❝Every time you spend on something, that's something you can't spend on something else.❞ -Dan Ariely
I'm at a pub talking with some friends of mine about taking a vacation. It's fun to plan for vacations, and we order another round as we continue the planning process. We determine that for about $1,000 each, we could all go to Las Vegas. We're having so much fun planning this vacation that time gets away from us, and we are out way too late.
Unfortunately, the next morning I oversleep, and now I'm running late for work. I jump into my car, throw my bag into the passenger seat, and start the car.
Well, I try to start my car.
It never starts. I try some more with no luck. I keep trying, thinking it will help, but eventually, my battery dies. This is the start of a bad day.
I finally get my car towed to the mechanic, and I'm told it will be $1,000 to fix. Yikes!
In light of this new situation, I have to call my friends and tell them I cannot go on the trip. It's sad to have to say "no" to a trip I want to go on. On the other hand, I need my car. Fixing it is priority number one.
It's easy to think of the ugly "B" word (budget) as being deprivation-focused and having to tell ourselves "no" all the time. A more empowering way to think about managing your money is to recognize that saying "no" to one thing allows you to say "yes" to something else.
Economists talk about the concept called opportunity cost. Opportunity cost is a way of thinking about what something costs in terms of what you give up for it. In other words, instead of thinking of something as having a price in dollars, the opportunity cost represents what I can't buy. For example, spending $1,000 on a trip means I can't spend $1,000 fixing my car. Therefore, the opportunity cost of going on the trip is fixing my car. This can be applied to time as well. An hour spent on social media is an hour I can't spend playing with my family. Therefore, the opportunity cost of spending time on social media is forgoing time with my family.
Opportunity cost is important when we consider the fact that our resources are finite. We can't have it all or do it all, so we have to make some important choices, and opportunity cost helps us think about those choices.
When it comes to making choices, it's essential to consider what we find important. Values represent the things that we would ideally like to pursue more of in our lives. Values are the lens through which we view the world. They represent the measuring sticks we use to measure our lives. Values represent what we find good, bad, and neutral.
If we don't do the work to understand our own values, we are more likely to latch onto the values of others. We're likely to do things that we think we're supposed to do. Some people might, for example, pursue a high-status job that pays a lot of money and comes with a lot of prestige but costs a lot of time. This may be fine for somebody who values status and fame, but probably not a good choice for somebody who values leisure and family.
In the strictest sense of the word "need," you don't need any more money. You can sell everything you own and move to a low-cost country and survive. The fact that you're not doing that means that you want to do more than survive. What does that mean to you?
In other words, what is your money for? Understanding the role that money plays in your life is important when it comes to making financial decisions. Are you making financial decisions in ways that support your financial purpose, or are you making impulsive decisions and/or unconscious decisions?
Financial purpose helps you understand money's role in your life.
Thinking about your personal finance through the lens of opportunity cost, values, and purpose, helps you prioritize your spending and your financial decisions. It takes what may seem like a deprivation-focused system and turns it into an empowering system.
For example, telling myself I can't afford a vacation might feel like I'm depriving myself. Once I recognize the value of opportunity cost (what I'm giving up in order to get a vacation), what my values are, and what money's role is in my life (financial purpose), I can begin to see that saying no to one thing helps me say yes to something else. Saying no to something I find relatively unimportant allows me to say yes to something I highly value.
Saying "no" to yourself isn't necessarily a bad thing. It simply means you're living your life with more intention.
You get one life; live intentionally.
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Related Money Health® Reading
References and Influences
Adams, Scott: How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big
Ariely, Dan & Jeff Kreisler: Dollars and Sense
Clear, James: Atomic Habits
Clements, Jonathan: How to Think About Money
Dunn, Elizabeth & Michael Norton: Happy Money
Emmons, Robert: THANKS!
Fogg, B.J.: Tiny Habits
Hanson, Rick: Hardwiring Happiness
McKay, Matthew, John Forsyth, and Georg Eifert: Your Life on Purpose
McKeown, Greg: Essentialism
Millburn, Joshua Fields & Ryan Nicodemus: Essential
Newcomb, Sarah: Loaded
Sivers, Derek: Hell Yeah or No
Note: Above is a list of references that I intentionally looked at while writing this post. It is not meant to be a definitive list of everything that influenced by thinking and writing. It's very likely that I left something out. If you notice something that you think I left out, please let me know; I will be happy to update the list.