Epictetus on True Wealth and Frugality

Epictetus was a simple man. For a simple life corresponded to his idea of a good life. Some views and beliefs Epictetus had from the traditions of earlier Stoics, but he himself also had a significant influence on Stoicism. Many of his ideas and quotes are still very well known today.

We will take a closer look at the meaning of one of these quotes in this article:

"Wealth consists not in possessing much, but in needing little."


Since time immemorial, prosperity (or wealth) has been important to us. Our thoughts often revolve around how to achieve prosperity and a lot of energy is spent on it. What is often forgotten, however, is to deal with what prosperity is in the first place.

Nowadays, it seems that prosperity is equated with luxury. If we look at our consumption-driven world, it's no wonder. We are constantly flooded with information about what we need and without which we have no prosperity accordingly.

But it is a fallacy that the amount of one's wealth depends on the amount of possessions. According to Epictetus, prosperity is achieved by having few demands. This may seem a bit counter-intuitive at first, but on closer inspection, it is very plausible - and a true life hack.

It becomes clear that Epictetus was proposing a different perspective than was common (even at the time). And this is where it gets exciting:

If we manage to be satisfied with little, we have the advantage of being able to maintain this status comparatively easily.

In a nutshell, you could say that low aspirations give you the option of not having to take the best-paying job, but the one you actually like better. You can find here my article, by discussing this and other benefits in more detail.

How to lower your claims

Mentally getting to the point where you really have few demands is not easy and takes time. The culprit here is that we typically have a lifetime of influence behind us, where we've been trimmed into thinking we need everything. And a lot of everything.

My tip to work on you here is to do a kind of piecemeal fasting:

  • Find areas where you want less
  • Select an area and start to reduce actively
  • Work on this area until you have it under control
  • Choose the next area that is more important to you

This step-by-step approach has several advantages. Not only will you experience success more quickly (keyword: milestone motivation), but you will also minimize the risk of feeling overwhelmed and throwing in the towel. But you will also have the opportunity to gain experience that cutting down makes your life easier and feels good. And I guarantee you: it does. There is hardly a more liberating feeling than not defining yourself by material possessions anymore and spending a lot of energy to get them.

When you have reached this point mentally, however, you must maintain a certain attention to your thoughts. If you notice that external influences begin again to awaken the desire in you to strive for more things, it is important to analyze these thoughts and classify them for what they are: Manipulation attempts that do not correspond to your own conviction.

If minimalism is hard for you, you can find here Luke's article on this topicwho will explain to you why this is so.

Few demands can also help you interpersonally

By the way, the quote can also be applied to more than just material things. Having few demands can also be a good guide in other areas. For example, it can save you a lot of grief and worry if you don't expect your fellow human beings to always treat you kindly and courteously or to always be honest with you. This is because these demands are contrary to human nature, and it is likely that our fellow human beings will not live up to them.

So this quote gives us the recipe to achieve true prosperity. I am far from having fully implemented it, but over the years I have managed to adapt many areas of my life accordingly and have no regrets.

I have the luxury to be content without many things and not to expect much from my fellow men (of course I am happy if I have it nice with them - but if not that is also okay).

It is no surprise, by the way, that such words were handed down by Epictetus. The former slave, after being expelled from Rome by the Roman Emperor Nero, decided to open a school in what is now Greece and taught there until the day he died. He lived a frugal and humble life and He drew his joy and fulfillment from the simple things: Sharing with others and moving the spirit.

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