Posted by Tim Stobbs on November 18, 2010
Perhaps one of the most dangerous things we do in our lives is we don’t even look at our underlining assumptions. For example, we drink coffee every morning, but why? Perhaps the answer is we like the taste of it? Really, it is sort of bitter tasting and it tastes awful when it gets even slightly cold. How about the answer is we like that bit of caffeine in the morning. Yet the reality is we can get that elsewhere. So what are we missing, why do you drink coffee in the morning?
In the end, it is a habit and we assume that we want it. Our lives are considered normal to ourselves. So everything you do from your point of view is just the way things have always been. Until you are exposed to another source of ideas you may never change a behaviour or habit because you literally can’t see past your own life yet. As an example, growing up I recall someone telling me they knew what they were having for supper since it was Friday. I was amazed that he knew this early in the day. He then told me they always eat the same thing every Friday. I was stunned since in my house I didn’t see the same meal again typically for months at a time.
So what the hell does that have to do with anything? My spending patterns are basically a shock to some people because they can’t see past their own lives yet. If you grow up in a city with similar people around you and you rarely meet others that have significantly different spending habits it becomes hard to see past them. Your spending habits are mostly just an underlining assumption that you have made that everyone lives this way. So to meet someone significantly different is a bit of shock.
Yet once the shock has hit, how do you use that to see past your normal life and make change? Well that is going to be partly a personal journey to find you own motivation to look at changing your life, but one quick method to generate some ideas is the following exercise. Assume for a moment that every decision you have ever made in your life with regards to your purchases are wrong. Yes you bought the wrong house, car, shoes, socks, dishwasher, teapot and the wrong brand of tea. Now try to justify to yourself what you really should have bought instead based on what you really need. Take some time with this and don’t let yourself give bullshit answers.
This might lead you to consider you have a 1500 square feet house with approximately 250 square feet of junk you don’t use. So the reality is you bought a bigger house than you needed because of the junk, not because you personally actually use that extra space. Or perhaps you look at your wardrobe and realize you only like to wear half of it. The rest was mainly impulse buys of things you have never used.
By freeing yourself from you underlining assumption that your life is normal, you can finally start looking objectively at your own life. When that occurs you can finally start to really look at your spending and find easy ways to save a little bit more. By repeating this behaviour over a number of years you can actually manage to have the majority of what you enjoy now in your life at a fraction of the cost. It is a little scary to realize how much money you have been wasting for months, years or even decades but the pay off is more saving, less crap in you life and potentially an earlier retirement date.
I know this concept can be a little hard to grasp for some people, so let’s play a little game. In a comment write down the first five things you touched with your hand this morning. I’ll go first: alarm clock, water glass, eyeglasses, bathrobe and door. I will bet the majority of people will have a common item or two in their list, but not everything. That is because your normal life is just a little different than everyone around you.