One of my colleagues has a beautiful Rolex watch. Sitting next to him in a meeting not long ago, I found myself really wanting a similarly beautiful watch. My desiring-machine was really ramping things up, and I found myself trying to justify such a purchase. “I’m an attorney, I should look a certain way to impress clients. Other attorneys will see me as successful, too, and maybe refer business my way. And I’ll buy my Rolex in a frugal way—used, of course!—off eBay or somewhere similar. Don’t I deserve it?”
Luckily it was about this point my mental yoga training kicked in, and I started laughing at myself. (Internally—the meeting was still ongoing.) That whole train of thought was all nonsense. Referral business comes because people are impressed by the quality of your work, not the quality of your accessories. No matter how good a deal I got on a Rolex, I’d still be losing because it’s impossible to “save” money by spending it! I liked the idea of having that kind of watch, but I didn’t need to attach myself to it because it was totally irrelevant. And I have a perfectly good watch already that I love. A new watch wouldn’t give me anything other than trouble—making it harder to reach my financial goals, making me worry about taking care of something that I couldn’t really afford, and therefore just adding stress.
This process I went through wasn’t an accident. It was mental training: the practice of non-attachment. Although it works on any kind of desire (as far as I have experienced!), it’s an especially useful skill to put in your frugal toolkit. Because we live in such an abundant society, we really need very little to lead happy, fulfilling lives. Learning how to confront irrational, silly desires and crush them like the gnats they are is the root of non-attachment practice. Because money and desire go hand in hand, it can be the root of sound financial practice too. I learned it through yoga, but you don’t need to take a yoga class to practice it.