There’s a story that goes like this: Put a frog in a pot of hot water & it’ll jump out. Put it in a pot of lukewarm water and gradually turn up the heat, and it’ll sit there til it dies. The idea is that the frog won’t notice things are getting too hot for it until it’s much too late, because the increase is so gradual. Personally I think that story is more applicable to humans than frogs, but the idea can be used in a positive way too.
For example, take my 401(k) account. My aim is to eventually max it out, reaching the $17,500 limit. But that’s a huge amount. So I’m applying the frog-in-a-pot approach and increasing the amount that I contribute to my 401(k) a little bit at a time.
Increasing my contribution by a few percent when I got a raise was painless. I never saw the money, so I never missed it. But I’ve also been increasing it by a few percent every few months. It’s always a little bit of an adjustment each time my paycheck decreases, but since since the decrease is so little, it’s relatively easy to adjust. After all, it seems like such a small amount. I can just eat out a little less, or find a way to make a tiny bit more money elsewhere.
I still have a long ways to go before I reach the max, but doing it this way is so painless that I don’t even notice the increase in temperature.
It’s a lot easier to do it this way than it would be to go from cold (not contributing at all) to boiling hot (contributing the max). 1% at a time (or slightly more) will get you there, so consider putting yourself in lukewarm water.
Your retirement account & future self will thank you.
You know, sometimes we need to take the path of most resistance. It doesn’t matter whether it’s taking a risk by getting up the courage to start a business that has good chance of being successful, giving up what seems like a safety blanket by cutting up the credit cards, or cooking a meal at home instead of calling out for pizza. We just need to do it.
Many times the hardest thing to do is also the BEST thing to do in the long run. You become a successful businessperson, and learn things about yourself. You get out of debt, and begin building up savings. You stay in better health, and spend less money.
How do you know if something you’re resisting falls into this category? For me, I get this feeling in my gut. It’s almost like anxiety, but not quite. Maybe it’s more like a nagging feeling.
I just know that the more I resist doing something, the more likely it is that that is EXACTLY the thing I most need to do.
If you think back to the pre-technological days, most people had a huge variety of talents that they used every day — because they had to. People could do things that ranged from putting in stitches to building a fence to spinning wool. Now people specialize, and hire most other things out. (I don’t know too many people that can put in their own stitches, although I do know at least one who has removed them.)
Specialization can be good in theory, because it means that that person likely knows a LOT about whatever it is they do. But it got me thinking, what kinds of hidden talents do we all have that we could use if we needed or wanted to?
Here are some of the things that I know how to do that fall far outside of my typical line of work:
- Fell a tree & remove the stump safely
- Splint a broken arm
- Pour concrete
- Install tile
- Change a tire
- Change my car’s oil
- Dry fruit
- Paint a mural
- Groom and saddle up a horse
What are some of the hidden talents that you have? Could knowing how to do any of them save you money, even if you choose not to do them?
Whether you’re saving for a down payment or wanting to lose weight, the principle is the same. You can change your life with one simple question: Does what I’m about to do line up with my goals?
It’s just a matter of priorities. You CAN do the things you want most, but you have to make them a priority. This means not allowing a series of little things (that you don’t really care much about in the long run) to derail you.
For example, if you head to the mall to keep a friend company, and see something cool that you’d like, don’t tell yourself “Oh, but I can’t get that because we’re saving for a down payment.” That’s just likely to depress you, and put the focus on all the things you “can’t” have.
Instead, ask yourself if buying the cool item is in line with your goal of saving for a down payment. The obvious answer (“no”) will pop into your head, and you’ll find that you don’t really WANT the item when it comes right down to it. You’d rather have the new house. You’ll get excited about reaching that goal instead.
You’ll make progress (and change your life) one decision at a time. There might be times when you do decide to buy something at the store instead of saving for your larger goal, but that’s alright because you’ll have thought things through carefully. They won’t be fleeting impulses that prevent you from doing what you really want to do. You’ll feel good about your decisions AND reach your larger goal with relative ease.