Every once in a while, when I have insomnia, I think about what I would do if I had a million dollars (I know this isn’t considered a lot of money in 2013, but, like Dr. Evil, to me it still is). So when I think about this, an interesting thing happens. I realize how little I really pine for. It’s a very illuminating mental exercise.
“One million dollars!”
My retirement accounts would benefit from an infusion of cash, but my rules for this exercise exclude that kind of practical planning, and also exclude charitable giving. I love donating to charities but that’s not going to be part of this deal. Neither is paying off the mortgage or my share of the kids’ student loans (we split them – each son and I).
So first I think about buying a vacation home. After I grew up, my parents, who lived in Philadelphia, bought a condo in Margate, NJ. It was really nice to visit them there – beautiful apartment, steps from the beach, ocean view, etc. My kids loved it, and I got to show them an important piece of my childhood: the Boardwalk, the Atlantic Ocean, amusement parks with pinball machines and bumper cars, salt water taffy and Lucy the Elephant.
I always thought it would be nice to have a second home, until I realized that I already torment myself every minute of the day because I always want to be doing the thing I’m not doing. When my kids were little, I wanted to be at work on the days I was home with them. When I was at work, I wanted to be home with my kids. So I realized recently that I would probably have a mental breakdown if I owned two homes, because I would NEVER BE HAPPY IN EITHER PLACE! Also, I would feel I could never go anywhere else for a vacation, because I would have to amortize the cost of the vacation home through maximum usage. How dare I pay for a hotel in the Bahamas if I had a perfectly good vacation home in New Jersey?
OK, so then I think about having household help: someone to iron, cook and clean. Wow — wouldn’t that be cool? Except I can’t stand having strangers in my house. I have had housecleaners on and off over the years, and dreaded their arrival every 2 weeks. After a long hiatus, I decided to have cleaning people again, just once a month, and it’s wonderful — but I hate it at the same time. My pulmonologist told me I’m allergic to dust, and that I would cough less and feel better if I cleaned every day. As if THAT’s going to happen! I asked him if he would write a prescription for that so maybe my insurance would cover it, but it isn’t the cost as much as it is the feeling of violation from having people in my house. It makes me very uncomfortable. Maybe a robot?
My house is old and crumbling in spots. I would love to have our bathroom redone. It’s disgusting, frankly. So I could use some of my million dollars to do that. But we have only one bath/shower. While the remodeling is going on, where will we cleanse ourselves? You can rent a port-a-potty but not a port-a-shower! I realize many people have endured bathroom remodeling and found a way to get clean, but at the moment it seems like an insurmountable hurdle.
It would be nice to have more storage space. I could definitely drop a few thousand on that. And also having my laundry room redone, so that it has a heating system and nice tile. Now I’m getting excited!! I also love fresh flowers. Imagine having fresh flowers delivered twice a week!
Hmmm, maybe a nice set of play equipment in the yard for my grandson would be fun. Not a pool – too much maintenance and too much danger. But a well-made, high quality set of swings and climbers and slides – that would be fun for him, and for subsequent grandchildren, God willing.
Oy! Be careful!
I do seriously need a new car to replace my 1997 Subaru. The million dollars would enable me to widen the scope of my periodic internet search for a car into the stratosphere. Lamborghini, anyone?
But where does the car seat go?
There are always clothes and shoes waiting to be bought, but I haven’t exactly deprived myself of those things, even without $1 million. I don’t NEED any more.
Oh, one thing I would do is have my hair colored professionally every month. I hate coloring my graying hair, as I have previously blogged about. That would use up about $800 to $1200 a year!
See what happens? If you start this exercise, you will quickly learn a few things:
1. Some of what you wish you had is well within your reach. You simply have not chosen to make it a priority. Example: if I REALLY wanted to have my hair colored professionally, I could give up the cleaning people or the bottled water delivery, couldn’t I?
2. Lack of money isn’t what is keeping you from being happy.
3. Although it’s nice to have new things, most of the old things you have are probably okay. Who wants new just for the sake of new?
4. You can’t buy time, which is what we all really need more than anything else.
When I was raising my kids, I worried about money all the time. I had no savings and really lived close to the edge. I thought, “If only I had a bunch of money, all my concerns would be gone.” I now know that isn’t true. Giving myself free reign to imagine having that million dollars to spend made me realize money wasn’t the key to inner peace, and also that what I already have really is enough. I encourage all of you to try this little game to see what you learn about yourself and your desires.