Tiny Wisdom: What Makes Us Rich

“If you realize that you have enough, you are truly rich.” ~Lau Tzu

In the Pixar movie Up, Carl and Ellie save all their lives to visit Paradise Falls only to realize they’re never able to save enough. Every time they build a substantial nest egg, life happens and they need to spend it.

This is a reality I know all too well. Several months back I told my boyfriend it frustrates me that every time I come into an unexpected sum of money, a need emerges to use it.

One time I got an extra freelance gig and suddenly needed a thousand dollars in dental work. Another time, I sold more ad space than usual and then found out I needed expensive work on my old car.

After my apartment was broken into last month, I was excited to realize I’d receive a substantial amount in renter’s insurance. I planned to only replace the items I needed and save the rest of the money—something I was looking forward to since my taxes cost more than I’d anticipated this year.

Then I realized that check was just enough to cover my recent surgery, my upcoming quarterly taxes, and my flight home this week.

Almost every time I’ve gotten extra cash, I’ve needed to spend it, which has made it seem like I can never really get “ahead.”

Recently, I took a close look at my frustration and realized I’d been seeing things all wrong. I wasn’t unlucky for always having reasons to spend unexpected money. I was fortunate for always having that money to pay for unexpected needs.

I’ve always felt safe knowing I have a solid savings—and I’m rebuilding it slowly—but the reality is I am secure.

Most of us are. We can pay our rent. We can afford our necessities. And maybe we can even treat ourselves to the little pleasures we enjoy, occasionally or often.

We may not always feel like we’re getting ahead, but maybe there’s nowhere to get to. Maybe all we need to do is be grateful for our overall comfort.

I realize there are some people who don’t have enough, and for each of us, there will be times when we’re struggling more than usual.

That’s why we owe it to ourselves to stop and recognize what we have when we have it. No matter what that is, we could always have more. We’re only rich when we stop to celebrate that we don’t actually need it.

Photo by slightly everything

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest bookTiny Buddha's Gratitude Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for purchase. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram..

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  • Oh so true…I’ve been thinking a lot about this very thing the last couple of weeks. I have been blessed with more recently and have noticed the same thing…there are more things that come up to pay for. But I have enough, more than enough. Thank you for the reminder to be thankful to be able to pay for unexpected expenses and to enjoy the ability to handle them instead of worrying about getting ahead.
    I am rich with blessings of all sorts. 

  • Linnaeab

    We may not always feel like we’re getting ahead, but maybe there’s nowhere to get to.
    yes, we are already here.

  • Lakshmimurali

    Have had similar experiences. I have worried in the past about certain bills needing to be paid. Within a few days I have some funds that came in from sources I had either forgotten about or felt that money owed to me would not be returned . I have said a big THANK YOU every time. Now I try not to worry too much and know and feel that everything  will be alright.

  • “You can’t always get what you wantBut if you try sometimes you just might findYou just might findYou get what you need.” ~ Rolling Stones

    I often ask people, “What if you get what you want and it isn’t what you need?” I ask that of myself so I temper what I ask for. Now that I have taken care of my needs, I find it almost compulsory to evolve into asking for abundance…something that has eluded me. Perhaps I limit that in petitioning whom or whatever I tend to petition. It’s a mindset that has to change before setting sail so I have an ocean before me instead of straits.

    Mindsets about finances are set early in childhood, and carried over easily into later years. I often wonder, should I be grateful for merely getting by or having enough to get me through one crisis or another? At what point do I deliberately and meritoriously ask for more? Gratitude for what I have is one thing, a desire for abundance is another.

    Determination and follow-through are addressed by many life coaches and personal transformation courses, available wherever one looks. It all starts inside, in knowing that we all deserve abundance. We start life growing, and do so until the lights go out. We are also the only ones who can limit that growth. If there’s a cycle that occurs in that pursuit, there is a way to make it or break it.

    “We’re only rich when we stop to celebrate that we don’t actually need it.” And I express gratitude each day I can say that. Then, I think, I can give so much more if only I had more. It gives me incentive. It gives me purpose.

    ~ Mark

  • prestonc

    Boy, can I identify with this particular “oh-no-not-again” syndrome. For many years, it manifested for us as cars needing urgent repairs at Christmas time, as if they were saying “don’t forget us.” 

    Lately, though, it has a different manifestation. Last year my wife’s preacher convinced us to go on a 28-day cruise, saying the money would appear for us. Sure enough, I was offered, unsolicited from a friend, a three-month contract that paid for the cruise. This year, we planned a 10-day cruise, and sure enough another friend found a two-month contract for me.

