What Trash Art Can Teach About Money

I must admit that I wish I had more artistic talent. When there is an art piece that catches my eye, I can stare at it for hours wondering how the artist was able to visualize the final piece from the raw materials she decided to use. I also must admit that I have a special affinity for trash art — those creations that come from the stuff that most people wouldn’t consider worth anything.

As I was staring at a piece of trash art in San Francisco the other day, I was reminded that trash art can also show us some important messages about money. Here are a few worth considering:

It’s Not What You Have, But What You Do With What You Have

landfill trash art
(Photo courtesy of darinmarshall)

It’s easy to get frustrated when you see all the things that other people have, and wish that you had those things as well. Wouldn’t life be so much easier if you had the things that they had? While it’s true that you have less than some people, the fact is that there are many people that have far less than you do. What’s important to remember is that using creativity, hard work and a whole lot of determination, you can create something wonderful no matter how little you may have to start with.

Sure, the neighbor may have the ability to purchase every single raw material she needs to create the sculpture that she wants, but that doesn’t mean that it will be any more fascinating than one created with whatever materials you’re able to scrounge up and find. If a sculpture can be created out of the trash from a landfill that nobody else wanted, you have plenty of tools and resources at your disposal to create the financial life that you desire. If you’re having trouble with the creativity of how to begin, try emulating someone that has less than you.

Sometimes Having Less Is An Advantage

trash art elephant
(Photo courtesy of allfr3d)

Not having a lot of money right at this instance probably doesn’t seem like an advantage, but not having a lot of money teaches a lot of financial basics that will help ensure that you know how to handle and keep the money that you do accumulate in later years. The fact is that when you don’t have money, it’s essential to become creative in order to get the things that you need, and to accomplish your financial goals. If you have always been in a position where money has never been an issue and then suddenly it disappears, you will have a much more difficult time adapting than if you have faced similar situations in the past.

In addition, having less will also teach you that there is no reason to spend a lot of money on something when there is a perfectly good alternative at a cheaper price. Why go out and pay a small fortune for all the materials it would cost to build a giant elephant sculpture when that same elephant sculpture can be created from abundant driftwood at no cost?

Luck Has Little To Do With Building Wealth

trash art butterfly
(Photo courtesy of j.pauley)

There are certainly people that have money due to pure luck (think about being born into the correct family or lottery winners), but they are the exception to the rule. Most people who have created a financially stable life for themselves have learned that the best type of “luck” is long hours of hard work which often goes unnoticed until others see the stability and it appears to them that the success was somehow easy and instant.

Random pieces of trash don’t magically make themselves into a beautiful butterfly. It requires a lot of patience to gather up all the needed pieces. It takes a lot of planning to take the pieces and imagine what they can become. It takes a lot of hard work and time to arrange them in the correct way to finally create the beautiful piece. This is the truth with most things in life including your finances.

Others May Think You’re Crazy

pastic bag trash art
(Photo courtesy of 185Queens)

When you decide that it’s time to get your finances in order and you’re willing to do what it takes to make that happen, there is a high possibility that not everyone will agree or support you in your effort. This can be especially true when you make a financial decision that they may not understand or like. This doesn’t mean that it’s in your best interest to ignore other people’s opinions (the truth is that you should listen carefully to what they have to say and weigh it against what others have to say to come to a decision that is right for you), but it’s important to move toward your financial goals even when not everyone will agree with what you’re doing.

There would likely be a lot of people that would be embarrassed or feel that it was beneath them to go around gathering plastic bags. They may very well come and talk to you and ask you to stop because you are not only embarrassing yourself, but them as well. What they may fail to understand is that you aren’t collecting the plastic bags to pile them up as a mess in your house, but you’re gathering them because they are the foundation to turn into a polar bear work of art. In much the same way, saving small amounts where ever possible is often the foundation to getting out of debt.

Creatively Use What You Have

trash art tiger
(Photo courtesy of David Mach)

When you’re trying to get your finances in order, chances are that you are going to have limited resources to work with. When this is the reality, it’s important to consider alternative ways to use things which may not have been their original purpose. Being able to repurpose the things you have to accomplish the things you need can go a long way to helping you save money and get your finances in order.

Clothes hangers are meant to be used for hanging clothes. There are also a lot of other things that clothes hangers can be repurposed for to save money. They can also be turned into an awsome tiger with a bit of creativity.

While all of the above lessons are important, probably the biggest lesson is that inspiration to reach the financial goals you have can be found in everyday things that are all around you. No matter how little you may have at the moment, it doesn’t have to remain that way. It’s possible to take whatever you do have and create it into something beautiful.

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2 Responses to What Trash Art Can Teach About Money

  1. baselle says:

    I love this article. I’ve been fooling around with mosaics and in a sense what I’m doing is trash art. Its a mix of trash and finished materials. Its fun because not only is it that you are working with what you have but with what others toss away. Like value investing, you have to find the fun in being contrarian.

  2. Joan.of.the.Arch says:

    Cool, Jeffrey. The simile and the literal case are equally true here.

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