“Waste Not, Want Not”
You’ve likely heard this English proverb before.
It was first recorded in 1772 (when ‘Murica was -4 years old), but an earlier version of the proverb (“willful waste makes woeful want”) arose circa 1576.
As time progressed, the saying was truncated. Laziness and efficiency won out.
I propose one further edit. Let’s just chop it down to just “want not.”
Want Not, Want Not???
“Want” in the original proverb meant to lack or be short of something.
To “want” today more commonly means to wish to possess or do.
“Want not, want not” sounds goofy. I don’t like it. But “want not” alone is streamlined, efficient, and effective. I’ve made it a personal mantra of mine.
To me, it means this: if you rid yourself of the desire to have more things in your life, you won’t lack anything.
Make sure to keep the order in that way, or it takes on an entirely different and obvious meaning: if you don’t lack anything, you won’t wish for anything. That sounds like a common problem for disaffected Hollywood stars. Delete that version.
Why Should I Care?
It’s this philosophy that enabled me to break the cycle of consumerism into which we’re born. Taming the impulse to buy something shiny is what empowered me to pay down debt, save, and invest.
The siren song of conspicuous and ridiculous consumption is the loudest jam on the radio. It also gets played most often, much like “Firework” when it first debuted. It’s as difficult to get out of your head as well (I’ll fess up to it).
Psychology is weaponized to compel you to exchange your energy and freedom for the latest baubles and trinkets. It’s hard not to be a zombie lemming with empty pockets.
Don’t think that marketing is effective? I suppose it’s possible, but the $83 billion revenue that digital advertising brings in, in the U.S. alone, makes a compelling counterpoint.
How Do I Want Not?
Does that wretched Amazon app on your phone beckon? Remember, want not.
Feel the need to get that second car to celebrate your promotion? Want not. And get a sweet bike instead. Later.
Want an iPhone X because your iPhone 7 feels old? Want not, and invest in some Apple stock instead. If you feel the urge to buy something, doesn’t investing in a company count as purchasing something?
Isn’t This Minimalism?
Kind of. Maybe you already practice minimalism as you walk your FIRE path.
Minimalism didn’t strike a chord with me as much as just telling myself to “want not.” Minimalism seems to require active effort while “wanting not” trains your mind to operate on autopilot.
This shortcut uses less willpower and is, therefore, easier to stick with.
I hope this mantra helps you. It helped me.