Have you ever expressed the sentiment that you would do (or give) anything if only you could have such and such, or if only something were true or could happen? Maybe you’ve said, “I would do anything to be able to travel the world.” Or, “I would give anything for a little peace / chocolate / relief!” (How about this for a goal-oriented Bucket List?) The phrase conveys an intense desire for whatever it is you’re pining for. “Stupid cold! I would do anything to breathe some nice, fresh air!” “I’ll pursue my dream at any cost!”
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People go to great lengths for certain things they crave, particularly attention, status, money, love, etc. They’ll climb tall buildings and other high objects to get selfies for YouTube, risking their lives for a little fame and notoriety. (As far as I’m concerned, those who do so — crazy as they may be — are greater heroes than those with superhuman advantages.) Or they’ll climb proverbial mountains to secure the affection of someone else. And what’s reasonable to one may not be at all reasonable for another. Or it may not be reasonable at all, for that matter. For example, if you’re so desperate you resort to thievery to support your drug habit, then you’ve breached the line of acceptability.
When it comes to monetary fitness, what is the “cost” worth for you? Normally when we speak of monetary “costs” it means that money is going out while we gain some want or need in return: an item or experience to satisfy our demands. Conversely, though, we might forgo wants or perceived needs in order to pursue greater financial strength. That’s a cost, too, but in reverse to spending money. So there’s a cost in both directions, in other words, depending on how you look at it:
You spend money now (the cost) to “get” something in return (the reward).
You forego the thing you would get now (the cost) in order to save money (the reward).
We all have our personal sensitivities, preferences and priorities as to how much something is worth to us. And it’s obvious that a great chunk of society would not give or do anything to be in good financial shape. Now, I realize that a lot of people just can’t help it. Money, for many, is very hard to get for numerous reasons. Or, even if not, they might have to spend more than they bring in, even though fundamentally that’s not a responsible way to live. And I would be remiss not to recognize that there are plenty of reasons why you simply may not be able to advance your situation.
But, aside from this, there are nevertheless many others who could do better but do not because saving is low on the priority totem pole for them. Easy access to credit and the unending enticements to get this and that is just too strong to resist while suppressing the need to live more responsibly. If that’s you, then you need to reevaluate your priorities ASAP.
Consider the following (over-simplified) cost-reward premise between spending for today vs saving for tomorrow:
Cost / Reward Over Time
Spending today (financial indulgence) –
Reward: Short-term, temporary enjoyment
Cost: Eventual, long-term monetary failure and misery
Saving for tomorrow (financial health) –
Reward: Long-term financial security and elation
Cost: Short-term sacrifice, self-discipline/denial
Here’s an easy-to-read graphical illustration:
[Maybe the lines should have been black and white since there’s no middle ground portrayed in the slightest. :)]
The problem is, most people mistakenly believe the STG factor is greater than the LTEFH factor in their behavioral decisions, when it is not:
Short-term Glee ! > Long-term Essential Financial Health
[Note: ! > means “is not greater than”]
This thinking is wackbards. The impetus is to give up long-term financial health for short-term impulse. People are actually willing to do or give quite a lot for their present-day fulfillment in exchange for their future security, even though financial security is one of those things that typically rates high on someone’s wish-list. But the reality is that you don’t really give up that much for monetary sufficiency, and in the long run it’s a much smaller cost for a far greater return. It’s not as exciting or stimulating as it is to spend in the present — yet it’s more rewarding over time.
So how do you begin to reverse your situation if you’re overextended in debt without much, if any, savings?
You Go On A Diet And Exercise
What do you do if you’ve abandoned yourself to eating so much that, over time, you’ve put on more weight than you like? Or maybe you lack exercise so that you’re grossly out of shape.
I once lost 40 lbs after such a time when I saw myself in a home video and realized, Whoa! This really snuck up on me. (My 8th-grade English teacher would have excoriated me for using the word snuck instead of sneaked. “Snuck is NOT A WORD!” It wasn’t in the dictionary at one time. It is now, so I’m using it, no literary license required!). So I started eating plain oatmeal for breakfast, one sandwich for lunch, and, if I got hungry again during the day, I ate another bowl of plain oatmeal. I also reduced my dinner portions, ate a small handful of chocolate morsels for dessert and just went a little hungry at times — no “recreational/comfort” eating for me. Yep, as you can tell, I really wanted to lose that weight.
It didn’t hurt that I got into a little competition with someone else who also wanted to lose some weight. That added some accountability and enthusiasm for the endeavor. Turns out, I succeeded a little too well and lost a mite too much. 10 lbs too much, in fact. Yes indeedy, I was kinda gaunt and had to work my way back up very carefully, because I didn’t want to overdo it and gain it all back. And you know how common it is for people to gain it back, and then some, after a successful weight-loss.
