When my husband and I were searching for our first home, we continually got sucked into looking at what we refer to as the “shiny lights” (aka big, beautiful, modern houses with all the bells and whistles). And after reflecting on life in our society, it’s obvious why that was.

It’s flattering to consider that people might be jealous of us. When we receive compliments on our fancy and expensive things, we confirm to ourselves that we must be doing something right. It gives us a temporary happiness and self-worth boost.

However, long-term, we learn that having “things” is not what makes us feel good about ourselves. As outlined in this article, the happiness we experience does not often last. This also means that being in debt is not what makes us feel good about ourselves either. Therefore, caving under society’s pressure to live a particular lifestyle and have the perfect image is definitely not what is going to make us feel good about ourselves.

So what does make us feel good?

Knowing our values and staying true to them, even if we’re different from the norm. I believe the key is to strive for financial fulfillment, which is my definition of financial success.

We can accomplish this by following these three tips:

1) Disregard the Backwards Thinking of our Society

Let’s say we buy a house worth less than what we can “afford” (I put this in quotations because I believe this term is open to interpretation) because we want to buy it outright or pay less interest. Many people will assume we must not be as successful as our friends/family, or the confusion sets in and they ask, “Why wouldn’t you get something nicer?”

No wonder we feel pressured by our society to acquire beautiful things. Very rarely are we reminded that we’re being smart with our money. Instead, we’re often referred to as “cheap,” while those living the lavish lifestyle receive praise.

Understanding that this is entirely backwards, is a crucial step to let go of the pressure and begin to think for yourself.

2) Figure Out Your Priorities

We all have areas of our lives that we believe are worth spending money on, and we can justify why we do it (let’s face it, we can convince ourselves of just about anything if we want something badly enough). The problem is when we’re spending our money in every way possible and believe everything is a priority.

So, if you’re having trouble identifying your priorities, ask yourself why something is important to you. Is it because you like the feeling you get when someone envies you? Ask yourself “why?” again. Keep going until you get to the root of it.

For example: “I like nice things because they resemble luxury. Why is luxury important to me? Because it makes me feel successful. Why is it important to feel successful? Because then I have respect from others and they look up to me. Why is it important that people look up to me? It makes me feel good about myself. Why does that make me feel good about myself?” You get the point.

In the above example, it may become clear to us that we are searching for external validation to make us feel good about ourselves, which isn’t fulfilling long-term. The cycle simply continues. This realization alone can help us shift our priorities. I know it did for me.

3) Learn More About Your Financial Situation

If we want to have more money, no matter the reason behind the desire, shouldn’t we take action to understand how we can accumulate more of it? Or, at the very least, understand the impacts of the mistakes we’re making?

And we are making mistakes.

Every. Single. One. Of. Us.

No one is perfect in the finance game, and no matter how much we think we know, we can’t know everything. So, let’s read books, listen to podcasts, take an online course in investing, research the property market, make a budget and review it monthly, choose the cheaper tomatoes at your grocery store, whatever. Let’s just do a little something more, especially, if we’re currently doing nothing at all.

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest” –
Benjamin Franklin

So, there’s my secret.

Think for Yourself  + Prioritize + Future Planning = Financial Fulfillment

By letting go of our desire to be perceived a certain way, my husband and I were able to figure out our own priorities. Every time we became distracted by the picture-perfect, modern homes (which happened often), one of us would realign the other by asking, “What would make us more proud? Owning our dream home and drowning in debt, or accumulating our wealth because we’ve made consistent, smart decisions?”

Needless to say, we landed on the latter by buying an old, run-down house, which we have turned into a project. We are so proud of ourselves for making the right decision for us, and it all started by shielding our eyes from the shiny lights.