Living Without a Salary

How to reduce your expenses, so you can live without a salary!

It’s 2009–What are Your Goals? January 1, 2009

Around this time of the year, many people make resolutions to improve their lives, and others’ lives around them. And while it’s a lofty goal to resolve to be better, what is usually the outcome of these “New Year’s Resolutions”? You got it–most, if not all, fall by the wayside and people go back to doing what they have always done, and reaped the rewards they have always gotten. (Rewards, punishments, etc…whatever the consequences of your habits–it’s all the same thing.) Nothing new ever happens, because no one is doing nothing new, at least in the long term. For example, if your resolution this year is to lose weight and be more fit, what are your long term plans to acheive this? For most people, they would say, “Cut down on sweets, exercise more, and eat more healthy foods.” While this is all well and good, there is not a real plan in the former sentence. What happens when the first temptation comes along, and you give in to have more sweets than you plan on? Most people give up by this time, and abandon all their well-intended resolutions. Same thing for finances–wanting to save money, and spend less, is all well and good. But this too will fall away without a definite plan.

The point to all this is that resolutions are fine as a wish list, but they won’t work in the long term. The reason is that if you don’t have a plan to implement them, along with a contingency plan to use when you fail, then all you are doing is making a wish list. Sounds harsh? Wait–it gets better. (Or worse, depending how you see things…) Say you want to increase your savings this year, but you have a hard time with your spending habits. You can’t have both. Either you spend or you save…not a hard point to understand. Unfortunately, this is what people keep thinking, and what a certain credit card company wants you to believe with their card where they put in a certain amount of money every time you use their card to spend money. The problem with this is–how much interest are you paying to save that money? Stop spending and start saving. Besides, you should be paid interest to save money, not the other way around!

So before you can start saving, you must decrease your spending. (Like with weight loss–less calories in, plus more calories spent equals weight loss.) This can be acheived by cutting down on the little things you spend money on, such as buying coffee on your way to work and bringing your own in a travel mug. Doing this little habit change could save you at least $3-$4 per cup, or more! If you were buying coffee every work day for a year, think of how much money you were spending just on your coffee per year! Let’s see…$4 per cup X 5 days per week X 4 weeks a month X 12 months = $960 per year you could save just by not buying a cup of coffee every day and bringing your own in a travel mug. I am sure that you could do that every day, right? And the money you were spending, you could put into a savings account. If you were to tally up every convenience option that you spend money on, and come up with a less expensive plan, I bet you could save a few thousand dollars every year just with very simple habit changes.

Or, say you wanted to lose weight this year. How are you going to do that? Popular diets don’t work, as you may have seen over the past two decades. Well, actually nothing will work if you don’t make a conscious choice to make it work for you. Fact is, if you implement very simple changes here as well, you could lose weight almost as effortlessly as you can save money. Maybe not as fast as you would like, but it will happen. Simple lifestyle changes, such as putting a bit less food on your plate at meal times, work better in the long run than the diet fads will. The other reason that diets don’t work is because human beings do not like feeling deprived of anything. Why do you think that the more impoverished a person is, the more stuff they tend to collect in their homes? The more stuff they have, the less deprived they feel. Same with weight loss…if you feel deprived, you will crave more food to the point of overstuffing yourself each and every time you eat. That’s why you shouldn’t cut yourself off completely from sweets…eat what you like, only in moderation. Nor should you cut yourself off from fatty animal foods, or delicious potlucks. The less deprived you feel, the less food you will eat, and the more weight you will lose.

Everything I have written today is all about choices–you make choices every single moment of every single day. If the choice you make doesn’t fit with the goals you create, then make different choices. You haven’t failed just because you made a choice that isn’t congruent to your goals. You just made a different choice is all…choose differently next time.

New Year’s Resolutions are stupid…only because people don’t put the effort to make those resolutions into reality. Every day is a new day…every moment is a new moment. You don’t have to wait until New Year’s Day to choose to spend your life differently. Choose each moment that your life will be powerful, full and as wonderful as you want it to be!


One Response to “It’s 2009–What are Your Goals?”

