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“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” – Epictetus

by J. Money on Tuesday, August 20, 2013

epictetus collage

That’s one of my new favorite quotes this year. Which aligns perfectly with my 2013 resolution of “Keeping it simple.” ‘Cuz unlike 80% of you guys out there, I’m actually still working on my new years goal! (oooooooooh ;))

But as much as I love this quote by Epictetus, whoever he may be, I also feel like it’s lacking some stuff. Or, a LOT of stuff even – depending on your definition of “wealth.”

If wealth = general happiness, then yeah – it’s spot on. And I’m guessing that’s what he was going for with this ;) The less wants you have, the more you’re thankful for and can appreciate those things you already have. Not to mention lessening the chance of being consumed by greed.

But if wealth = having lots of money like most of us find it to mean, well, just having few wants ain’t gonna get you there all the way. Though it does help you to curb your consumer spending. Assuming, of course, these few wants aren’t for things that cost a pretty penny! Like owning an NFL team or something of that nature, haha… (“All I want in life is to own the Redskins! That’s it!”)

So if I may, I’d like to add onto this beautiful little quote here and help clear some stuff up. Just in case Epy really did mean wealth as in wealth-wealth. AKA a $hit ton of money.

Here’s the quote again:

“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.”

And here are my additions:

“… and also saving tons of money
… and investing tons of money
… and working hard so that you can make all of this money which you will then subsequently save and invest

Haha… Much more succinct, don’t you think? :) In all seriousness though, it’s a brilliant quote and one that sticks with you longer than usual helping you to keep on track. Or at least me on track.

There really is a lot of beauty in focusing your desires and not over-extending, and this pertains to both our finances and our lives in general. If you’re not happy with what you’ve currently got, you’re not gonna be much happier with anything more.

So preach on, dear Epictetus. Thanks for keeping it simple!

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[Nice photo collage by curiouseth]


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{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Free Money Minute August 20, 2013 at 6:34 am

So, I am curious, what is this new years resolution you are still working on? By the way, very impressive to still be after it almost 8 full months into the year. At this point, you pretty much have to carry it to the end of the year!

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2 J. Money August 20, 2013 at 7:57 am

Oh yeah! My ny’s resolution is “keeping things simple”. Kinda vague on purpose, but been pretty good about following it and paying attention as the days and events go by. Starting to declutter more and more as time goes on too! Woohoo!

here’s the post on it:
http://www.budgetsaresexy.com/2013/01/new-years-resolution-2013-keep-it-simple/

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3 May Bohon August 20, 2013 at 10:56 am

I remember your resolution!!! You told me 1 thing in = 1 thing out. We are thisclose to being debt free that ’1 thing in’ doesn’t happen any more! :) Way to go on 8 months and thanks for the “ooooooooh” burn :)

Oh, and thanks for the post. Quotes like this make it easier for me to say no to work lunches. :)

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4 J. Money August 21, 2013 at 9:52 pm

Haha, glad I can help :) Congrats on all your current and future successes! Keep it up!

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5 Leah August 20, 2013 at 7:41 am

This quote is an all-time favorite for me, but I love it even more with your additions. J. Money!!

I like the simplicity of the original format, but it will really only make sense to money-mature people. Ironic, huh?

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6 J. Money August 20, 2013 at 7:57 am

Haha, truth :)

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7 John S @ Frugal Rules August 20, 2013 at 8:09 am

Short, simple and to the point – I love it! Your additions are spot on – though I’d want to own the Cowboys. ;)

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8 Tea August 20, 2013 at 8:21 am

Wow, I think your additions make Epy a lot more complicated. I always understood that quote to be that one should focus on meeting there needs and not acquiring stuff. I have never really wanted “money”. I want the comfort and security that money can provide, but money itself is just more “stuff”. As for hard work, I only worked long enough to provide that comfort and security and then I retired. I value my freedom far more than money or more “stuff”.

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9 The Warrior August 20, 2013 at 8:25 am

Love the quote.

Maybe instead of your (endless ;) ) add-on’s, you could just say…

Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants & financial prosperity/security

Just an idea….

