My Money, My Choices
Gail Vaz-Oxlade is a personal finance writer, television host and radio broadcaster. Every Wednesday, she arms Metro readers with tips to keep spending in check.
You don't have to be a math whiz to figure out your finances: Vaz-Oxlade
Being a dope in math is no excuse when it comes to your financial situation. Focus on choices you must make rather than numbers.
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Over and over people tell me that they’re “just not good with numbers.”
Heavens to Betsy! You do know that most of the math you need for money management came in Grade 5, don’t you? Addition, subtraction, multiplication and division are all you need, really.
So stop saying you’re no good at the math.
When I convince folks that their bad decisions are not really about the numbers, their shoulders reach up to their ears as they shrug me off. Have you ever heard yourself bemoan a bad buying decision? How about money spent that you needed for something else? Suffering from a general sense of malaise when it comes to being accountable for what you’re doing with your money?
Instead of focusing on numbers, focus on choices you must make instead. Let’s say, for example, you’re heading off to buy a new phone. You’ve got a budget of $120, but when you walk into that electronics store you fall in love with the snappy version of a phone that’ll set you back $320.
You really, really want that phone. Gosh, it feels so good in your palm. And look at all the stuff it can do. But it’s almost three times what you planned to spend.
So you rationalize.
Hey, that’s just an extra $200 ... what’s $200? ... Not all that much, right? You can find $200 to have this fabulous new phone that you’ll use every day for the next two years. It’s so worth it!
Don’t look at the numbers in terms of numbers because being the delusional fool that you are, you can talk yourself into anything. Instead, look at the choice you’re going to have to make between two sumthin’-sumthin’s that you want.
On the left side of the scale is the extra $200 for the phone. On the right side of the scale is whatever your pleasure is. Fill in the blank with lunches out, daily designer coffee, drinks with friends, the concert tickets you were planning to buy, or your rent.
You have a finite amount of money so you have to make a choice.
Will you give up coffee on the way to work for 48 days? Is that gorgeous phone worth it to you to make your own cuppa at home and avert your eyes as you walk past the coffee house?
Will you pack your lunch every day next month so you have the money for the phone? Will you forgo the baseball game, the theatre tickets, seeing your favourite band with your old roommates from university? What will you give up in real tangible terms to have that phone?
Believe it or not, money really is not just about numbers — it’s about choices. Do you know what you’re going to have to give up in order to get what you THINK you want? Do you really want it THAT much?
You don’t have to walk around with a calculator to make smart money choices. You do have to walk around with your frontal cortex — your decision-making brain — firmly in control.