    Now I’m wondering if the only way I can get a job is to continue to plan cruises. 🙂

  • Reetsoo

    That’s how life has always worked for me. Thank you for the wisdom to look at it in a different prospective 🙂

  • Bobo

    This has given me a new perspective and for that I am thankful

  • Hello Mark,

    I was going to make a general comment about Lori’s post. But what you wrote here is more specific. So responding to you directly would help me shape my concept.

    I’m sure you noticed that having “enough” rarely has anything to do with the degree of abundance (or surplus of wealth). No matter how much money and possessions people have, there is always a justification for having more. Accumulation of wealth and power seems to be a human drive across the board. Kazillionaires can always buy another company, or island! A bag lady can always stuff one more piece of junk into her shopping cart.

    I’m the same way too. I’m middle class but by world standards, I’m wealthy. Still, not THAT wealthy. I must make choices everyday as to what I can do or have now and what must wait for later. What waits for later is not what I NEED, but what I WANT.

    So the questions are: when is ENOUGH enough and who determines that?

    Answers: ENOUGH is relative. No surprises there, but WHO determines how wealthy we should be, is OURSELVES.

    If you believe as I believe: that what one asks for, and EXPECTS, and DESERVES, is what one gets, then logic tells us that our expectations and moral convictions, to a great extent, determines the wealth factor we set for ourselves.

    Do you equate money and power with corruption and negative controls? Because if you do, as I do, you may be limiting your potential without realizing it. The connection is subtle, and it’s subconscious, and it’s hard to get past, but I think this is one way people end up with not enough, or getting just what they need.


  • Hi Irving. I equate money and power with struggle. It was set like that in my mind long before I knew I had a choice. From that time hence it has been a struggle. From mismanagement to utter sabotage of my own successes, I never conquered, or dispersed, what was drummed into me before I even reached my teens. Strife in the family, particularly as the subject of heated arguments between my parents, are my earliest memories of money.

    What you say is true. I know this with my heart. I viewed a Tapping (EFT) video last week and this subject was the one addressed. I followed along with the exercise and, lo and behold, I could envision myself, even the shirt I was wearing, as I heard my parents arguing over “not having enough”. To further etch that in my mind, I recall my father’s caustic comments about my grandfather’s always coming up with the money needed whenever it was most sorely needed. Another negative connotation.

    Now, I find I am much like my grandfather…I get what I need when I need it. Often, like Lori, I get it *before* I need it. This is almost putting me into a hoarding mode. I, of course, have little to hoard. But it is the inherent attitude therein that I believe is keeping me from moving forward into abundance. As long as I have just what I need I will not have more so I can share and do more. In whatever parlance this is expressed, the outcome is the same. Hoarding, having “just enough” and getting by are dams in the flow of abundance. As long as I have this mindset the results are going to be the same.

    Kinda takes me to the quote, “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” I have a few more bowlines to cast away before I set full sail on the ocean of plenty. I know that. What I truly NEED to do is to remove a deep loathing of money and achieving what you’ve stated, “The connection is subtle, and it’s subconscious, and it’s hard to get past, but I think this is one way people end up with not enough, or getting just what they need.”

    Thanks for your input.

    ~ Mark

  • This is beautiful. I feel like I’ve seen this happen in my life…that something good falls into my lap right before I’m going to need it.

  • Thanks Lori,

    It really is all about our perspective. I once saw the prayer ‘may you always have enough.’ At the time I wasn’t impressed but as I thought about it the prayer really grew on me Searching for “more than enough” can stop me from feeling the joy of the moment. I am happy for you and am glad that you have always had enough.


  • Wow what a wonderful story! I’ve been hearing similar stories a lot lately–kind of like, “Leap and the net will appear.” I love when that happens. =)

  • Thanks so much Susan. It’s funny how sometimes it’s the simplest messages that are the most powerful, when you really think about them.

  • You’re most welcome Bobo!

  • Thanks Sage. How wonderful that you’ve experienced this as well!

  • You’re most welcome. Thank you for reading and commenting. =)

  • That’s a great way to be! I try to stop myself when I start worrying and remind myself, “Everything always turns out okay.” It always does eventually!

  • Kathy

    I really enjoyed this post. I also think the idea of enjoying ‘enough’ is not just about money, but time, love, firendships etc. Sometimes friendly advice materialises when you most need it, an old friend makes contact out of the blue. I’ve had projects that I’ve been stressed about, worrying I wouldn’t have enough time to complete, and suddenly the project schedule or the outcomes required have changed and I’ve found myself with breathing space (worry is always wasted of course). I think it is natural to always want more love in our lives, but we can choose to see it as infinite always. I was talking with my almost 9 year old daugter, who we adopted, about the infinity of love last night – we’ve always talked about this concept. She’s really processing some of her feelings about adoption at the moment, and she was comfortable enough to ask me ‘What if I loved my parents in China more than you?”. I told her that would be OK as love is infinite and I’m sure she had enough love to go around for us too. Then she told me she had lots of love and she loved us the best.

