The cost-saving benefits of nostalgia

Revisiting packed away boxes of books, albums and mementos can provide hours of enjoyment for no cost at all, Hamm writes.

Petr David Josek/AP/File
Petr Skala performs his weekly maintenance of the famous Astronomical clock at the Old Town Square in Prague, Czech Republic, in this February 2012 file photo. Turning back the hands of time can be a simple and free way to pass the time, Hamm suggests.

I don’t know what tomorrow holds. Neither do you.

Different people respond to that idea in drastically different ways.

Some people take it as a license to spend. They live wholly for the now and don’t worry much at all about the future. Today is the only moment that matters. If tomorrow comes, well, then their future self will deal with it.

Other people take it as motivation to save. They want to make sure that their future is as secure as they can make it, and they’re willing to sacrifice some excess now for that security later.

I’ve lived on both sides of this equation, and I often think about them in terms of days and nights.

When I spent recklessly without considering the future, I would fill my days with purchases and expensive activities, but my nights were often filled with worry about what would come next.

When I moved into a saving mindset, I stopped filling my days with every single whim that came to mind, but the fear and worry in the night also went away.

Having experienced the two, I would far rather experience lower stress and fewer material things than days of pleasure and nights of worry.

It’s not really a matter of choosing to do without things I might otherwise want, either.

I’ve come to discover that whenever I allow myself to have whatever I want, I fail to enjoy it as much.There’s no time to savor things when you’re quickly pressing yourself onwards to the next thing to enjoy.

I’ll give you an example of what I mean.

In our downstairs closet, I have a box full of my favorite albums from my high school and college years. The box is loaded with CDs and cassettes by Pearl Jam, Devo, The Smashing Pumpkins, Lyle Lovett, and many other musicians who experienced their heyday in the 1980s and 1990s.

It would be easy to forget about that box and consign it completely to nostalgia, just digging it out every once in a great while to blow off the dust and have an hour of memories.

Why do that, though? These are albums that I love – or at least loved. I can still sing along to almost every word on many of these albums.

Why are they sitting in dust? What’s the point?

I’ve made a conscious effort over the last several months to listen to all of them again and just write down my thoughts on each one. This gave me the chance to savor all of these albums while also reflecting quite a lot on how I’ve changed in some ways and not changed in others.

The cost of this whole experiment was a dollar or so worth of energy, and I’ve easily found a few hundred hours of enjoyment from this project.

I didn’t feel the need to go buy anything new during the project. Spending money wasn’t a part of it.

It was all about savoring something wonderful and finding new ways to enjoy things that I already had.

The ability to immerse myself regularly in the things – possessions, sure, but also skills and thoughts and other things, too – I’ve collected and cared deeply about during my life is a real blessing. It keeps me in touch with who I was, who I am, how I’ve changed, and where I’m going.

This is one of the big hidden treasures of a frugal life.

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