Should we avoid pain?
It was time for my baby’s six month check up appointment and routine vaccinations. Two of my older girls got to come along to the appointment as well. When it was time for shots, my older girls became concerned and asked me why the baby had to get shots. They love their baby sister and get upset if she ever cries or is in pain. They didn’t want her to get hurt by the shots. I explained to them that the vaccines will help prevent some very serious diseases that can be very painful, and very scary and life threatening. A little bit of pain now to prevent a lot of pain later.
This made me think about personal finance. We need to be willing to go through a little bit of pain now, to avoid big pain later. For example, living on a tighter budget, avoiding debt, driving the old car another year or two, doing a staycation instead of going to Hawaii, resisting the urge to pull that credit card out or apply for that loan, or spending the money that is supposed to go to savings. These choices we make now will prevent a future of more painful consequences like being overextended, house poor, foreclosure or even bankruptcy, or having no buffer or emergency fund or savings when an emergency occurs. By being a bit uncomfortable now, we will reap the rewards in the future. That may be the distant future, or maybe a future that isn’t so far.
Small discomfort now vs. big discomfort later
Being able to learn self-discipline, when it comes to personal finance, is a valuable skill to learn early in life. I like to give my kids an allowance, to allow them to make money choices when they are young, when the consequences are small. Then, when the big choices come, and the big temptations are available, hopefully they can remember lessons learned in their past, and make better decisions.
One example of this scenario is student loans. Student loans are very easy to get, very easy to justify (it’s for education and education is a good thing!), quickly add up and then become difficult to pay off. What took a few months or short years to acquire can take a lifetime to pay off. However, choosing the smaller discomfort now of working while attending school, applying for grants and scholarships, attending a less expensive school or community college, will help you avoid the much greater discomfort later of paying back those large student loans, laden with interest!
Naturally, we move away from things that are uncomfortable and gravitate to things that seem desirable. No doubt that is one of the reasons why credit cards have become so popular. It is uncomfortable to say no to something that we really want. It is pleasurable to indulge right now and not have to wait for the things you think you want. However, avoiding the small prick of pain now (waiting until you have the money to pay for the purchase), can set you up for much greater future pain (large credit card balance and payments, and enormous amounts of interest, for example).
Love yourself enough to allow discomfort
As I tried to explain to my kids, the shots do hurt right now, but that they will spare their baby sister much more pain later, they began to understand. And, because I love her, I will allow her to go through this small pain now, to be sure that her future is much less painful.
I realized that I need to love my future self enough to endure some small ‘pain’ now which will help me avoid much greater pain in the future.
It’s better to want than to owe!
There is a phrase I like to tell myself every time there is something that I want, but can’t pay for (and I’m tempted to pull the credit card out). It comes from a blog post by Natalie Bacon, on her blog, The Finance Girl. She said “It’s better to want than to owe.” (Her great blog post can be found here: http://www.thefinancegirl.com/how-to-create-financial-margin/)
Indeed! I have been on both sides of the want or owe coin. It really is better to want than to owe. Wanting is much less painful than owing!
Take a look at your financial habits. Is there anything you are doing now that is helping you avoid ‘pain’ or discomfort now, but that will cause future discomfort? What can you do to change these habits? Pick ONE to work on. Decide how you can change the behavior now to have a better outcome in the future. (For example, pack a lunch to work one extra day a week, and put the money you would have spent on lunch into a savings account, or towards a debt, instead).