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How happy does it make you when you buy a new car?

On one end of the spectrum, we have materialism. Someone at this end would answer that buying a new car would make them extremely happy, especially if it happens to be the latest expensive model of Tesla or Porsche.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have minimalism. Someone at this end would answer that buying a new car would make no difference to how happy they felt, irrespective of whether it is a Nano or a Porsche.

And nearly all of us lie somewhere in between these two extremes.

A materialistic person would splurge a lot of money and buy every other thing that she can get her hands (and purse) on. While a minimalistic person would buy only the things she needs to live a comfortable life and nothing more, irrespective of how much money she has.

While one is lauded as a virtue and the other is almost branded as a sin, there is little difference at the root of the two mindsets. Both the minimalist and the materialist are driven by one thing to make their decisions - happiness.

A materialist feels very happy when she buys the new shiny thing, while a minimalist feels very happy even in the absence of the new shiny thing.

The difference in behaviour only comes about in the way the two people consider the answer to the question - "What makes you happy?"

A materialist answers that question with a very narrow scope. She believes that buying a new car makes her very happy, which it does. For a brief period of time after the purchase.

A minimalist answers that question with a much broader scope. She considers the effect buying a new car will have on her happiness among all the things she does over the entirety of her future life. Naturally, when the scope is so broad, buying a new car hardly makes a difference to the overall happiness.

Which means that neither is a sin nor a virtue.

That said, minimalism has its advantages over materialism.

For starters, it is a much less expensive lifestyle. While a materialist has to constantly shell out money to keep up their level of happiness, a minimalist doesn't have to open her wallet.

This cascades into other areas of life. In order to be able to shell out money at every possible opportunity, a materialist will have to force herself to earn that money first. While a minimalist has no such enslavements and is free to do whatever she wishes with her time.

I once read somewhere that a rich man is one who earns more than he spends (wants to spend, rather). Which means that the difference is what matters and not the absolute amount that one earns.

In that sense, the more we tend to the minimalist end on the spectrum, the easier it is to get rich.

An easier route to being rich, and an easier route to being happy, and negligible obligations to do things we don't want to (like wake up early go to work every morning :P). That's what minimalism gets you.

I rest my case.

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