Eight minutes to financial success: Minute one
The first rule of financial success is that you should ask yourself, 'Do I need this?'
First, an explanation of this brief series.Skip to next paragraph
The Simple Dollar is a blog for those of us who need both cents and sense: people fighting debt and bad spending habits while building a financially secure future and still affording a latte or two. Our busy lives are crazy enough without having to compare five hundred mutual funds – we just want simple ways to manage our finances and save a little money.
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A few weeks ago, I was having a conversation with an occasional Simple Dollar reader about the challenges he was having with his financial recovery. At one point, he told me – and I’m paraphrasing here a bit – that the biggest challenge he had with personal finance is that he felt like getting himself into the right mindset was an incredibly lengthy challenge, one that required a lot of soul-searching and life evaluation.
To a big extent, I agree with this reader. My own journey from being a personal finance disaster to getting my act together was a rather long one, with fits and starts and lots of soul searching. I read piles of books. I did lots of soul searching. Eventually, I found my own path.
As I look back on it, though, I realize that most of that soul-searching came down to a few key elements. There were a handful of moments that I clearly recall where something “clicked” for me.
Those moments often led to a lot of introspection, but the introspection was much like the aftermath of the key revelation. That new idea would be a big part of my thoughts as I drove to and from work, while I was walking somewhere, and while I was drifting off to sleep. I would slowly digest this idea into my own life.
So, as the comment from the reader sunk into my own thoughts, I thought it might be worthwhile to point out those key thoughts I had that set me on a much better path. Most of these thoughts require just a little bit of observation or a quick action, so I quickly realized that most of these would take only a minute or so for the key thought to catch on – thus, “eight minutes to financial success.”
This series will run most of this week, but won’t disrupt any regularly scheduled posts (reader mailbags, pieces of inspiration, etc.). Let’s get started.
Back during my heavy-spending days, our apartment was jammed full of all kinds of stuff. Two overflowing racks of DVDs. A closet full of clothes. A small mountain of video games jammed into our entertainment center. Several large boxes full of sports cards and trading cards. A kitchen full of so many unnecessary cooking tools that we couldn’t close some of the cabinet doors. Shiny vehicles out in the parking area.
What I found was that the larger the number of my possessions grew, the lower my overall enjoyment of each item went. It took longer to manage them and clean them. I had less time to enjoy the items. Not only that, the rush of positive feelings I had whenever I added something new was smaller than it was before because it had become such a routine.
Not only that, these items were a huge money sink. If I spent, say, $50 on a game and played it for 50 hours, it wouldn’t be too bad of a bargain. If I spent $50 on a game and only played it for six hours, though, then it was a pretty poor bargain. The more things I had, the less time I had for each item I owned, so the cost per hour of enjoyment of everything went up. I didn’t have time to thoroughly enjoy all of the things I had. Plus, I was floundering in financial trouble.
Something had to change.
Ask Yourself “Do I Need This?”
When you’re at home tonight and feeling really comfortable, set aside one minute and try this simple experiment.