Thursday, September 8, 2011

Being tough saves you money

I am on a mini-crusade to toughen up a bit before summer ends.  This may include some extra strength training, running or other conditioning, but more importantly it's a mental exercise.  I want to become habitually stronger in my will power.  Our expenses and stress will tend to rise as I'm starting school this fall for a variety of reasons.  I'll be busy with school, my SO's projects at work continue to ramp up, and historically we tend to spend more as we go through the winter to combat the dreary and the cold.  I want to fight that trend this year, giving me some buffer and tenacity for next year which will probably be even busier.  To do so I need to be tougher than I am.

When you’re tough the stuff that everyone else complains about becomes a non-issue.  Being more stoic and equipped with a just do it attitude you can accomplish more with the same money.  It is focused around identifying the practical goal of the activity and removing the extra costs or work that don’t add value to the goal.

For example, if you need to get to a doctor’s appointment transportation is the goal and walking or biking to accomplish it saves transit money, gas or bus fare.  You forgo the luxury of sitting idle during your trip.  If you’re tough you'll continue to walk or bike even when it's hot, cold, raining, snowing, or humid out.  And when it’s hot or cold out you won’t immediately jump to cranking the thermostat up or down; you’ll stick it out or make a moderate adjustment.

Dinner may not have turned out the greatest, but the goal is to feed yourself and the food is still nutritious fuel even if it’s a bit burnt or seasoned weird or mushy so you eat it anyway and learn from your mistakes instead of ordering delivery.  After all the food is here and already made.  When you do order pizza you go pick it up yourself, you’re not too busy, harried, or tired to do it, instead of paying the delivery fee.  If delivery is free, take it, of course.

There are also non-monetary benefits to developing a thicker skin and determined mindset.  You can also accomplish more than you otherwise would.  When you can tell yourself, "no, I will sit down and write a blog post for tomorrow instead of watching Hulu or the like" you are using your time more productively.  (This, of course, is never something I struggle with...)  Similarly, your house will be cleaner, your car neater, and life will flow more smoothly.  You will not spend 20 minutes procrastinating over taking out the trash instead of mindlessly reading the internet.  It will get done and then you can move on.  Clutter and unwashed dishes adds significantly to my baseline stress level so over the past couple months I have consciously worked to become better at washing all dishes immediately after the meal is done.  Including breakfast.  It's quicker with the layout of our kitchen, I feel accomplished and I'm less stressed later.

You'll also look better when you're tougher.  When I visited my business school of choice I noticed that the current students were decidedly heavier than the prospective ones.  I'm betting that I'll actually be in better shape a year from now if I keep up my bike/walk to campus and for errands and keep disciplined enough to maintain cooking from scratch every night.  But beyond cutting a nice figure, the extra weight can cost a bundle.

Sure this isn't a magical transformation that happens over night, but there is a distinct sliding scale of "can-do" in life and inching up that scale has incremental benefits that can make the attitude self-reinforcing. 

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  1. Mental well being is as important as physical and emotional. I consider myself a very "determined" individual. Some may say just stubborn. I seem to accomplish more than most because of my determination.

  2. This is a great post. When I was paying off all of my credit card debt, becoming stronger/more determined was at the top of my list. I made an effort to strengthen my willpower on top of trimming my expenses and it was the best first step towards paying off all $14K of it in one year. I'm now much more stronger mentally when it comes to determining the differences between wants and needs, and I have parlayed this into many other areas of my life (running, grad school, career, etc.). It takes time, but it's more than worth the effort!