  • I so understand this post. And it’s true. It’s all in our perception. Tweak the way you look at things and you see blessings rather than hardships.

    Julieanne CaseAlways from the heart!Reconnecting you to your Original Blueprint, Your Essence, Your Joy| Healing you from the Inside Out |Reconnective Healing | The Reconnection| Reconnective Art |

  • Great point Kathy! Things have a way of working out. That’s wonderful you talk to your daughter in the way you do–and that she feels comfortable to express her feelings, thoughts, and fears, She’s fortunate to have a loving mother who teaches her there’s more than enough love to go around. =)

  • Dewonjohnsmtn

    My old Granny always said “What’s good for you is not what you like, but what you GOT”

  • This reminds me of frustrations that I’ve had over the last two years about saving money. I tried to save for a car (a used one, at that!) at least three times and each time, the money that I planned on using for the car was spent on other expenses. When viewing it from the perspective that you laid out here, I guess I’m lucky to live in a huge city that not only offers public transportation but also has taxi cabs and shared car companies and other alternatives to owning a car. 

    Also, when I couldn’t move in to an apartment that I wanted last year, I planned on saving the deposit to put toward the production budget of a feature length script I want to make into a film…but I ended up needing to spend that money on rent and bills, etc. so I viewed it as going down the drain. However, I had air conditioning last summer, so I guess, despite my having to use money that I wanted to save, I was doing better than many other people who only had fans to cool themselves in the warm weather.

  • It sounds like we’ve had some similar experiences! That’s great you’re able to get around so easily without a car. I sold my old car before moving to LA (as odd as that may sound considering the limited public transportation here) and I love the freedom of having no car-related bills. Insurance and gas really add up!

  • Erin

    I love this post because I can relate as well. Every time I find a little extra money, it is spent almost immediately. My mother just recently found some old bonds that are mine and now I have to cash them to pay for my car registration. I was upset at having to cash them before they matured, but she reminded me that’s what they are for. We thought we had cashed all of them when I bought my car two years ago, but these surfaced right when I was running low on cash and needed a little extra money. Things come when we need them most and instead of grieving that we have to spend them or use them, we should be thankful that they appeared to help us in the first place. 

  • That’s great that you’ve developed this mindset as well! I know I feel a greater sense of peace in looking at things a little differently.

  • wlski

    During the past nine months my life has been turned upside down.  At first it was the most devastating time of my life, but as time continues to pass I’m learning that this situation was presented to me so that I can revive the true me.  I have a renewed faith that everything happens for a reason.  I’ve learned that if I just calm down and breathe I will have the clarity I need to make honest decisions for me and my children that will undoubtedly lead to real happiness.  I have met so many wonderful people just as I needed them.  I’ve discovered articles that I never would have known existed before.  So many things have been unfolding in front of me, all I have to do is just ask and believe. 

    I enjoy this website and I am thankful to have stumbled into it, just as I needed it.

  • I think it’s so inspiring that you’ve seen your recent challenges as an opportunity to revive the true you. And I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the site! 

  • Muhammad Muzammal Ahsan

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  • Muhammad Muzammal Ahsan

    Can I identify with this particular “oh-no-not-again” syndrome. For many years, it manifested. Tarot relationship readings

  • NoResolution

    We always want more cause our ego demands it and enough is never enough. And life can be pretty unfair about things too. I may get off topic slightly to understand my point. I once had a great job for ten years. I made very good money. Had a decent car, buying a house, etc and then one day I lost that job when I got laid off. I went through some very hard and dark times, but I learned a lesson about what was really important. My daughter’s mother abandoned us when she was two years old.

    She lived her life anyway she pleased and inherited a million dollars while I struggled to take care of our daughter. She never wrote her or called her until she was maybe 15.

    Long story short I admit I resented this and the pain of her leaving made me very bitter. I was ungrateful for having my daughter in my life because all I thought about was her mother giving up responsibility and how I had to do it alone. I was good to our daughter and I loved her and took care of her but missed the importance of it until she was older and graduated.

    I may not have had a million dollars but I was rich in other ways and didn’t even know it because money was important and my pain and selfishness was important. I raised my daughter because I felt I had to than embracing it for what it was, but when I lost everything I seen it.

    A sad thing to admit, but the truth is I learned from it. So my point is;being rich, just having enough, not having enough, having nothing is a mindset to what is truly what you really have when it’s right in front of you.

    As for when extra money comes and then suddenly you need to use it for some reason I can relate to that. The universe is just helping is out when we are not expecting it and free of worry before the worry happens.