I’ll be the first person to tell you that you should save money. If we go shopping together, I’ll probably try to talk you out of buying a few items with phrases such as “Yeah but do you REALLY need it?” or “Don’t you already have a pair of black winter boots?”
I do this in pretty much every aspect of my life. Growing up with a scarcity mindset has caused much of this. You know, the whole idea that there just isn’t enough to go around.
It wasn’t really anyone’s fault—a lot of people think like this. Myself definitely included.
But lately, I’ve been trying to quit. You know why? Because it doesn’t make me happy. Sometimes, opting to spend less is the wrong choice.
The Opportunity Cost Outweighs the Minor Expenditure
You spend 45 minutes debating on whether or not you should buy a $1 headband. Poor decision.
I literally did this a few weeks ago. My rationale was that I didn’t want to waste something if I wasn’t really going to use it, and I also couldn’t decide on a color. For all the time I wasted standing inside of Forever 21, I could have just bought a couple of them and gone and earned back that money somewhere else—my time is worth much more than $1/45mins!
You End Up Buying Really Crappy Things
Poor quality items and services will eventually eat up your time and cause you more hassle in the long run.
In the race to save a buck, it can get awfully easy to skimp on quality. Just buy that lamp that costs $10 less, and the cheap plastic might melt on you after about a year of use. Worth it? Probably not if you have to buy a new lamp every year.
You waste money and resources in the long term because you don’t just lose the lamp—you also lose the time it takes to dispose of the old one and go buy a new one.
You Don’t Buy the Things You Truly Want
Of course, I’m all for saving money when you’ll be just as happy taking part in a free event versus a paid event, or using a cotton t-shirt for a casual gym workout instead of buying the newest Nike shirt with sweat-wicking technology (because I prefer the feel of cotton while working out, and that’s fine by me).
Sometimes I’m most comfortable using things I feel like I can’t break or ruin. (That’s part of the reason why I got a used car with a couple of scratches and dents already on the thing—so there’d be less of a flinch factor as I’m driving my car.)
When spending money pays off substantially
I used to throw money into my interests like website creation—I bought my domain name, and hosting for my personal website (this one). At the time, I was a student without a regular income, so it was hard to front the money.
This simple experience of being able to play around with a website and all of the nuances that go along with setting one up has paid huge dividends in my professional life. I’ve been hired in freelance capacities to help small businesses work on their websites, and it’s been an asset in my day job where I can manipulate HTML and CSS to update our marketing materials as needed.
Essentially, I’ve made my initial investment back…and many times over.
Another way I’ve spent money and have seen an even larger return on investment is through purchasing books—I’ve made a rule for myself that if I have interest in a book and it’s available for Kindle, I will allow myself to buy it without thought if it’s under $20. This is a heuristic that has paid off for me because I spend little to no time debating with myself about whether or not it’s worth it (therefore not losing the opportunity cost of my time).
I expect that the most I would ever spend on books in any given year is about $500 max. That’s a very small investment given the insights I’ve gotten by reading them. I read several personal finance books one year and that has led me to be extremely automated in the way I handle my finances, allowing me to save, invest, and spend pretty much guilt-free.
The key for me is to identify what I believe to be good investments (hint: these usually involve learning or paying to experience a process) so that I’m not wasting my time trying to decide whether it’s right for me.
Secondly, I sometimes need to force myself to spend the money when my logical mind is telling me it’s a good idea. Emotionally, sometimes I’m too conflicted.
So there’s today’s lesson. Spend more money on yourself. The likelihood of it paying off (as long as you have reasonably good judgment) is huge.
The picture above is from Lake Fenwick. We spent an afternoon at this lake, just enjoying the autumn scenery. The day was perfect because the sky was clear, and the air was crisp, so a bit of hiking didn’t feel uncomfortably warm. The views were breathtaking.
If you ask me what I like to do, I would definitely say that long walks in nature are on the top of my list. Being in nature is so different from spending time at the mall–the former rejuvenates your thoughts and your soul, while the latter only serves to take away from your willpower and makes you tired.
I really think we’re meant to be out in nature much more often than we are. In 2014, I’m going to make it a point to be outdoors more because I can tell that it makes a difference in lowering my stress levels.
What are your thoughts? Do you feel happier after a walk in nature?
There are endless possibilities facing you at this moment.
Don’t waste time imagining barriers between you and your dreams.
In less than 30 seconds, you could be naked in the street, flailing your arms around and singing at the top of your lungs–if you wanted to.
In less than 5 minutes, you could start a blog, write about things that matter and connect with people all over the world–if you wanted to.
In less than an hour, you could have your photos developed. (No, just kidding. Does 1hr photo development still exist anymore?) But you could create and upload a video tutorial on something you know about and share it with millions of potential viewers on YouTube–if you wanted to.
In less than a day, you could come up with a viable business idea and start acting on it–if you wanted to.
In less than a week, you could raise money for a charitable organization of your choice–if you wanted to.
In less than a month, you could write a book–if you wanted to.
In less than a year, you could intimately learn a hobby (tennis, salsa, web coding) of your choice–if you wanted to.
In less than 5 years, you could be excruciatingly close to your dream self–if you wanted to.
What are you waiting for?
If you want to change your life, you need to discard your limiting beliefs.
Stand in the presence of someone who has created a lot, and you will find that they don’t carry around negative self-beliefs. Sure, they may get nervous before releasing their work, but never do they use their imperfections as an excuse not to create their masterpieces.