The Warrior
NetWorthWarrior.com

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10 J. Money August 21, 2013 at 9:53 pm

Well that would make for a much shorter post, now wouldn’t it ;)

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11 Melissa Wiley August 20, 2013 at 8:32 am

How ’bout we go in on buying the Skins fiddy-fiddy and get Snyder outta there?!

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12 J. Money August 21, 2013 at 9:54 pm

Fine by me!!

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13 Tiffany August 20, 2013 at 9:09 am

Well put, J. Actually a friend of mine, singer/songwriter Brendan James, recently released an album with this very message. The title of the album is “Simplify.” Beautifully crafted lyrics put to an amazing voice — you should check it out! :-) This is the stuff that really resonates with me!

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14 J. Money August 21, 2013 at 9:54 pm

Cool! Your singer friend sounds like a smart guy :)

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15 Pauline August 20, 2013 at 9:13 am

Love this quote! I have little desire for material things but like you need a nice cushion in case I do so I can afford them haha.

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16 Mark Ross August 20, 2013 at 9:24 am

Very nice quote! It’s really mind-opening and is full of wisdom.

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17 Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) August 20, 2013 at 9:26 am

I totally agree with home boy Epy. I just didn’t realize that this was the way to live until I downsized to our tiny apartment. We’ve never been happier!

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18 Angie August 20, 2013 at 9:35 am

Great post. I have a question for you (maybe a future blog post), that aligns with having less ‘wants’. My fiance and I are planning a June 2014 wedding. We’re either going to do a home fund for people to contribute to, so that we can build up our down payment for a future home, or the home fund + a registry. Fiance doesn’t want to do the registry, because we’ll have too many things that we just don’t have room for (we live in a small apartment near Boston, with literally ONE small closet).

What are your thoughts? What did you do? Are wedding registries just a bunch of ‘wants’ for people to buy for you?

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19 J. Money August 21, 2013 at 9:59 pm

Hah! I actually had the exact same thought when we were getting married :) My fiance at the time and I had everything we needed so I wanted to scrap the registry and just do money/items towards our honeymoon and other adventures. The wife thought it would be good to have more “us” things though (so we can start our new lives together with newer stuff rather than random stuff we’ve collected over the years on each side) so we compromised and did both. One registry and then one honeymoon fund – which if I recall correctly got almost completely paid for :)

So maybe you guys can do a little of each? Some people LOVED the honeymoon route (which you can substitute for house savings) cuz they liked going towards an experience and something you REALLY wanted, but others liked the more “normal” way to go cuz they aren’t comfortable giving money. But at the end of the day it’s really what you two want from it all. Everyone will survive no matter which way you go :)

Soak up this time in your lives!

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20 Recovering Coupon Queen August 20, 2013 at 9:36 am

I am crazy impressed that you are still going strong on the New Year’s resolution. I think I make mine too specific – “Keeping it Simple” is actually doable over the long haul. *Note to self: more generalized goals next year!

With the quote in its original form it says to me that anyone can be wealthy… they just need to accept what they have as wealth and not constantly want more. Which is great, but I kind of like wanting more to keep me going for a goal… not very minimalist, but keeps me focused on a bigger picture.

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21 No Waste August 20, 2013 at 9:49 am

I have another one for you:

Happiness resides not in possessions, and not in gold, happiness dwells in the soul.

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22 Debt Blag August 20, 2013 at 10:23 am

Hm… but your additions to the quote *sorta* change the meaning of it.

Personally, I save and invest money, not because I have less wants, but because what I really want is to be able to better satisfy the wants I’ll have later in life.

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23 SavvyFinancialLatina August 20, 2013 at 10:31 am

Great quote! Need to focus on the positive things in life :)

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24 Nick @ ayoungpro.com August 20, 2013 at 11:27 am

I love that quote…and your additions. :)

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25 Done by Forty August 20, 2013 at 11:36 am

Yeah, it’s funny how being intentional with our wants can really change how wealthy we are, both in reality and in perception. Your post reminded me of the very first one from JL Collins:

http://jlcollinsnh.com/2011/06/02/the-monk-and-the-minister/

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26 J. Money August 21, 2013 at 10:00 pm

(going over now to read – sounds interesting!)

