier could be purchased providing even more space for longer trips.
Of course, the new SUV didn’t come with decent floor mats so he ordered special heavy duty mats that could handle anything he dog could do to them.
Within a few months a $400 pet had turned in to a $40,000 pursuit.
You’ve probably figured out by now that I’m the person in the story.
I’ve often thought back to this experience because it explains a theory I call the Disease of More. What started out as an honest desire to own a dog quickly turned into a much larger and unplanned expense. Taken individually (outside the purchase of the new SUV), none of the purchases were excessive. But each item built upon the one before it and left a void filled only by purchasing another item.
The Disease of More is a cycle that feeds off itself. It often starts small, such as the purchase of a new phone. The phone works and looks great, until you see some cool new cases at Amazon and add them to your cart. But wait, Amazon says that people who bought this case also bought this car charger, and before you know it, you’ve dropped $300 on a Bluetooth speaker you’ve convinced yourself will be perfect at the beach.
I’ve been down this road before and can tell you it’s a dead end. More stuff doesn’t bring happiness, it only encourages acquiring more stuff. Before long, you’ve got a garage full of crap, most of which you’ve forgotten about.
The good news is the the Disease of More can be eradicated by replacing it with the Cure of Less.
As I’ve mentioned before I took up cycling two years ago. The bike I ride today is 13 years old, and a week doesn’t go by where someone cruises past me on a newer, fancier bike. For a moment I think, “Man, I wish I had a new bike” and then my mind springs into action trying to justify such a purchase.
But, as I learned with the dog, purchasing a new bike doesn’t stop with the bike. I’ll need lots of new gear, and equipment and clothing. Before long I’ll have dropped five grand on a $1500 bike. And I can’t afford that right now.
So I’m learning to celebrate how much I save by riding my old bike. My bike runs fine because I’ve taken care of it. All my gear is fine too. I won’t be competing in the Tour de France, and my bike and gear don’t need to reflect that level of performance.
When you live with less you’re able to focus your attention on those things that matter most in your life. Last month I sold my iPad assuming I’d purchase the new smaller version this fall. But I’ve found that having one less gadget to babysit feels fantastic. I’ve proven to myself that I can live better without a device I deemed necessary not long ago, which has me searching for other time-sucking items I can remove from my day.
Last night Kim and I went for a bike ride. We didn’t go far because the temperatures were in the mid 90s and, frankly, we are in the process of getting back in shape. We biked through neighborhoods taking our time and chatting along the way. When it began to get dark we headed for home.
As much as I’d love a new Cervélo or Specialized bike, I don’t like the idea of working longer hours to pay for such a purchase. The time spent with Kim on my old bike is worth far more to me.