Do yourself a favor and let yourself go for your highest aspirations.
But don’t be stupid about it.
Here are some suggestions that will change your life for the better, if you don’t already do these things.
Admit to yourself that you don’t know everything, and learn from those who know more than you. The easiest way to start doing this is to read. In the past year, I’ve been reading as many personal finance books as I could get my hands on. This taught me some basic tenets of personal finance, something that I think will serve me well all my life.
You can find inspirational and instructional material in books, blogs, videos, podcasts, and just about any other print or electronic source you can think of. These will help you grow as a person.
Beyond reading, actively seeking life experience will move you from the ignorant crowd, to the cultured and knowledgeable individual. Having new experiences whenever possible will broaden your viewpoint and allow you to be more sympathetic with other people–a vital component to networking.
Another aspect to gaining experience is to simply work on a project that interests you. While working on said project, you’ll tackle problems that you would have never imagined existed. But afterwards, you’ll be stronger and more confident in your ability to solve problems that crop up.
You’d be amazed at how many people never consciously reach this stage. They never decide to put the work into something they care about, and release it to the world unless a superior is breathing down their neck.
It’s okay if you’re one of these people who chooses to consume instead of create. But let me explain why I think creating something is so important.
When you have a tangible project on your horizon, a creation in progress, you get to refine all sorts of skills that you never knew would be associated with the project. You could be forced to utilize skills such as time management, copywriting, design, collaboration, initiative, and public speaking, just to mention a few. And in the process of creating something, you’ll get better insight into what type of person you are–where your weaknesses/strengths lie, your level of persistence, and you’ll surprise yourself with what kinds of hidden abilities you have.
You will be proud of your work. And you and the world will be forever changed because of it.
**If you’re looking for some great ways to get started implementing these ideas, then check out my Resources section of the blog.
For those of you who don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, you can read about it here. It stands for National Novel Writing Month and takes place every year, in November. And just like clockwork, every year come November, thousands of people take part in it and write a 50,000 word novel in one month. The best thing about it is that people don’t/can’t/won’t drop their normal everyday lives, jobs, or kids to complete this challenge. They just make time to write their novel every day for thirty days.
Sounds crazy? Maybe it is.
This year, after gaining a writing buddy, I decided to take part and let the fun begin! After momentarily freaking out about an hour ago when NanoWriMo started (12am on November 1st), I wondered to myself what would make this commitment hold strong? How could I possibly finish this?
Well, here’s a quick procrastinatory article before I actually start on my novel. 😉
You’ve got to be insanely motivated. You’ve got to want to finish this project, and you’ve got to want it bad.
Simple, but true.
Have you heard of that research study about children and marshmallows that predicted whether or not they would do well on the SATs when they grew older? The study goes like this: elementary-aged children were put in a testing room and told by a researcher not to eat a marshmallow until the researcher came back, after which they would get two marshmallows instead. Basically, if a child was able to wait a long time before eating the marshmallow, their SAT scores would be higher than that of those who were unable to wait.
I think this has to do, in part, with discipline and the strength of your mind. I know that sometimes I have a hard time resisting the urge to eat my food if it’s already sitting in front of me, but it depends on the situational factors whether I’ll go ahead and eat it right away or not. If situational factors outweigh my desire to eat the food, I will not eat my meal. A situational factor might be that I consider it rude to eat my meal before other peoples’ meals have arrived if we are sitting in a restaurant.
You’ve got to create the easiest possible environment for yourself and make it the most conducive to reaching your goal. I’ve got a dedicated space to write for my novel, and my own laptop. I think that’s a good start. Now I just need to carve out a time that works for me. The goal is about 1600 words per day for me to be able to complete my novel on time.
I’m glad I’ve got my sister to complain to and chat with if things start getting fuzzy in my journey to write a novel in a month. I know she’s great support and I can count on her for soothing my fears and worries away.
There’s also the forums of NaNoWriMo which might prove useful or a hindrance, depending on how often I lurk around there.
Finding a support group is immensely helpful when it comes to big projects that suck up lots of your time and energy. I think this one will be worth it (again referring back to my motivation for this project). Maybe you’ll decide to join me. If not, hopefully you’ve gleaned something useful from the 3-part series of steps I’m taking to write something as big as this novel.
Wish me luck, I’m off to write my first day’s worth of words!
I’ve learned from the public school system that failing is bad. Really bad. Like if I fail a class something unspeakable and scary will happen to me. So, I always played it safe and tried my hardest not to fail.
But how does this advice play out when you enter the “real world” and you’re trying, for instance, to start a business?
In the business world, this advice sucks! It doesn’t speak to the methods of businesses, nor the risk-taking mentality of entrepreneurs.
If you want to do something right, you’re going to have to fail. Let go of your fear of failure, rejection, consternation. To truly be in this world, and not just survive in this world, requires a certain amount of failure.
When I first found out about this idea that failure is a completely normal thing in the world, and that most successful people have gone through a lot of it, I was shocked. I couldn’t believe that the things we learned in school were so counter-intuitive to the way that the world works. Isn’t that the whole premise of an “education,” is that we’re supposed to be educated about real world effects on our lives?
Despite the fact that I was kept in the dark for so long about the actual benefits of failure, I wanted to make sure that I share this with as many people as possible.
Until you fail, you won’t know what doesn’t work. I say, let’s “err and share” together! Go out and fail, and report what you learned here in the comments section.