Kitty PoP went on a diet recently. He was recently starting to look a little chunky around the midsection, and when I set him on the scale he was about 1lb more than the vet likes to see. Holidays be damned, Kitty PoP needed to count some calories.
The thing is, counting calories (or kibbles) isn’t Kitty PoP’s idea of a good time. So the first couple of days of his diet, he tends to be more vocal than usual, meowing at us while his routine gets adjusted to eating a little less kibble at breakfast and dinner. This is how I imagine the translation of those “meows”.
Hey! Hey! HEY! Ohthankgoodness, I have your attention.
Where did all the kibble go? We used to have so much more!
Ohmygod-Ivegotit! We are poor. Crap. *Sigh*
Well, I was born in a drainage ditch and my mom and whole family abandoned me, so I know what it’s like to be poor. We can get through this. In fact, here’s a contribution from my recent hunting expedition out by the pool.
Try not to let this one get away like the others, okay?
Okay, so that little diversion was somewhat of an excuse to share how ridiculous Kitty PoP looks when he comes to the door carrying one of his little lizard friends in his mouth. But it also brings up an interesting discussion that we tap dance around here on the blog, but rarely address directly. Consumption and Wealth.
Consuming Less Causes Kitty PoP Stress
In Kitty PoP’s little walnut-sized brain, consuming less feels like having less and it stresses him out. It’s why he gets so talkative in the first couple of days when his diet is getting adjusted. He can’t process the medium term and longer term implications of not gorging himself on kibble, namely being more physically fit to live a longer and more active life filled with chasing after lizards. But within a few days, his little kitty body adjusts to consuming a little less kibble, and his stress disappears.
As humans though, our brains are considerably bigger than walnuts – so in short, we’ve got a heck of a lot more processing power than Kitty PoP. So why do so many fall prey to the same stress that Kitty PoP goes through when he’s forced to consume less?
Why is it that consuming less “looks” stressful to us as a society and consumption is so often looked to as a measure of wealth? We’ve got so much more processing power than Kitty PoP that we should be able to get past that, right?
Well, in our own small way, the PoPs are trying to fight back against the automatic association between wealth and consumption.
Consumption ≠ Wealth
It’s not all that complicated a concept, and yet, it seems to be one that many people struggle with. The common response when you see a guy driving a Bentley and wearing a nice suit might be to assume, “He must be worth a bundle.” Mentally we might even compare him to the guy driving a 10-year-old Honda and wearing shirts from JCPenney and think that the Bentley guy has his act together by comparison.
We’ve been very lucky to get to know some pretty amazing people living in an area that’s got a huge retired population. We are constant beneficiaries of their years of life experience. Sometimes it’s in very direct ways, like when our friends K&D inspired our DIY kitchen update. But one of the biggest lessons that we’ve learned living down here is just how bad consumption is as a predictor of wealth.
Some of the wealthiest people we know (and some are millionaires many times over) regularly wear clothes that they’ve owned longer than Mr. PoP and I have been alive. While they often own multiple homes as investments, they’ve lived in the same relatively modest home for decades. Their cars are older and well maintained. When they want to shop for the sake of shopping, they go to the thrift stores or the flea markets.
Mr. PoP and I both read The Millionaire Next Door in college, thanks to friendly nudging from Mr. PoP’s mom who gave us the book. And when I read it at 22 years old, I was inspired by the statistics the authors had compiled, and mentally filed the lessons it held away for future reference. But I don’t think I ever really expected to be sitting on my couch 8 years later counting among our closest friends true examples of that lifestyle.
We’re not perfect examples of austerity by any means. Heck, Mr. PoP does still want a $2K tube amplifier some day, even though has has more recently been sated by a vintage tube amplifier stereo that one of these friends gave to Mr. PoP instead of goodwill. But having friends like this is a powerful reminder that having a lot of stuff is just going to get in the way of our goals of financial freedom.
Have you ever read The Millionaire Next Door? What did you think of it? What are some of the ways that you’re trying to internalize (or have succeeded in internalizing!) the notion that we’re not what we consume, and the less you consume, the more you actually have?