Philosophical Wisdom for The Art of Authentic Spending: Part 1

In a world where money often feels like a source of confusion, with the help of some dead (and alive) philosophers, we'll learn how to use our hard-earned cash as a tool for personal growth and authentic living. All while avoiding the pitfalls of empty consumerism and societal bullshit.

Mar 29, 2024

Why read this?

You work hard for your money. You should be able to enjoy it without guilt.

Recently, a friend of mine brought up the topic of personal spending, and we both agreed it's a multifaceted head-scratcher issue that we don't have the tools to navigate. We often find ourselves unable to enjoy the fruits of our labour without being paralysed by external value systems that have been shoved down our throats as children and (young?) adults. The ultimate aim is to equip you with the tools and frameworks to discover what’s true to you and how you can thoughtfully make choices that align with your authentic self.

It’s like that poor bastard in Fyodor Dostoyevsky's novella, "Notes from Underground.", and the narrator who’s referred to “Underground Man” (yes, the Underground Man). The poor bastard can’t even taking a piss without overthinking it. He finds himself paralysed by his own thoughts and unable to act decisively.

And don’t get me started on the taboo nature of discussing money openly, it’s like the Fight Club: the first rule is that you don’t talk about it. Adding to this mess is that those those who have achieved financial success through their hard earned talents & skills do so by exercising discipline and delaying gratification. It’s a mind fuck to try and shift gears towards enjoying yourself.

For you scientists and mathematicians, there isn’t a simple equation you can solve at a whiteboard to resolve this complex situation. As Dostoyevsky says "You see, gentlemen, reason is an excellent thing, there's no disputing that, but reason is nothing but reason and satisfies only the rational side of man's nature, while will is a manifestation of the whole life, that is, of the whole human life including reason and all the impulses." Reason ain’t going to cut it in complex shit like spending and values.

So buckle up my friends, we’re on a wisdom seeking mission. We’ll hit up dead (and alive) philosophers, dive into literature and even have a chat to the big guy in the clouds. The humanities have some guidance for us.

To start, let’s throw ourselves right into the deep end and have a chat with our bold and controversial compadre: Nietzsche. He’s not here to blow sunshine up our asses, so brace yourselves.

Part 1: Nietzsche's Philosophy of Self-Creation: Spending as a Tool for Personal Growth

The core of Nietzsche's philosophy is the idea of "becoming who you are".

In "Thus Spoke Zarathustra," in classic Zarathustra prose, we’re told "You must be ready to burn yourself in your own flame: how could you become new, if you had not first become ashes?" I love a good Phoenix metaphor — rise from the ashes! He’s telling us that to discover our true selves, we have to let go a part of us. Let our ingrained habits and beliefs about money die away, so something new can take it’s place.

Okay. So we’ve got some lovely metaphors. But how do we do that? How do we “become ashes”?

This is where we can lean into what Nietzsche calls "experiments in living.". In "The Gay Science", he lays it out: "We ourselves must be the experiments and sacrificial animals of knowledge". to put it simply, we’ve got to try new shit. New experiences, lifestyles, and ways of being. That way, we can test our values, push our boundaries, and learn who we really are.

Even just buying shit

Even just buying stuff can teach us a lot about ourselves. Nietzsche writes in "On the Genealogy of Morality," "We are unknown to ourselves, we men of knowledge - and with good reason. We have never sought ourselves - how could it happen that we should ever find ourselves? It has rightly been said: 'Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also'; our treasure is where the beehives of our knowledge are." He’s saying our treasure - our self-knowledge, our true nature - is found through engaging in the world, not passive navel-gazing (remember the Underground Man?).

For example, for one person, shedding out cash for a watch might make them feel inspired by it’s beauty, or a reminder of their achievement that fuels their continued confidence to venture into the challenging unknown. For another, it could be a reminder of their over-compensation for their lack of intrinsic self-worth. By making inauthentic purchases, we start to see the darker parts of ourselves and realise where we need to grow.

Nietzsche wants us to treat life like one big fucking adventure, in which we have so much more to discover. In "Thus Spoke Zarathustra," he says "A thousand paths exist which have never yet been trodden; a thousand salubrities and hidden islands of life. Unexhausted and undiscovered is still man and man's world."

In "The Gay Science”, Nietzsche asks us to not give a shit what others think: "What is the seal of liberation? No longer being ashamed in front of oneself." If we don’t follow this advise, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot and preventing our personal growth.

Nietzsche’s Caution

But he also warns us to not let material shit become an end it itself, or a way to chase empty status. Our friend Zarathustra cautions us that "Many lands saw Zarathustra, and many peoples: thus he discovered the good and bad of many peoples. No greater power did Zarathustra find on earth than good and bad.” What’s he getting at here? The values and judgments we place on things, whether it's money, possessions, or even actions, are all relative to the society and context we find ourselves in. What's considered "good" in one culture might be seen as "bad" in another. It's all subjective. So fuck what society tells you is "good" or "bad”. If it’s always in flux, then it’s pointless, right?

We all know money is one of the most powerful forces. And for those of you who have read history, it it can come with a huge amount of evil. Summarised in one of my favourite quotes of Nietzsches in "Beyond Good and Evil,": "He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.". Evil is a sneaky bastard, and can infect those even with the best intentions.

We’ve got to stay vigilant against the siren song of empty consumerism. Our material possessions should serve us as genuine tools for self-creation, and not masters of our lives. That means constantly examining ourselves and reflecting on what how things we buy impact us in our ongoing "experiments in living”.


God bless you Nietzsche, you magnificent bastard.

In part 2, we’ll tackle another thinker. Until then: Keep acting. Keep experimenting. As Zarathustra declares in Nietzsche's magnum opus, "I teach you the Superman. Man is something that should be overcome. What have you done to overcome him?”

Peace out,


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