There is more wealth in the world than at any point in history, yet we tell each other that life is “harder” now than is was 50 years ago.
Maybe so for some, but lets be honest. How much of our “lack” is because posession and consumption have become such pillars of our culture?
Defense is the practice of keeping what you earn and it’s critical to master it if you want to be free. The popular phrase goes “it doesn’t matter what you earn, it matters what you keep”, not the other way around.
The 3 Stages of Mastering Defense
- Control of non-essential expenses and bad debt
- Better habits
- Rethinking “essential” living expenses
We’re going to stick with Step 1 for today and “get it together” on our personal spending.
Stage 1: Control of non-essential expenses and bad debt
- Non-essential expenses are things we buy that we don’t need to. Some items can fall in either the essential or non-essential bucket, for example you generally need to own shoes, however that 35th pair of heels? Not so critical to our survival.
- Bad debt can mean different things to different people and it probably deserves an article on it’s own. To keep thing moving lets call bad debt anything that isn’t for real estate, sensible school debt or business use.
Write down how much you spend on everything. Coffee, gum, sodas, clothes, credit card repayments, loan payments, gas, car insurance, health, entertainment, food, alcohol, cable… do this for 1 month. Just keep a small notebook and collect receipts.
Put everything into a spreadsheet and divide into categories. Besides each item write if it was “essential” or not.
Essential means you would get sick, die or be unable to work or care for your family. The heavy stuff stuff.
For everything “non-essential” write down
- Why you bought it. Convenience? Impulse? Social reasons?
- Would you stop buying this item if it meant you could retire in less than 10 years would you buy it?
- What could you have done as a cheaper/free alternative?
- What’s stopping you from trying the cheaper/free alternative now?
Methodically go through this list and pick items that that you can eliminate, reduce or change.
Start small and go at your own pace. Often the simple question “is there another way to do this?” is enough to get ideas flowing and if you try something and don’t like it, you can always change later.
How has this exercise affected your quality of life?
Was it challenging?
Did it involve any tricky conversations with friends or family?
If you’re anything like me you won’t have felt any discomfort and will only notice the much higher balance of pesos in your bank account at the end of the month.