  1. Every year I’ve become more cynical about New Year’s Resolutions. Last year I resolved to quit making them and reduced my stress by loads.

    This year it occurred to me that if the point of New Year’s Resolutions is to Improve Your Life, then why is it that the focus of all the accepted suggested resolutions involve cutting out pleasures and forcing yourself to do things you don’t want to do that are Good For You by popular assumptions.

    Of course people break these resolutions. The other half of the equation after making an impossibly long list of Self Improvement goals all of which involve cutting out things you like and forcing yourself to do things you hate, without getting paid for it or rewarded in any way, is that they get broken and there we go heading into All or Nothing thinking. Break a diet once and it’s out the window, oh well, you have no will power, may as well get hung for a sheep.

    Habit changes are far more lasting. Habit changes like “add a new healthy food in small quantities every month” gradually shift eating patterns over toward health, that and personal rules like “eat slowly and stop eating when you’re full” or “don’t eat unless you’re actually hungry.” Those rules DO work — and work best if you break the habit of comfort eating by finding a nonfood comfort like knitting or buying art supplies or something else that isn’t food.

    I mention knitting because my daughter quit smoking last month and has since made me a vest and my son in law a vest and a sweater, socks and a small sweater for my grandson. She knits a lot now and found something to do with her hands, also indulges herself with good yarns with the money she saved from not buying Cloves.

    I don’t believe in self denial for its own sake.

    I don’t believe in doing anything unpleasant without some real and corresponding benefit — and a planned short term reward so that there’s a net improvement immediately in day to day living. Habits built up that way tend to stick.

    I started saving money not by a grim decision to save X amount every month, but by coupling that with “and every month I actually do it, I’ll buy myself a new Terry Pratchett book and not get any of his books for anything else.” This also becomes a plan to successfully collect all of Terry Pratchett’s backlist and have a complete set someday.

    I’ve held that plan for four months now without pain, every month looking forward gleefully to which new Pratchett I’m going to get and treating my savings casually like a bill that has to be paid — deducting it from what my spending money is before I start the merry monthly process of deciding what to do with my spending money.

    No budget is workable without leaving some spending money in at some scale, or some corresponding non-monetary reward if you really are capable of that level of self discipline. I’ve seen my daughter and son in law go without any spending money for serious chunks of time but usually that was for some goal, and then when they get a windfall of some kind they’ll go ahead and celebrate.

    Traditional New Year’s Resolutions as a custom are one of many things that just promote anxiety, passivity and a sense that it’s okay to cheat, okay to be hypocritical and okay not to mean what you say. It’s annual self-betrayal at its most bitter, and I’m not doing it that way again.

    This year I set one: submit at least one pro novel for publication. Not sell one, not hang it on the response to it, but mail out the submission package to at least one publisher at an absolute minimum. Setting the bar that low means that I will do it and probably early in the year… which sets me up to build more success on that success. Sending the same packet to more than one publisher improves my odds and counts as extra effort, not just as keeping up what’s expected.

    The only reward for keeping a Resolution in the usual model is to stand back a year later and look down on everyone who didn’t, aside from any health benefits to having lost weight or exercised or whatever. They may take longer than a year to show up though, given what dieting does to people’s metabolisms and what else affects quality of life.

    If those benefits are not emotionally worth the trouble of doing it, including the amount of will power forcing yourself to something then what you’re doing is taking the hardest, most difficult path to the real goal — become more healthy — with pointless sacrifice along the way and a much greater risk of failure and just giving up.

    With the additional emotional cost of facing yet another annual dose of shame and digging in a belief that you have no will power because you haven’t succeeded at doing things the hard way every year.

    This is one of many mechanisms for why “modern life is so empty” — it’s that even the social rewards for the puritanical outlook only consist of being able to pick on other people. Whatever real need overeating or overspending was compensating for still goes unmet, but now even the substitute is gone, so some other unhealthy substitute will come up or life’s just harder and less rewarding.

    Thanks for a good entry on the processes of changing habits though — many of the changed-habits changes are pleasant in the short and long run. Certainly taking up a new sport or activity or eating good food can be pleasant. But deprivation isn’t the way to get there.

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