Here at The New York Budget, I talk a lot about priorities. The best way to avoid wasteful spending, is to first decide WHAT wasteful spending means to you. If you value something, then that money was not wasted. Too often, though, purchases are made WITHOUT thinking about what we value. That’s where marketers and society step in and TELL us what our values are. It sure does make it easier, not having to decide for ourselves.
We are told that we value a new car, so we get it.
We are told that we value an iPad (when we never used to need one), so we get it.
We are now being told that we value wearing a mini computer as a watch. We’ll get that, too.
There’s an important distinction between “being told we need to get a ____” and “being told that we value ____”. Marketers can’t just make a commercial that says “you need this product”. They have to make you feel as though YOU value it. The fact that you need the product comes from within YOU. But really, it’s just because you’re too lazy to figure out what’s really important to you.
The Other Side of The Equation
While the lazy consumer’s mind is interesting to me, what’s even MORE interesting is the lazy producer’s mind. As we all know, there are two sides of the equation when you are looking to build wealth: expenses AND income. Just as we get lazy and throw our money at items that don’t truly align with our priorities, we miss out on money-making opportunities because we are pre-programmed to follow a set path.
Let’s look at some examples to show you what I mean.
Currently, I am working on a side hustle with a friend of mine. It’s a niche website that we are developing and we often set after work appointments to work on the site. Recently, I was trying to schedule our next session, when he said “Tuesday probably works for me. I just have to check my girlfriend’s schedule.” Now of COURSE I didn’t have a problem with this. I, of all people, value personal life and relationships above most other things, but it just got me thinking. This friend’s girlfriend is currently in law school. Imagine how insane it would sound if she said, “I think I can take that Tuesday class. I just have to check with my boyfriend’s schedule.”
Truly successful entrepreneurs will prioritize their endeavors and treat it like real work. What if you could make more money by starting a business? Sure, it wouldn’t be guaranteed that you would succeed, but the likelihood that ONE of your endeavors succeeds goes up the more you try. Why wouldn’t you put just as much time and effort into that as you do your real job? Or school? It’s extremely difficult to make this mental leap. Hell, it’s difficult for me to realize and act on this logic as well.
When we are young, we are pre-programmed to tackle the straightforward path of school. After graduation, we are thrown off the path a bit. We have to search for a job, a process that leaves us lost and uncertain. But as soon as we land a job, we are back on a path. Often, people become dissatisfied with their jobs. What’s the answer? Go back to school where there is a safe, trusted path. A path that is familiar and similar to the one we have taken all our lives. The people in this world who do the most amazing things, don’t follow that path. It’s worth trying to break free from it if you are dissatisfied with the results it has yielded.
Pre-Programming’s Effect on Quality of Life
Our pre-programming doesn’t just affect our ability to make money. Personally, I believe my quality of life would go up if I ran my own business. But it also affects our hobbies. For new readers, I am in a band here in NYC. We don’t play nearly as often as we would all like. It’s because our priorities are screwed up. When practice scheduling comes up, we all “have to work late” or have some reason why we can’t make it. Now, perhaps my band members truly internally prioritize their jobs, but more likely, they feel the pressure to do certain activities like stay late at work, over their actual priority, which is making music (and, by the way, making a few bucks at gigs as well!)
Knowing your priorities is a difficult balancing act and one that I haven’t 100% figured out for myself, to be honest. But if you work at it, you will be engaging in the activities that you want, creating more wealth for yourself, and spending less on “stuff” you don’t need.
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