Why Being Content Is Actually Being Rich

Why Being Content Is Actually Being Rich

Yesterday, I was talking to my colleague about my boyfriend’s new job. My colleague asked if he was making more money at this new job. I answered, no, he’s actually making a bit less. My colleague answered something along the lines of, wow, that’s too bad. I said, not at all. We make enough money together. My colleague answered me, you must be making a lot of money. 

I tried to explain to him that making a lot of money isn’t the point of what I was trying to explain to him. The point is, we are content with what we have. We make enough money to live in a house, be able to go out once in a while, and go on vacation a bunch of times a year. 

Vacation in the Tatra Mountains, Slovakia.

To be honest, I find it very sad the way Americans live. A lot of my family and friends are constantly working. They don’t prioritize what is really important: being actually happy, having time for yourself, spending time with the people you care about. Of course, everyone is allowed to have different priorities, but is working all the time, and/or working multiple jobs really making people happy?

I’ve met many many people who don’t save any money and spend all their money on nice things. Good for you that you’re living like a rich person. But you’re not rich. The moment something happens, like your roof leaking or your car breaks down, how are you going to pay for it? For most Americans, that means using your credit card and then paying crazy interest rates because you can’t pay it off right away.

We planted a grape vine in our garden. My family had one growing up. This reminds me of my childhood.

There was a point in my life, a few years ago, where I was working a part-time job and a full-time job at the same time. It was horrible. I’ve also worked several part-time jobs at the same time in the past. Why did I do it? Because I wanted to have more money. I wanted to be able to have all the things I wanted. I barely saved and was always living paycheck to paycheck.

When I moved to the Netherlands, I began working fewer hours. I started prioritizing what was important to me. My health, my happiness, spending time with my boyfriend, visiting my sister in Paris, cooking food from scratch. I used to never eat breakfast. Now I always sit down and have a proper breakfast. I try to savor all my meals. That means my phone is away from the table. I think it’s incredibly rude when people use their cell phones at the table. To me, food is a way of gathering and bonding. You can’t do that when you’re looking at the screen.

My sister Yehudis, my boyfriend, and I spent a morning cycling. We came upon this park in the middle of nowhere.

I’m not making as much money as I did when I lived in NYC, but I’m so much happier. I can focus on things that are important. My boyfriend and I save money and don’t live paycheck to paycheck. We take time to do the things that make us happy. Quite often, they are completely free. We take bike rides through the countryside, take walks in the forest and visit his family for coffee, etc.

I’m trying to explain to you that you don’t need to have a lot of money or have nice things to feel rich. To me, feeling rich is being contented with what you have. You don’t have to worry about how you’re going to pay for things. There are so many things you can do out there completely for free. Yes, to cycle, you’ll have to make a one-time investment, but if you take care of your bicycle, it’ll last you many many years. 

Enjoying nature.

Some free or cheap things you can do: take a bike ride, take a walk around your neighborhood, visit a museum on a day they offer free admission, cook a meal at home instead of ordering, visit a family member or friend for a cup of coffee or a meal, watch a movie at home, organize that part of your home that you’ve been wanting to do for forever, read a book, play a game like Uno and knit a scarf. See? There are so many things you can do for free or almost no money.

I really love the way the Dutch live. It’s an example for all of us. They are some of the cheapest people in the world, but they’ve got their finances together. Of course, not everyone is doing alright but most know how to budget and stick to it. I also see Dutch people eating sandwiches that they made at home. They usually bring a packed lunch to work, a day out at a museum, or the zoo, even when they travel, they pack food. That is very smart. You can save so much money just by cutting small things out of what you usually spend on.

I love taking the time to make a yummy hot filling breakfast.

I barely ever buy coffee out anymore. My boyfriend always packs a lunch so he doesn’t have to buy anything. We try to search for the cheapest deal whenever buying something expensive. As many Dutch people do, we also invest in things that have better quality so they last longer. I’ve had to learn this over time. I used to buy the cheapest item and then complain when it broke after a few months. Sometimes, in the long run, spending a little more will save you money in the end.

I could go on and on about this, but I hope you got my point. I hope you’re content with what you have or are striving to be content. No one should have to live paycheck to paycheck and constantly be working. It’s not okay. We should all have time to do the things we love and spend time with the people that matter to us the most. That is truly being rich. 

