A Paradox of Happiness: Spend Out, To Become Rich.

Further Secrets of Adulthood:

I have Twelve Personal Commandments, and the most obscure is #7, Spend out.

Spend out” reminds me to use things up, not to “save” things like new t-shirts or perfume until some vague future time, not to hold back my ideas, but to let them pour out without reserve.

When I spend out, and am willing to use things up and let go of them, my experience becomes more rich.

(Sorry about the slightly weird formatting. Not clear to me what’s going on. I’m hoping this is a one-time glitch, we’ll see.)

  • Jeanmarie DiTaranto

    As I was reading The Happiness Project, I thought this one was kind of obscure, too.  But once you explained it, it really hit home.  We work so hard to make a living, but if we’re unwilling to spend just a little extra on small treats that bring a little joy into the day, what’s it all for, really?

  • Kurecka

    My mother worked all her adult life – made sure I had the best of everything.  She finally went on a shopping binge just for herself and bought four really nice new business suits. But she got to wear only one – for her funeral.  She died at the young age of 46.   I imagine this is why whenever  I buy something new to wear, I am compelled to wear it the next day.  This is also probably why I never buy anything with rhinestones.  lol

  • Anne

    When my grandmother died, she left her earthly possessions to my mom. I helped with the sorting and disposing. One of my grandmother’s treasures was a hope chest. It was full of unused things. I don’t think anyone ever knew what she was hoping for. Marriage wasn’t it, neither were kids, or grandkids. 

  • True, what’s the use of working so hard if you can’t enjoy it?

  • Anne B

    I so agree. “Use it or lose it” is my approach – whether it’s kitchen equipment, crockery, clothes -whatever – I want my stuff to be used. I’d rather use the “good” stuff for a couple of years, enjoy it, and if it breaks/wears out – so be it, I still got more pleasure from it than if it had sat for years in a cupboard.

  • Shadow60

    When I was a kid, in the ’50’s, a phrase I heard often was;  “saving it for good”.  I thought about that alot to try to figure out what it meant.  I think it’s residue from the Depression. In our small, crowded home the biggest, nicest room was almost never used. Plus, it had plastic on the furniture.  Now that I’ve rectified the living room issue I’m trying to convince my spouse to find another use for the dining room since it’s primary function seems to be a place to drop off the mail and wrap gifts.   

    • Meg R.

      that is exactly what my mind shot back to, ‘save it for good’.  I had clothes that I grew out of before I was allowed to use them.  I know that there are things that are special but it always seemed like I never had an occasion that was as special as the items.  I no longer have ‘good dishes’, but still have a closet of ‘work clothes’, church clothes, gardening wear, its still the same mindset that holds me hostage.  Why do I need permission to live the way I want to? 

    • My relatives were like this. In the nicest rooms, all the furniture was covered with plastic and no one was ever allowed in. What a waste… many of them had those plastic carpet runners too. Haha…that doesn’t seem like such a terrible idea though 😉

  • Helen

    I need to get a tattoo of this one on some part of me that I see everyday to remind me to, in essence, give it away!  Not money – there I often excel in ‘spending out’  – but my ideas, my gifts, my time, my love!   I just don’t know what I am waiting for.  Am in my 40’s and already I have times I look back on and think woulda, coulda, shoulda.  In theory I know I want to ‘live everyday to the fullest’,  be in the present moment and I know NOW is the moment, tomorrow may not come, etc. but in my daily living my thought process is more I will start tomorrow; when I look better, when I am smarter, when I have more to give.  So hard to figure out how to live each day so that at the end of each day I am ‘totally spent’

    • I’m with you Helen. I’m not in my 40s (I’m in my late 20s), but no better time than the present, right?

      Reading your comment I thought, “is she inside my brain?”  I might have to post this phrase up on my wall so I see it every day.

  • Meg R.

    The funniest one I’m aware of with me is this really nice pen I have, a gift, so in my mind its for good and now that it has run out of ink I’m punishing me by not going to buy a refill, duh!!!!  Same with phone batteries, you need them Meg, go get em. 

  • TessaS

    While I like the idea of ‘spend out’ in terms of using stuff we already have – and I agree with this notion – I do not like the idea in terms of actual money.  We have far too much ‘stuff’ and it seems like we just go on accumulating more and more and more.  I try to live in a minimalist way and I try not to spend money just because or when I do have it.  It’s really strange, because the act of shopping can become such a habit – and a very difficult one to break – but once the habit is broken, you can see how we are sucked into the consumerism trap of ‘I must have that’ ‘I want to try that’ ‘That looks good’.  I cleaned out my house from top to bottom, really got rid of masses of ‘stuff’ and now life does seem so much lighter and brighter.  The hard part is resisting the temptation to replace the old with new and shiny!

    • gretchenrubin

      I have a friend who talks about “going shopping in her closet” and “going to the bookstore in her bedroom” to remind her that often, if she looks hard at what she already has, she can find things she’s overlooked and could get good use from.

      I have another friend who says, ‘I store it at the store,” meaning, she never buys something just because it seems like it might be useful. She doesn’t feel the need to own something herself until she has an actual pressing need to use it herself. It’s as good as hers; she stores it at the store until she needs to put her hands on it.

      I think this comes from trying to curb her over-buying tendencies. Over-buyers tend to feel that they should buy anything that might ever come in handy, or that they could imagine themselves having a need for.


  • SASA

    I finally understand the true value in the meaning of “Spend Out.”

    After about six years of overshopping and not even using the majority of the items I bought by “saving” them for a later time, my husband reached his breaking point and orchestrated a massive “clear-out.” In the process, I was sidelined, while my husband bulldozed his way through my trove of treasures, frenetically throwing things out, returning items to retailers, and giving things back to my parents to store at their house. While this was a horrifying and traumatic experience for me (I keep describing it to others as if it were the Rape of Nanking), an event like this needed to occur in order for me to put a stop to my overshopping once and for all. I needed to surrender, because I was hurting my husband by hiding my purchases and it was completely unfair to him when my things kept piling up around the apartment.

    Getting to my point of “Spending Out” — after much of my things have been streamlined (without my involvement) I know have to survey what I have left in the aftermath of such upheaval. The shock of such an event has stopped me from overshopping cold-turkey, and now I’m shopping my closet, looking to make use of what are the things I have left, things that I have not even used. I deeply regret not having used the things that are now either returned or gone for good, mostly because of the losses of monetary value and potential enjoyment of those items. But there’s no use in crying over spilled milk, and now I have to enjoy what’s left.