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Nutella Money

It’s those little things in life that sometimes do wonders to give us perspective. All of our housemates where in the kitchen the other night talking about the fact that we just got a nice (and much needed) tax return.

I jokingly said, “Yeah, I actually almost splurged and bought some Nutella! But I didn’t.”

Nutella is an Italian chocolaty spread made from hazelnuts. It’s admittedly odd that we hold it in such high regard. It costs $5.75 at the grocery (Nakumatt).

It was interesting to analyze the reality that four financially independent, early 30s, world travelers were all in agreement that:

A)     Nutella was a suitable splurge to celebrate a financial victory.
B)     Spending $5.75 to celebrate is a bit excessive.

That led me to realizing some other similar realities. In Mombasa, in our group of friends, we expect that a meal should not exceed 200 Shillings ($2.30). If it does, it’s “too expensive”. For the most part, we shoot for about $1.00 per meal each.

It’s interesting how your perspective changes when the money you make has true purpose. We don’t view money merely as a way to buy things for ourselves. It’s a tool used to obtain food, clean water, freedom of oppression and cures for diseases. Contributing to those solutions is what brings us joy.

If money exists to bring us joy, you have to ask yourself, “what brings me joy?” Is it buying stuff for myself, or ensuring that the 18 Glue Kids on my street have food in their bellies tonight?

When you’re living in that setting, the answer is pretty clear. It’s when you’ve completely removed yourself from that level of humanity that things become cloudy. And eventually it becomes easier to justify selfish desires over serving others.

Most money conversations that are had in developed nations such as the United States revolve around house mortgages, new cars, designer clothes, cosmetic surgery, makeup and other personal things.

We need money to survive. And life is more than just surviving. But the things I care about most have nothing to do with money. My happiness comes from relationships and serving others. I’m not a martyr. I’m not suffering. And I’m not saying you’re a bad person when you buy a pair of nice jeans.

I believe money can bring us joy when we use it wisely. I believe it is to be used to buy things that that bring us closer to humanity, as well as put clothes on our own backs.

Money only has the power that we give it.

If I have the choice to spend $20 on a meal for myself, or $20 on a meal that will feed 5 kids, and myself, I’ll pick the latter. Why? Because it brings me joy.

Much like Nutella, money is better when shared.


  1. Sutton Parks on July 20, 2011 at 7:26 AM

    This reminds me of the ending of Schindler’s List, where the man starts listing his material possessions and how many Jewish lives he could have spared from death in the concentration camps. I think his pin would have saved 2 lives.

    It’s easy to live an isolated life in America. I read the other day 40% of the world does not have toilets. I even read of something called a flying toilet. Living out of my car I had my choice of clean toilets all over Franklin, TN. The W.H.O. said 120 people in America died from lack of food, but it is hard to track since it is rare. The CDC says 112,000 Americans die each year from obesity related diseases.

    Perhaps money is too easy to get here. I can clean for an hour and buy you Nutella, feed 10 kids and then clean for another 15 hours that week and easily support myself in America. Perhaps there is disillusionment. I’m glad you wrote this so I can reflect and ask myself, “What brings me joy?” Certainly, the apologetic words of Schindler wouldn’t bring anyone joy, “I could have gotten one more person… and I didn’t! And I… I didn’t! “

  2. Jared Angaza on July 20, 2011 at 9:36 AM

    Thanks for this insight Sutton. Yes, I think it’s pretty easy to be in the “American Bubble”, which generally results in a very skewed perspective of priorities and money. When I think of money, my FIRST thought is of how much good I could do with it, not what I can buy with it. But I am also operating from a mindset that constantly believe that I will always have the money I need to live off of. And consequently, I do.

    A lot of this just has to do with people’s relationship with money. For too many people, money rules them, not the other way around. And that’s where things get out of hand. At the end of the day, I think you gain the power to do a lot of good with money only after you have established a healthy view, and consequent relationship, with money.

  3. Jeff Jones on July 20, 2011 at 3:15 PM

    Good word Jared. Sometimes we are so removed in the US from other parts of the world we loose prespective. There is a possibility I will be climbing Mt. .Kilimanjaro with my band via World Vision in Jan. I know I am not prepared for what I will learn, but I am hopeful.

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