Friday, May 23, 2014

Make the Right "BIG" Decisions (pt. 1 of 5)

By Olivia Sandham

Earlier this week, an email circulated through our office with this article.  It is typical for us to share work-relevant articles every so often, but what was NOT typical was that for the next several minutes, everyone in the office emailed their thoughts and responses to the article.  The most memorable quote one of our advisors pulled from the article was:

“Make the right BIG decisions, and the small ones won’t mean so much.”  We even jokingly (okay, maybe seriously) considered ordering coffee mugs with this quote.

This article and our comments got me thinking (and researching) about the “small decisions” we make when attempting to better our financial position.  Several decisions could include:
  • Cut back on expensive coffee (the premise of the article)
  • Cut back on monthly subscriptions
  • Use homemade shampoo, laundry detergent, cleaners, etc.
  • Use coupons
  • Use a fan instead of air conditioning, or more clothes/blankets instead of heat
  • Buy generic brands at the grocery store
  • Buy from second-hand or thrift stores
  • Eat out less
  • Drive less
Somewhere along the lines of researching small financial changes (and maybe because it was lunch time), I ran into articles about making small diet and exercise changes to improve lifestyle.  This got me thinking, does the same quote apply?  So, I put together a list of “small decisions” we make when attempting to better our diet and exercise:
  • Use a food journal
  • Cut back on alcohol, sweets, fat, and carbs
  • Eat out less (repeat item!)
  • Walk/bike more (aka drive less - repeat item!)
Does anyone notice a trend with most of these ideas, besides the fact that they are “small” changes?  When I read this list, all I see is the word SACRIFICE.  I can’t speak for everyone, but when it comes to making any decisions that are going to stick for the long-haul, I need to be motivated and I need to feel like the change is worthwhile.  But cutting back on the small joys in my life is not motivating, and putting in a lot of extra time and effort for a small result is not a worthwhile change to me.  Here’s what comes to mind for me when I look at these ideas:
  • Cut back on expensive coffee:  The couple of extra bucks for expensive coffee might be worth it.  A smooth and flavorful coffee is either a morning ritual to get your day started (as necessary to waking up as showering in the morning), or as is the case for me, it is an occasional indulgence because I don’t drink coffee that often, so it better taste really good when I do.
  • Cut back on monthly subscriptions:  There seems to be no better deal than movies or TV shows on demand in my living room (or on-the-go smart devices) for a monthly price of what it would cost for me to go out to or rent a movie only ONE TIME.  And don’t get me started on movie theater snack prices versus snacks at home!
  • Use homemade shampoo, laundry detergent, cleaners, etc.:  Anything DIY (do-it-yourself) almost 99% of the time ends up being a BWTM (big-waste-of-time-and-money) because I make a big mess and don’t use half of it anyway because it never works as well as the real stuff.
  • Use coupons:  I am already panicking just thinking about how much extra time I would have to spend finding, cutting, organizing, and remembering to actually use coupons.
  • Use a fan instead of air conditioning, or more clothes/blankets instead of heat:  My house is a place of solace, and the temperature being (as the nursery rhyme says) “not too hot and not too cold, but just right” is an extremely important part of that.
  • Buy generic brands at the grocery store:  Most generic brands just aren't the same - they don't taste right, they don't smell right, they don't feel right!
  • Buy from second-hand or thrift stores:  Second-hand and thrift stores are okay for certain purchases (I have found some neat furniture and gifts), but there is something that just irks me about buying some items like clothes and children’s toys that have been used before by someone I don’t know.
  • Use a food journal: I feel anxiety just thinking about how much effort it takes to measure and write down every little thing that goes into my mouth.
  • Cut back on alcohol, sweets, fat, and carbs:  I don't know what happens, but if I am trying to eat less of something, I suddenly feel deprived and as if it is the only thing I want to consume, and then I feel guilty for wanting what I am not supposed to have, and it's just a big awful cycle that always seems to backfire.
  • Eat out less:  Eating out is already a once-in-a-while affair, and usually involves an event or celebration of some sort.  This would just be taking away all my fun!
  • Drive less OR walk/bike more:  If I didn’t drive as much, I would either stay at home all the time or I would have to bike/walk, and I have no desire to arrive to work or other engagements either freezing with icicles of snot running down my face, or sweating profusely out of every pore.  Plus, imagine how much earlier I would have to leave...
Okay, so you might be thinking that my inner child ("But I want that!") and my inner laziness ("But I don't wanna!") is definiting sneaking out between the lines.  But isn't that just what happens with any decision?  If we make decisions that dissatisfy our inner needs on a regular basis, how can we expect to succeed at these changes?  As you can see, it’s pretty obvious for me that the “small” changes listed above (sacrifices!), no matter how many times I try, probably aren’t going to stick.  So what kind of decisions would?  As the quote says, “Make the right BIG decisions.”   Here is a list of a few financial “BIG”s that might be better to think about:
  • Automate payments
  • Renegotiate rates
  • Earn more money
And now a list of the lifestyle “BIG”s that might stick better:
  • Plan and prepare ahead
  • Completely remove and replace “bad” food items
  • Focus on getting MORE
The “BIG” financial decisions can be exciting when accomplished and can take very little time and work, sometimes just a few minutes online or over the phone.  And the lifestyle “BIG”s can be fun and effortless, too.  What's great about these decisions is you only have to find the nerve once in a while to implement these changes, and the best part, they could actually SATISFY your inner needs instead of making them feel like sacrifices!

Read our blog for next week as we dive into the tips and tricks on how you could accomplish each of these “BIG” decisions!

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