My new relationship with money

I don’t think of money the way I used to think of money just 6 months ago.

6 months ago, I’d walk into a mall thinking of what I could potentially buy to make myself happy.

Today, I walk into a mall only to buy what I need (if I need a stick of butter to cook dinner with I buy a stick of butter, full stop).

6 months ago, I’d walk into a bookstore and buy any book I wanted. Usually I’d buy at least two books or more. Sometimes three or four at one go. It was easy for me to spend $100 at the bookstore per visit.

Today, I borrow all my books from the public library. Most of the books I want to read are available in the library anyway. If it’s not, I don’t read it (there are so many other books in the world to read). Or I buy it on Kindle, so I save 30% or 40% or sometimes 50% off the paperback price. But even this happens only rarely nowadays.

6 months ago, I’d not blink an eye about spending $800 on a painting or $1,000 on a foldable bike. I needed these things, I’d tell myself. I needed them so I could try my hand at art collecting or be able to cycle to the swimming pool.

Today, I don’t buy random big ticket items anymore. I just don’t.

Have I become cheap? Not really. It’s just that I have experienced a crucial mindshift with regards to money. I no longer think of money as a currency I can use to buy things with; now I think of it as resources that I’d gained through the exchange of my own very precious life hours.

All the money I have, I have had to work for them. I’d to put in hours under the sun or in the studio, managing clients, shooting, editing. I had spent time – days and weeks and months and years of my life – in order to earn these money. Time that I can never get back.

So every time I buy something, I remind myself that the money I have now is actually time I can never get back.

It makes me think twice about what to buy.

Should I buy the latest iPad Pro or should I use it to, say, buy the freedom to not work for a month? In that month I can connect with my loved ones, travel somewhere to recharge, work on a passion project, etc.

The choice is obvious to me.

Starting a business with $100

I have been reading “The $100 Startup” by Chris Guillebeau lately. It’s a good read for me because I’ve always been interested in the idea of micro-businesses – businesses that can be run by one person, and that doesn’t need a huge amount of money to get off its feet.

When I started doing photography, my first few jobs were done using a friend’s camera. Yes, I didn’t even have my own camera! So in a sense my startup cost was almost negligible. Later on I bought my first proper camera, the Canon 5DMI, and paired it with a USD$100 Canon 50mm 1.8 lens. People always think you need expensive gear to shoot for big jobs and big clients, but this $1,000 setup served me well throughout my first year or so as a professional photographer. So you really don’t need a lot of expensive equipment to become a photographer, just as how you don’t need a lot of capital to start a successful business.

According to Guillebeau, “where passion or skill meets usefulness, a microbusiness built on freedom and value can thrive”. When you can provide true value, people will be willing (and sometimes queuing up) to pay you for it.

How do you find that thing that people are willing to pay for? It’s useful to ask yourself, “How can I HELP people become HAPPIER with the SKILLS that I have?”

Somewhere in there lies the answer that you’re looking for.