You know what’s downright pathetic? I mean really, really pu-thetic? 63% of Americans can’t handle a surprise bill for five hundred bucks. I’m sorry, but that is just not right. I’m sorry if you are one of those people but if you are, listen up because all that is about to change. Americans are terrible savers and we need to do a better job of saving for emergencies.
The Bush Doctrine – Spend ‘Til You Drop
We can’t really lay the blame for this on the American people. We’ve been trained for years to spend every penny we have coming in and then spend some more still. The average American carries around $15,762 of credit card debt. Heck, after 9/11, President Bush’s advice for the American public was to spend until you drop.
We see it all the time – