consumerism, financial independence, happiness, stoicism


When we talk about financial independence, we are not talking about becoming a millionaire and be able to own big houses and fancy cars and not worry about money while spending as much as one wants. This for the most of us is impossible, and it does not necessarily bring happiness.

That is why I cultivate the stoic philosophy.

I have practised stoicism to a certain extent for a big part of my life. But I only put the label and seen the concepts in the book “A guide to the good life”  by William B. Irvine. Which I can only recommend. In this post, I refer often to the book and I also add my own thoughts to what it means to be a Stoic.

Now a days, people do not have a philosophy on how to live their life, they merely follow what TV and mainstream media tells to do, feel, consume. I, and many others, believe that this is not the path to happiness.

Stoic philosophy is not something that some old Romans and Greeks talked about that has no meaning today. Essentially, humans are exactly the same as 3000 years ago, our culture and technology has evolved, but our genes are the same. It is therefore that we can learn a lot from the old timers as they used a lot of time an energy to answer to the question on what does it mean to live a good life.

From the Financial Independence point of view, stoicism is specially helpful to fight Hedonic adaptation, this stems from living a live with Hedonism as a philosophy. For example, if a person is used to drive everyday to work, take the elevator or drink Coke on a daily basis. They will believe it is unthinkable or, cause great discomfort, to either take the public transport, take the stairs or drink water. When these things are taken for granted, then one starts thinking of the next thing: get a bigger car, use the car more often, etc.

We confuse good life, with owning things, or spending money. But there is great pleasure to be obtained by delaying gratification, knowing that by one’s day to day choices, you get one step closer to financial independence, while being more respectful to the environment. Stoic philosophy does not deny enjoying the “good” stuff. One can enjoy good things, but needs to be aware that if those things are not available anymore, one could as well live without them.

In any case, it is well known, that when the basic needs of humans (See Maslov´s hierarchy of needs) are covered, higher consumption does not increase happiness, but social relations are.

That said, there are 5 basic psychological techniques described in “A guide to the good life”

  • Negative visualization: What’s the worst it can happen?
    • As Stoic practitioners we should always keep in mind, what is the worst it can happen to us? The car might break down, the house might burn, my wife will divorce me, I will lose my job. All those things are terrible, but it might happen to all of us. It is therefore important to visualize and think how one would feel if that would happen to you.
    • This way, one really, I mean REALLY, appreciates the things and comforts that one has.
  • Dychotomy of control: On becoming invincible
    • ” We can want things that are up to us, or we can want things that are not up to us”
    • There are things that we cannot control, and it is therefore foolish to tie our happiness to those
  • Fatalism: Letting go of the past… And the present
    • We need to let go of the past, we for sure have to learn from it. But there is not point in wondering how the present would be if the past had been different. As when considering sunk costs in investment, we should not loose sleep about how the past has influenced our present, but think what we can learn for the future.
  • Self-denial: On dealing with the Dar side of pleasure
    • This practice, is one of the best for saving money, and it increases ones will power. We should periodically deny ourselves of life pleasures. Not having candy one one feels like it, saying no to a delicious cold craft beer in a warm day or fasting for different periods of time.
    • Besides saving money, we reverse the hedonistic adaptation that most of us have been going through in the consumerist society we live in. It is exactly its reverse, getting used to little and then be mind-blown when after a long period we eat a little piece of chocolate.
    • This kind of pleasure cannot be experience when we periodically fall for all the little pleasures that are on our daily life.
  • Meditation: Watching ourselves practice stoicism
    • To wrap it up, we should be aware on how and when we practise stoicism. What happened to us today, how did we respond to what happened, is that in accordance to stoic principles or not?

I have experience myself, how these techniques and Stoic philosophy have improved my life. The stoic philosophy comprises all areas of life, such as anger, luxurious living, frustration and consumerism but it all comes down to appreciate the small things of life, not let things out of your control influence you negatively and cultivate your will power to live the life you want to life, which is not necessarily the easiest.