Pleasure-seeking may cost you your freedom.

Part five in the ‘Fix Your Money Problems Forever' series.

In our modern consumer-driven society, it's accepted practice to reward our hard work with ‘stuff'. As we rack up each accomplishment, we feel entirely justified in marking it with a suitable trinket to show to ourselves and our network of peers what a good job we're doing.

If you're like a lot of people, these rewards are often disproportionate to the milestone. A new car, a new sofa, a better holiday this Christmas or a fancier suit to model at the office. It's OK. You're normal. You've earned it – spoil yourself.

But if freedom is what you seek, know that every time you do this, you're digging a deeper hole for yourself. You're becoming a little more enslaved every time you do it.

That this has become so acceptable is no surprise. Every day, you're confronted with messages telling you your life will be better if you have the latest i-gadget, a shiny new car or a nicer home. You convince yourself (consciously or otherwise) that your kids will be impressed; your wife will love you more, and your colleagues will be envious. I get it.

But what if you could get the same buzz – better even – without calling the bank or whipping out your credit card? What if you could reward yourself for all those long hours at work with something that'll leave you richer; not poorer? What if your reward could bring you closer to freedom instead of further from it?

“Contrary to what you might think, I'm not saying that money can't buy you happiness. It can.”

If I asked you what the most important things in your life were, would you rate money over time? Work over family? Entertainment over pleasure? How about status over fulfilment?

You know where I'm going with this, don't you? It's easy to ‘buy happiness' because everything around you tells you what to buy. It takes no imagination. And even though we're told the best things in life are free, we often choose to ignore it.

Now contrary to what you might think, I'm not saying that money can't buy you happiness. It can. If you need food, shelter, medical care or a pair of shoes, money certainly helps. It is the great enabler.

But if you also believe money is necessary to buy the really important things like time, freedom; the choice to do what you want, where you want and when you want; you need to make money work for you. That means accumulating it then letting it multiply.

That's why it's important to find sources of pleasure that don't cost you much money.

Pleasure & Freedom aren't Mutually Exclusive

In most western countries, shopping is a national sport. I used to love it. Coming home with a collection of bags full of goodies was fun for a while. But disappointment always seemed to follow. The highs came with even greater lows. Why? I knew that every time I ‘spoiled' myself, I pushed freedom further away. Each time then, the highs were shorter lived.

It wasn't until I met my current wife, who was obsessively frugal, that I realised how stupid and wasteful I was. She managed to find happiness in places I ‘d long forgotten. With child-like zeal, she'd find it in the simplest things like long walks around the city, leisurely drives in the country, movies and discussions about business. Occasionally she'd splurge on lobster or a new dress, but these acts were few and far between. What gave her real pleasure was thinking about ways to create new businesses and building her foundation of wealth so that she could buy her freedom and travel the world.

Over time, I reacquainted myself with these things, too. After all, I used to be very much the same. Just this morning, my eldest daughter and I went on a long walk to a hill that overlooks our city. Accompanied by kangaroos and the sensory pleasure of the crisp morning air, we talked about all sorts of things. It was perfect. On our return, we all settled in for a long breakfast while my wife helped her with her maths studies. Meanwhile, my son impressed with his Play-Doh pizza making skills, and my youngest daughter worked on her latest YouTube video. Simple but priceless.

None of these things cost more than a few bucks. Right now, I'm sitting in my garage – my man-cave – writing this story for you. I'm surrounded by my camping gear, a few posters depicting scenes I love and my beloved motorcycle that I bought very cheaply about five years ago. These simple acts are very cheap yet valuable beyond measure because they include some of my Most Important Things – family, time and lasting pleasure.

Pleasure that Pays You

The view from my garage, where I love to 'work'.

The view from my garage, where I love to ‘work'.

I'll give you some more examples. We've spent at least a few dozen weekends slowly transforming our home with plants, boulders and other things that bring daily pleasure to our lives. Outside my office, I can see trees I planted just two years ago that are now lush and green and provide privacy and sanctuary to my surrounds. When we bought our home, there were two small trees on the whole block and nothing but gravel out the front. Over time, we completely transformed it with over 500 plants, rocks from the mountains where my dad lives and some paving. The dual benefit is a beautiful outlook from every vantage point and an asset that has substantially increased in value. Again; long-term benefits for little money.

Photography is another great source of very cheap pleasure (as I imagine to be the case with most visual arts). After the initial investment in gear (almost all of it purchased second-hand on eBay), the cost of enjoying this hobby is almost nil. The rewards, though, are profound.

And like many pursuits these days, the opportunities to draw revenue from it are much greater, thanks to the Internet. And photography has meditative qualities, too. When you're fully engaged in something creative, it calms the mind and frees the soul; leaving you open to flashes of inspiration that flow into other parts of your life – personal and business.

The point is, buying stuff tends to act as a multiplier – for good and bad. If you can ill-afford to do it; if it detracts from your long game, it can make you miserable – often leading to more of the same behaviour. But if it's targeted at a genuine source of pleasure and it's moderated for maximum effect, it can bring lasting joy into your life. If you love bushwalking, a quality pair of hiking boots and a high-end mirrorless camera can enhance the experience. But four pairs of boots and six lenses won't.

Buying stuff as a short-term reward or a dopamine hit doesn't provide lasting pleasure. Moreover, its transient nature requires that you do more of it more often just to maintain its effect. The consequence is a house full of crap, a soul bereft of depth and a future riddled with pain.

Try the alternative. Spend time with your family (sans iDevices), use what you already have, immerse yourself in nature and engage in great conversations with those you care about.

Then tell me it isn't better.


This post is part five of a series called ‘Fix Your Money Problems Forever'. Check out the others in this series.

1. Know WHY you’re Spending
2. Don’t do a Budget
3.Good Debt, Bad Debt and Ugly Debt
4. Trapped by debt? Go on a killing spree!
5. Pleasure-seeking may cost you your freedom.
6. Eliminate Crap from your Life
7. To Save Money, buy Premium
8. Create a Business From What you Know
9. Invest Well and Sleep at Night!


Thanks for stopping by and I hope we get to hang out more in the future. And in the meantime, please feel free to share your own experiences. You can also email me directly at I respond to all emails.

Disclaimer: I'm not a psychologist and I'm not a financial advisor's elbow. This material doesn't constitute financial advice but it is a collection of my personal opinions, based on my own experiences. 

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