These days rarely do we find a person who is happy within his income? It is true that prices have been going up at a fast rate but so have incomes. I don’t mean to say that prices have not adversely affected the common man. But I definitely do not consider this the only reason for being unhappy with what most of us get. I believe that in most of the cases ‘There is Enough Money’ and it depends on us how wisely we use it without sacrificing the essential needs of life. This is what we shall try to establish in this article.
Swami Chinmayanandji, in his book 'Kindle Life', has described the ‘Happiness Index’ as the ratio of number of desires fulfilled divided by the number of desires entertained.
There can be two ways of raising this index, i.e., by increasing the numerator or by decreasing the denominator. The trouble with most of us is that as the number of desires fulfilled increases, the number of desires entertained also increases at much faster rate. This results in the fall in the value of the ‘Happiness Index’. With this kind of approach it will never be possible to raise the Happiness Index, no matter what may be the increase in our incomes or resources. So if the index is to be raised, at least the denominator should remain constant. The better way of raising the index would be to decrease the number of desires entertained, once our essential needs are fulfilled. And the index will become infinite, if the number of desires is reduced to zero. That is to say that a desireless or wantless person is the happiest person. We, however, have no intention of advocating such a state of mind.
This analysis brings us to the conclusion that if we want to be happy within our means, we have to reduce our needs and desires. To do so we shall have to rationally analyse our present needs with an open mind. And if we do so I am sure that there will be many areas in which money can be saved without discomfort. Broadly the needs or desires can be classified into three categories:
1. Essential Needs.
2. Comfort Needs.
3. Luxury Needs.
Fulfilment of essential needs is necessary for survival. Food, clothing, shelter, education and health-care fall in this category. Among these, food is the most important. One need not give many arguments to establish that there can be wide range of expenditure on all these essential needs. However, one should believe in the basic fact that the nature has given us enough for our needs but not for our greed. That being so, it depends upon us as to how we spend on these essential needs. For example, when we talk of food, the main criteria should be the nutrition and we all know that nutritious food is not necessarily costly. In all probability it will be other way round. For example, seasonal and fresh fruits/vegetables are generally the cheapest and most nutritious. All food items if properly planned in terms of requirements and timings can save a lot of money. The same is the case with clothing. Here the main criteria should be the decency and convenience. Costly dresses are not always decent. Also maintaining more than reasonable number of dresses is not only expensive but also inconvenient. One can easily establish norms of adding new dresses and at the same time helping the poor people by giving them the old dresses.
As far as shelter is concerned, it is more difficult to draw a line. At the same time it is one of the major items of expenditure. Unfortunately, in our country, the concept of constructing functional houses is missing and in most of the cases money is spent for the sake of spending. There is vast scope for saving money in the construction of houses without sacrificing comfort, nay, with more comfort. It is mainly because of the extravagance of those who have excessive money, that the construction of house is becoming more and more difficult for the common man. Well, that being a bigger issue, those who construct houses with limited resources should try to be as functional as possible. The main criteria should be proper light, ventilation and safety. Those who go for rented houses should also look for these features. A small, well-kept house is always better appreciated than an ill-kept big one.
Similar planning is required in the field of education and health care. These also vary widely in terms of quality and cost. Expenditure on education can be saved by proper selection of school, proper attention on children and efficient use of aids. In case of health care, the attention should be more on prevention than cure. These days there is too much emphasis on costly medicines. It may not always be possible to avoid them but most of the time one can manage with economic treatment.
Having met the essential needs one should properly plan the needs falling in the category of comfort. Items like television, refrigerator, means of transport, etc., may be said to fall in this category for most of the middle-class families. There is more scope for showing wisdom in this area and one should understand his limitations well. In no case should one stretch these needs beyond his means.
The last category of needs is luxury needs. These may be called ‘Desires’, and Happiness Index mainly depends upon them. One desire generally leads to another and there is no end to them. Hence, there is need to be careful right in the beginning, otherwise one ends up losing not only money but mental peace too. Therefore, luxury needs should always be given up. In all probability ‘desires’ take away one’s happiness, in the long run, if not immediately. The interesting thing is that individually most of us feel that extravagance is bad but somehow we keep on indulging in it. Therefore, need is to get away from this cycle. The so-called society (which is perhaps we are afraid of) consists of individuals and if they feel otherwise, where is the question of society not appreciating it? But someone has to make the beginning. Why not we?
A good technique to plan expenditure is to ask two questions whenever a need is felt in mind. One, whether it is essential, and if it is not, drop it then and there. In case it turns out to be essential, the next question should be whether it can be postponed. If yes, it should be postponed. Most likely it will become non-essential during the period of postponement. If even after that it remains essential and immediate, it should be fulfilled. Also frequent visits to market should be avoided. Many non-essential needs become essential when you go around the market. As far as possible one should go to the market with a definite list of items on paper or in mind and confine his purchases to that.
Thus, if a man keeps control over his desires and wisely spends his resources on essential personal and social needs, there will be no occasion for complaining. And if society at large is able to do so even the bad shape of the economy, which we see today, will improve. And then most of us will start believing that 'There is Enough Money’.
Hold your money merely as custodian for what is God’s.
If money does not bring happiness, give it back.
Money is a good servant but a bad master.
Money is not evil if in good hands.