By Rahul Chowdhury
Updated August 9th, 2021
When you hear the word Japan, what comes to your mind? Torii gates? Mt. Fuji? The hustle and bustle of Tokyo city? But: Apart from Torii gates, Mt. Fuji and Shinto shrines, Japan is also famous for its life-changing wisdom.
While Japanese wisdom touches every area of our lives, in this post, I’ll talk about the philosophies that have been helping me keep overspending in check. Let’s start with:
Chisoku talks about being content with what you already have. We often end up buying more things than necessary because we either get sold on clever marketing or get caught up in temptation. I had such a temptation this morning when I went to the supermarket. Wandering near the kitchen section, a rack full of vibrant pastel coloured cups caught my attention.
Wildly tempted, I gravitated towards picking up a dozen of them to liven up our kitchen. But then, I had a Chisoku moment. I remembered that we already have more than enough cups at our home than we ever need. Even if we host a tea party of twenty people, we won’t be running out of cups.
With this realisation, I bought only the items I came to the supermarket for, leaving the cups in their original place. And this has been a long-standing problem that I’m trying to fight.
When it comes to home decor, my wife and I go crazy when we see minimalistic designs. Our home is stuffed with decor pieces. We don’t need more things unless something breaks or wears out and we have to replace them. The problem is:
Need is limited, but want can be infinite. Here’s another example: When browsing through the IKEA online store a couple of weeks back, we were on the verge of ordering a new floor lamp because it looked so good.
After much contemplation, thankfully, we closed the browser tab without placing an order. We don’t need a new floor lamp. Buying that floor lamp would’ve been a wasteful expense and would’ve cluttered our living room. In these situations, remembering the philosophy of Chisoku helps cut down unnecessary spending.
Engrave this principle onto your mind: Stop spending money on things you don’t need. Instead, save that money to buy something that’ll spark joy in your life. Now, another perspective-shifting philosophy is:
Wabi Sabi talks about finding beauty in imperfection. As things age and decay, they become more beautiful.
Here’s why: When things age, they develop a character that you can’t find in a freshly minted object. I had my first dose of Wabi Sabi when recently I wanted to replace my wallet with a new one. There’s nothing wrong with my existing wallet. It is functional and has no wear and tear.
But: Seeing all those perfectly crafted advertisements of leather wallets on Instagram, I got drawn into the temptation of buying a new one.
But then: After looking at a couple of wallets online and in-store, I noticed that none of them had that beautiful gloss that the wallet in my pocket has:
And that is when the mindset of Wabi Sabi hit me. I went from suffering the “new shiny thing” syndrome to appreciating the beauty present around me. With this realisation, I dropped the idea of shelling out money for a new wallet and decided to keep using the existing one until it wears out.
Remember this: It is the job of companies to make new products look as appealing as possible. That is how they attract customers.
However: If you start appreciating the beauty and character of things that you already own, you’ll soon find that you don’t need to replace your belongings so often. And as a byproduct, you’ll save a significant amount of money because you chose not to replace your perfectly fine desk with a newer model.
Bring some Wabi Sabi into your life. And after you do that, try looking at things through the lens of:
Mitate teaches us that every object has more than one purpose. Growing up in an Indian household, I already had this mindset from my childhood. I’ve seen my mom peeling off labels from jam jars and using them as spice containers. Buying a jar specifically for housing chili powder was a foreign concept to me.
And recently, this mindset got renewed when my wife used translucent soda bottles to house money plants in our home. We usually throw away soda bottles, but these translucent glass bottles looked perfect as slim vases for hosting money plants.
So: Instead of dumping these bottles, we peeled off the labels, cleaned the bottles up, filled them with water and put a money plant in each:
As a result, we have a window sill beautifully decorated with thriving money plants. And every time sunlight hits the bottles, they glow up and create a zen feeling.
Now: We could’ve gone to the market, splurged on expensive vases and done the same thing. But this way, we breathed new life into a throwaway object and saved ourselves a couple of bucks in the process. What’s more? We’ve now got an origin story for our lovely soda bottle vases. Now:
Conscious spending doesn’t mean being frugal
Although I strongly practice saving as much money as I can each month, I’m in no sense frugal. I splurge money on things and experiences that I whole-heartedly enjoy. And conscious spending allows me to do that.
When I used to spend money on absolutely every pretty thing I saw, I ended up with no money to buy the things that would’ve genuinely improved my life. With a conscious spending mindset, I save money for things that add value to my life by not buying unnecessary items. And these Japanese principles guide me towards making an informed decision.
So: The next time you want to buy something lucrative, use these Japanese principles to determine whether you genuinely need the stuff you want to buy.
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