In which I get a bit philosophical

September 12, 2008 at 2:26 pm 3 comments

This may come across as kind of preachy. If that’s going to rub you the wrong way, feel free to skip it, or just read the parts outside the stars.

I used to be a really bad student. I would miss classes, skip assignments, turn things in late, etc. I took some time off school, and when I came back I decided to be better. I knew I was never going to be one of those students who did assignments early, took neat notes in class, used colored tabs to mark up readings and read the optional additional readings. But I decided to pretend that I was. I stopped using random scraps of loose leaf or mini notebooks. Instead, I bought full-sized folders and notebooks. I bought colored tabs. I took notes all through class, even when those notes said things like, “This makes no sense,” or “I’m SO HUNGRY!”

You’ve probably figured this out by now, but it took me a while. There was no real difference between pretending to be a good student and being one. I was never going to be as much of an overachiever academic superstar as people like my old roommate, but I was a good student.

*

I often hear people say things about how they wish they could do something. I’ve said it myself. “I wish I could get up and run every morning like you.” [Note: not like me, I am lazy.] “I wish I could go back to school.” Or give up soda, or learn French, or whatever. A lot of times I see this lately with money things, either in terms of wishing to afford to do something or wishing to pay off debt or save. And the thing is, you usually can do these things.

Sometimes you can’t. Someone with physical limitations may actually not be able to get up every day, for example, and there are some things you will just never be able to afford in certain circumstances. But mostly people mean that they wish they were the kind of people who did these things. They wish they were someone who saved, or had credit card discipline, or went back to school, or ran or whatever. All it takes to be that kind of person is to actually do it. It might mean giving other things up, and it might not be enough of a priority for you that it is worth giving those things up. If you want to run every morning, you might have to not go out with friends every night so you can get to bed earlier. And that might not be worth it. But then you can recognize that you’ve made that choice and are choosing what is more important to you.

This seems really obvious in budgeting. If you want money for a trip to Europe, or retirement, or a Wii or whatever, you might have to say no to there things you enjoy that cost money. The thing is that most people make this decision without thinking about it. I know people who say they can’t afford to travel but spend tons of money on new gadgets, or people who say they wish they had the money to go out to dinner more but are always buying new clothing.

There’s nothing wrong with those choices, but you need to recognize that you are making them. All it takes to be someone with the money to travel is to decide to be that person. If that were really the highest priority for you, you could be homeless, or work three jobs, or eat rice and beans for every meal (with some vegetables and fruit please) to get there.

*

Before I started saving I wished could save, but I just didn’t make enough money. I only started saving when I became concerned that I wouldn’t be able to pay my rent if I didn’t save up some extra. Now that I’ve started saving I am managing to pay my new high rent without using up my savings, so far at least. I go out to dinner less, I don’t buy new clothing, and every once in a while I’ve said no to something because while I had the money, I had bigger plans for it. I was able to save because I decided to.

Of course, writing out a budget or tracking expenses really helps with the reality of this.

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Entry filed under: budget. Tags: .

Sunshine & Snowflakes Goals Update

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Bluemilker  |  September 12, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    To further emphasize your point, there’s a lot of evidence in cognitive psychology that the phenomenon you’re talking about even applies to qualities that people don’t normally consider to be under their control at all, like “happy” or “friendly.” One of the best ways to become who or what you want to be is to fake it, until it sticks.

  • 2. debtfreesaver  |  September 12, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    How…freaky yet awesome. And also, explains why all those goth kids are so so sad.

  • 3. Ali  |  September 14, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    Also, how we all think we’re shy and no one else thinks we are cuz we’re so good at faking it.

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