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42 thoughts on “Why Being Content Is Actually Being Rich

  1. As valid as many of your points are, I, respectfully, find your tone very judgmental. The lifestyle you describe works for you, but if life has taught me something is that not all fits all.
    The reason behind consumerism in America is much deeper than your assumption that people just want to feel rich. Unfortunately, corporate world and lack of support prevent American workers from seeking the lifestyle you describe in Europe. Hence, instant gratification kicks in and shopping to feel good. And it’s going to take a systemic change to realize some actual change.
    Sure, is it better to have a balanced lifestyle? ABSOLUTELY, but it’s not always black or white.

    1. Yes I also found the tone to be a bit judgmental. I totally agree with the sentiment, but there was no understanding of other people’s situations. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck to feed your family or buy necessities (instead of wanting to look rich) you can’t afford to save for better quality items or luxuries like bikes. Europe is very comfortable because they have good workers rights and a strong social safety net. It’s easier to live like that there.

      ‘Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

      But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.

      This was the Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness.’

  2. Wow, you are so inspiring- I love how you explained how you made a resolution yet at the same time found balence in other ways – I feel it boils down to being intentional and finding purpose

  3. I don’t think these things are character traits. Life in the Netherlands is expensive. Going to a museum, an event, a movie, a meal out (pre-Covid, of course) is surprisingly costly compared to the average salary here. I only know one Dutch person that can cook, and the supermarkets reflect a population that likes ready-made meals and non-cooking foods like sandwiches and soups. Americans are much more into food and cooking, in my experience.

    1. I think it really depends on the person. Plenty of Americans don’t cook either. I guess it depends on your upbringing. I also find that museums etc are much cheaper here than in the US.

  4. Having lived in both countries, I think the main difference is that Dutch culture (and European culture, in general) doesn’t see taking time off to relax and recharge as something that you have to earn by toiling. It’s just is. We’re human beings, not human doings, so we need to rest and relax.

    I’m curious if you’ve read the book about Niksen. It’s written by a fellow expat, Olga Mecking.

  5. Hi Soreh, it was lovely to read about your experiences. I agree, contentment is not solely derived as result of how much money you have or make. But the distinction comes from what you value in life, and our values are a firm indication of what is important to us and also where we instinctively invest our time and energy which in turn creates our significance. I believe that inner contentment stems from intentionally creating a life with meaning and purpose (which you have done), and this makes for a rich and fulfilling experience.
    However, the differences you have highlighted between NYC and the Netherlands are nothing more than collective cultural differences that we choose to adopt, it is our own beliefs and rules that we choose to live by that dictate our level of contentment and ultimately govern our sense of how rich we feel, not the culturally specific nuances of our location. With intention you can create this life for yourself anywhere you choose, whether that be in NYC or the Netherlands. But to succeed it requires us to consciously be aware of the choices and decisions that we’re making each day in an effort to shape the future we want to create and think about the legacy we choose to leave when we go. It’s not about comparing what you had with what you have now, its about acceptance of those differences between locations and awareness that for things to change first you must change, only then is it possible to embrace and integrate your new experiences to achieve the right balance for you.
    As someone who was born in Australia, has travelled widely and had the benefit of living in other countries and am now back in Oz, my experience has shown me ‘home is where the heart is’ (it is not defined by location); I feel most content when I can remember to hold this heart-space for myself and embrace and accept the good and bad of where I am (as you have done) trusting that all my needs are met and my cup is overflowing, otherwise it is too easy to fall into the trap of comparing and thinking “I’ll be happy when…”!

  6. I like your work. I also write stories of international of Netherlands, it will be a good thing to exchange ideas. Good read, keep up

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  8. This is so tone-deaf. I can’t afford healthcare and am being laid off. I have a masters degree in Public Health. Guess I’m just not prioritizing? People don’t “need” to be working multiple jobs? People aren’t working multiple jobs because they love it. They do it because they have to. This is a bad take, and you should feel bad. Honestly, just gross.

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  10. Contentment has nothing to do with money. There are lots of people that are content that live paycheck to paycheck and are still very happy and contented. There are lots of people who never have to worry about money and can pay al their bills and are never content. I think the real question is what makes you happy and content with your life. It has nothing to do with how much money you have or how you spend or don’t spend it.

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