Many moons ago, I began my serial blog writing habit (seriously, I have like 5 of them in various states of defunct). The first blog I started was about money (of course) and I wrote about saving. I posted it on LiveJournal (and I’m totally dating myself) and I got this comment from a random dude:
Well, this is most definitely a noble cause you have here. Unfortunately, I think you’ll find that you will end up preaching to the choir here.
People in this country, especially college-aged people, don’t like managing their money. Look at the country as a whole- we have a ton of debt. I think that the people your blog will attract will be the people who already take an active stance in their finances to begin with.
The problem isn’t that the information isn’t out there- it’s everywhere. The problem is that “getting out of debt and investing” isn’t as sexy as “eat at nice restaurants all the time and buy flat screen TVs.”
Well damn. He’s right.
How DO I compete with flat screen TV’s and fancy dinners? But more importantly, how do YOU compete with them?
Saving and investing is not exactly sexy or cool or trendy amidst all the stuff you could have instead. It’s kind of like how we all know that eating right and exercising is obviously the best thing to do for our bodies and yet we’re one of the fattest nations in the world. Instant gratification is a survival instinct. When we saw a deer, we went after the deer so we could eat the deer. We didn’t save up to one day buy the deer so we could enjoy it in our retirement.
So how do human beings ever get anything done to begin with? Simple. We come up with a reason why we could really do without the deer today because there’s the promise of a buffalo tomorrow. You, as a modern, upright, technology-wielding, cell-phone toting, highly educated homo sapien need to ask yourself WHY you’re saving money in the first place. You’ve heard this since you were tots. Goal-setting, or being able to articulate your BIG WHY to yourself and your loved ones, is tantamount to your success.
What do I mean by your BIG WHY?
Most people who decide to start saving money because “they heard it was a good thing to do” and forget to ask themselves why they’re doing it usually end up blowing it on whatever deer comes along first. They end up doing this because saving all this money feels pointless and there is nothing more frustrating and demotivating to us humans as doing something that feels completely pointless. Remember all those word searches and crossword puzzles you did in high school for To Kill a Mockingbird? The ones that you copied from the smart girl in class right before 5th period? Yeah. That kind of pointless.
Your big why is your point. It’s your reason. Rarely is anyone’s real reason to accumulate wealth just that and if it is, the money doesn’t stick around for very long. Before you even BEGIN to start saving, you need to give yourself a reason why you’re going to do it in the first place. So over the next few days, ask yourself, why do I want to start really getting serious about managing my finances? Ask yourself:
What is my buffalo?
And this buffalo has to be huge. Not “I’m saving up to go on a trip to Europe in a year,” more like, “I want to get to a point in my life financially where I’m traveling four months out of the year.” It’s a whole different level of thinking It’s a scarier level of thinking because working towards the buffalo is no guarantee that you’ll get the buffalo. The deer’s already in front of you. You might go deeper into credit card debt to get it, but you’ll have it. The buffalo is literally a whole other animal and you have to think differently not only to attain it, but to even know that it’s a possibility.
The first step is to know what your buffalo looks like.
This way, when you do find it, you don’t mistake it for just another deer. So this is what you do: get some paper and a pen and write your goals down. All of them. Every single seemingly impossible thing you could think of that you’d love to have in your life. Do an if-money-were-no-object sort of scenario. Then stick it on your wall. I’m serious. Don’t give me — or yourself — the I-have-it-in-my-head excuse. Put it up. Cross things out. Add things. Look at it a lot. It might stop you from going after that deer or buying that $100 pair of shoes next time. Or not. That’s okay too. We all need a huge chunk of venison once in a while.
But if what you wrote down doesn’t stop you more often than it does, you need a new buffalo. Finding your buffalo takes time. It means evaluating and re-evaluating what you really value. When you really discover what that is, it will be that much easier to walk away from those shoes, that latte, this dinner, and that flat screen TV because you’ll be walking towards a different life instead.