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27 Debt and the Girl August 20, 2013 at 1:07 pm

I LOVE this quote. I am going to remember it cuz it so true. Life is so much better when you have few wants.

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28 Christine @ ThePursuitofGreen August 20, 2013 at 4:40 pm

Great quote:P If you have less then you worry about less! Seems like people just want this or that and are never happy with all that they already have!

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29 Marissa @ FinanceTriggers August 21, 2013 at 11:07 am

Perhaps because NEW things continue to come out on a daily basis and people just want to have and try them. But quotes like this are a great reminder that (material) possessions are not that valuable at all.

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30 stephanie August 20, 2013 at 4:46 pm

Liking today’s post quite a bit! First, because you’re still sticking to 2013′s goal, and why would I want to read the blog of someone who can’t stick with his own goal? I have a hard enough time staying with mine and I look to you (and your followers) for that little extra kick in the butt when my own determination takes a hit.

I’m also going to be interested to read the responses to Angie and the wedding home fund and/or registry question. I know, in my current world, where I’m working very hard toward minimal on MANY levels, what I think. I want to see if I’m in line with others.

And yeah J$$$, daughter would love to hike on over to Starbucks with ya; she’s moving from NYC to Raleigh/Durham in a couple weeks. I’m sure she’ll make that new-found SB wealth last a while!

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31 J. Money August 21, 2013 at 10:05 pm

Woohoo! We came *this* close to moving to the Raleigh/Durham area – great place! I think she’ll really like it there, esp coming from NYC. Not that they’re super a like or anything, but they def. have the “this place is the best place ever” type of mentality there, haha… and for good reasons :)

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32 Brian August 20, 2013 at 8:08 pm

To get my point across when I explain to my wife that we are spoiled I have always quoted the Sheryl Crow lyrics:

“It’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got”

To me they are saying the same thing, but Epictetus’ quote is way more official. Almost anytime you quote lyrics from a somewhat pop act it will take away some credibility.

Thanks for another thought provoking post.

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33 J. Money August 21, 2013 at 10:06 pm

Haha… that’s true, isn’t it?

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34 Martin August 21, 2013 at 1:13 am

Oh man. It’s funny. I’m moving out of our party casa soon. The movie is going to be simple because I have NOTHING! The mattress is garbage and the flatscreen fits in the back seat.

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35 Marissa @ Thirty Six Months August 21, 2013 at 11:02 am

Now I have a quote to add to my favorite-quotes-list. It’s not only the quote that I love but as well as your additions. So smart!

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36 maria@moneyprinciple August 21, 2013 at 11:03 am

Epictetus is cool but not really my favourite amongst the Greeks. Thales and Socratis are better; Thales is the first speculative investor in recorded history – he bought all olive presses in Miletus and when the olives were harvested he rented them at a very high price…and became really rich. All this was done because he was mocked that philosophers are clever and poor. His message was: philosophers can use their brains and knowledge to get rich but this is not their job.

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37 J. Money August 21, 2013 at 10:07 pm

Love that!!!! Good ol’ Thales – I’ll have to read up more on him. Sounds like someone I’d drink beers with :)

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38 maria@moneyprinciple August 23, 2013 at 3:29 am

He also reputedly died falling in a ditch – he was looking at the stars and didn’t see it. Certainly someone I’d like to have a drink with :).

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39 Retire By 40 August 21, 2013 at 11:27 am

Here’s my addition – “Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” AND having a lot of money. Hahahha. :D

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40 Tony@WeOnlyDoThisOnce August 23, 2013 at 10:01 am

J : We are thinking alike right now! The quote I started my day with : “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.” ~H.D. Thoreau, 1817-1862

It is really true, and the more we can reinforce this mindset over time, the richer we will become. Have a great weekend!

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41 J. Money August 26, 2013 at 3:34 pm

I like that one :) You too, good sir.

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