The older I get the more I’ve realized that living below your means, once you’ve achieved a certain level of economic stability, is the ultimate form of freedom.
Living below your means is akin to a startup burning less cash than it brings in, and opens up the magic doors of optionality. It creates an environment in which risk/reward of a specific initiative can be without the pressure of failure. In effect, it gives you a financially supported pyschological safety.
This is where leverage becomes a great judge. Just as much as I pay attention to the money in (investment returns, income, etc), I look at ways of increasing leverage for all the money out. This quickly filters out the material trappings as a good use of money.
In a time of year when consumer culture is on full display, I find a lot of happiness in not trying keep up with any Joneses.