There is a quote often attributed to Ghandi, although he never actually said it: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” I’m pretty sure I felt like a big idiot when I found that out, and I’m sorry if you feel like a big idiot right now, but for today’s post, I want to change that up a bit. And you can quote me on this one 🙂
Be the change you wish to see in your finances.
What not to do
So on Friday, I mentioned selling our old Toyota because it was burning oil like it was the hip thing to do. It was so bad that after driving just 60 miles or so, I had to put another quart in. Ridiculous. So I put it up on Craigslist and the local news’ website classifieds section. Kelly Blue Book showed the worth at $3,200, but I knew it wouldn’t get anywhere near that, so I offered it for $2,200. I wrote about the problems in great detail on the ad, especially with the oil burning, because I’ve been screwed over by THAT guy before and I didn’t want to do that to others.
A couple of days went by and no one else. Then I got a call from what seemed to be an 18-year old girl who sounded a little too much like Snooki. She came over and took it for a test drive with a friend. After she got back, I told her again about the oil thing, just in case she didn’t read the whole explanation on the ad. She asked me if it had ever broken down because of it. I said no, and she replied, “Good. Because my last car did the same thing and a couple of times I was on the freeway and the engine just stopped.”
Probably because you didn’t pay attention to the oil and you ruined your car. She then said she didn’t know anything about cars and wasn’t sure if she wanted to buy it. Umm, that’s why you bring someone with you who knows something about cars, rather than your valley girl friend. I was pretty sure the deal was dead by that point. I wasn’t about to take advantage of her.
But a couple of hours later she came back with her dad, who was in town from California. He took a test drive of his own and when he got back, he told me he thought it would be perfect for her. I made sure to detail the oil problems, after which he said, no joke, “The last two cars she drove had the same problem and she killed both of them because she never paid attention to the oil levels.”
THEN WHY ARE YOU BUYING THIS CAR FOR HER?!?!
Seriously, it took me a good moment to register what he said. But hey, this is a grown man. I didn’t hide anything and if he wanted to make a poor financial decision, that’s up to him. So he bought it. I’m still incredulous every time I think about it.
Anyway, the reason why I’m telling that story is because this is a perfect example of how when you don’t change your behaviors, your results are going to stay the same.
Be the change you wish to see
I’ve talked to so many people who tell me that they won’t be able to save more until they earn more. There may be some cases where this is true, but I bet you that I could look at the majority of y’all’s budgets and find something you could cut. In fact, I met with a couple once who earned just $1,300/month. They couldn’t afford health insurance for their 2-year old son, but when we got to discussing their budget, they were paying $200/month in car insurance and $400/month in gas for his 1985 Bronco. Good crap. Fortunately, they were living with family so they didn’t have to pay rent.
I explained that spending half of their monthly income on his car was insane (not to mention the maintenance on that beast) and that they needed to get rid of it if they wanted anything to happen, but he refused. He loved it too much. And they were too lazy to shop auto insurance rates. “We’ve just got to wait until I can get a better job,” he said.
The only thing that kept me from flying into a rage full of righteous indignation was the sadness I felt for his family. It breaks my heart to see people become so focused on toys and bad habits that they slowly get deeper and deeper to the point where they will never be able to get out again. And with some of those people, it wouldn’t matter if you threatened them with death if they didn’t change. They just don’t get it. The thing is, though, I honestly don’t think they thought to themselves, my car is more important than making sure my son has health insurance. They just kept doing things the same way they had done them since they got the Bronco before the child was born. We don’t always make the conscious decision to make poor judgments based on skewed priorities. We just get comfortable with how we’re doing things and don’t realize that we’re doing it all wrong.
So what is it that you need to change? Take a gander at your budget and be honest with yourself about what you could cut so you can put more toward your financial plan, whether it’s debt, retirement savings or whatever else. Odds are that your salary isn’t going to change dramatically enough to put you where you need to be, and I bet you even better odds that as soon as people get that raise, they’re most likely going to just use that to consume even more.
It’s not about changing how much money you earn, it’s about changing your attitude. And if you think that any of your results are going to change while you’re doing the same stupid things, don’t even try to act surprised when you find yourself in a hole you can’t get out of. All it takes is taking the time to sit down and evaluate where you’re at. That’s why budgeting is so important. You evaluate every month where you’re at and how you can be better next month. If you haven’t tried it out yet, I’d recommend doing it. Now.