The real problem is that I had set my weight-loss goal a little too far and reached it. I had learned in my track-running days in high school that you run through the ribbon in a race and don’t slow down until after you’ve passed the finish-line. But, as you can tell, I really wanted to lose that weight. I put my mind to it, acted upon it seriously and followed through until I met the goal. I had to endure a bit of discomfort and sacrifice, to be sure, but the end-reward was greater than the short-term loss.
Additionally, I started exercising to stay in better shape overall. When you’re out of shape and begin to exercise, guess what? You have to start light and work up, and your muscles have to adjust. Your muscles are sore for a while, and you can even get tendonitis or some other injury if you’re not careful, regardless of whether you’re lifting weights or doing cardio. You have to get in shape.
Even now, I have an inexpensive gym membership (that I do use, by the way). But you know what? Every year the gym gets really crowded after the annual new-year promotion for about 4 months, after which it tapers off. (While I hate how crowded it gets, I’m glad for the influx because it keeps the gym in business!).
The problem is, all of the resolution people come and go, they don’t keep at it. Well, at least that’s how it seems. Maybe some of them find other ways to exercise or just get busy with other things in life. But at least a certain percentage don’t continue because it requires self-commitment to keep at it. If you don’t really have the motivation, if you can’t see the end-game, if you aren’t serious enough about applying yourself toward the goal, you’ll eventually give up.
Now again, I have to allow for some to have other issues that prevent them from accomplishing their fitness goals: personal, financial, health, etc. But my point is that it requires an active effort on your part to set a goal and stick with it, even if you don’t always feel like it at the moment. It requires some self-discipline. My son is currently in a martial arts program and about to reach black-belt level because we encouraged, and even pressured him a bit, to stay with it even when he wanted to call it quits. Now he’s glad to be on the cusp of that black belt. He can smell the black-belt fragrance wafting around the corner. It’s a good life lesson through experience.
The same is true when it comes to your financial fitness. You have to go on a serious diet and exercise regimen. You must apply the principles of self-discipline, temporary sacrifice and a little discomfort for a long-term goal that brings a greater reward than the momentary pleasure. And you may need to start smaller and work your way up. It will take a little time for your mind and body to adjust to the new behavior. Set a goal that’s within reach, then do what needs to be done to meet it before setting another, perhaps larger one. It won’t all come in a day, there will be a progression to your success. But you must stick with it and overcome setbacks.
But just like with dieting and exercise, you can research all about how to achieve your goals. You can get tips and advice for what you need to do. You can find 10-step lists and testimonials from others who have blazed the path ahead of you. But until and unless you buckle down and put them into practice, seriously and right now, you won’t succeed no matter how “easy” it might seem in print.
Like Physical Training, It Must Becomes A Lifestyle Change
My 40-lb weight-loss diet was about 12-13 years ago, and, while I’ve put on a little more weight, I still haven’t reached the same level I was pre-diet. Why not? Because it became a lifestyle change. I have to be careful not to overindulge again and continue exercising. I set limits. If I reach a certain weight I immediately start a mini-diet to get it back down. I’ve had to accept that I just can’t eat like a teenager and maintain my weight properly. I have to be careful what I eat, and how much I eat. I can’t bury my face in a bag of chips or box of ice cream like I would like. And I commit to exercising at least three times a week, comprising of both weight-lifting and cardio, unless I just can’t make it for job or weather-related road conditions.
The same is true for gaining and maintaining your financial health. It must become an earnest lifestyle change where you have an ongoing commitment to financial diet and exercise. Once you accomplish a goal, dedicate yourself to not falling back from it but progressing farther, as you’re able. And if you slip up and begin to slink out of shape again, put yourself on a mini financial diet to recover as quickly as possible.
[Apologies to anyone who is disappointed this wasn’t about inexpensive recipes or savings on your grocery bill or recreational activities. But this is about your greater overall financial capacity. It’s ultimately about chiseled financial muscles and a ripped 6-pack budget.]
You’re not required to “do (or give) anything” to reach financial fitness. You don’t have to climb tall buildings with your bare hands, like some do to get selfies for YouTube. You don’t have to swim 2 miles underwater (with no gear) without coming up for a breath of air. And you don’t even have to pay an arm and a leg to achieve it! It actually costs less to achieve financial sufficiency than it does many other things you might strive for. What you must understand is that, not only is the cost not that great, but the reward is far greater than what you might receive in return for spending your money unnecessarily today.
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