This is a short article today, mainly because it contains SO important an idea that I couldn’t wait to share it with you!
And that thing I couldn’t wait to tell you is… Just say “No!” to John Mulaney.
“Hey! But I like that guy,” you say? Well I do too, but that’s not the point. Or maybe that is exactly the point. Anyway, we’ll come back to the comeback kid very shortly.
This article is really about saying NO, period.
Being a No-man or woman is the single most important thing we can do to retake control of our lives. This is true whether we’re letting go of sweets or an unhealthy relationship. And there are diets for all the vices that plague our lives. Support groups for alcohol addiction, patches for cigarettes, wristwatches that buzz when we’ve been sitting on our butts for 60 straight minutes.
But what products exist to help purge us of our addiction to products? They certainly exist, and if you’re reading this blog, then you’ve probably seen just such things for sale on other blogs.
Here’s an honest, thinking-out-loud-on-the-internet moment:
WHY do people who are in bad financial shape continue, impulsively, indiscriminately, SPENDING MONEY on products – ie, books, e-books, e-courses, get-rich-quick subscription newsletters, lotto tickets – instead of SAVING, INVESTING, and GROWING that money!?
The first time I remember having this thought was around 11 years old. My parents always struggled financially. Dad was a $12/hour machinist, mom stayed at home with the kids & worked retail part time.
On a shelf in their bedroom were three books that caught my eye. Each had a catchy title, happy headshot with the author, and a tagline about how to get rich. You barely need to try! All you gotta do is 1) BUY this book, 2) FOLLOW the 7 easy, if somewhat vague or seemingly common sense, steps laid out in this book 3) JOIN the army/nation/village/tribe/family/community of such-and-such people who also bought this book, and 4) BUY the revised edition of this book in 12 months.
I didn’t know the definition of irony then, but I couldn’t help but feel that paying money to learn how to save money felt counter-intuitive.
Very simply, I believe we need more NO in our culture. We need to be more critical and discerning of the things that take our assets away – both money and time. We need to say NO to handing over our capital to someone else in exchange for things of lesser value.
Here is my recent example:
I really enjoy stand-up comedy. I’ve occasionally gone to local clubs and improv shows, as well as to tour performances for a handful of A-list comedians. Next month, John Mulaney is coming to town (yes, he’ll be new in town, wah wah), and if you’re not hip to his work, get yo’self hip. A few of my friends decided to buy tickets and asked if I wanted in. I was the first person to enthusiastically respond “YES!” to the group text.
And then I got to thinking
This is one of the ten thousand moments, one of the decisions to buy or not buy, that makes up our weeks, months, years, and eventually our lives. Sure, spending $95 on two tickets plus taxes for a fun night out won’t break the bank. But if we tell ourselves that same thing the next time we’re ordering just one more drink at happy hour, or Ubering 10 blocks instead of walking, or impulse buying the candy in the checkout line, we’ll still be searching for answers in whatever personal finance book is on top of the New York Times best seller list thirty years from now.
It’s death by a thousand cuts. Or a thousand credit card swipes.
As a wise man once said: If you take your sins for light when you weigh them, tremble when you count them.
The same is true for every purchase we make. I’ll also point out that $95 dollars invested in the S&P 500 is predicted to grow to $10,405 over 45 years. Just think on that before renewing your Amazon Prime subscription this year.
When I told my friend that I had changed my mind about going, he half-joked that I was depriving myself, and for what? I had to think long and hard; am I really DEPRIVING myself by not going to a comedy show?
Our conversation ended up turning on its head. I suggested that every time we part with our assets – time or money – we are depriving ourselves of those assets. After all, once we’ve spent them on one thing, we no longer have them. We’ve been deprived. That’s not to say that the monetary assets disappear – it’s just that we decided somebody else should have them instead of us.
Now I like John Mulaney, and I think it’s nice that some people are going to give him their money for the privilege to enjoy his artistic achievements. But I don’t like him more than I like spending future time with my future kids. I don’t value his show more than the freedom to work or to retire on my terms. More than the privilege and opportunity to make whatever decisions are necessary for my family because we are financially liberated and able to make those decisions.
In short, we need to stop viewing acts of saving as acts of deprivation or self-denial and instead call them what they really are – acts of PRESERVATION, LIBERATION, and THE PATH TO FREEDOM.
And we need to start saying “NO” to all the things in life that are fun, but just fun and nothing more. Or at least start saying, “Not until it airs on Netflix in a couple months.”
I have a feeling I’ll be writing more on this. What do YOU think?? Share your comments below!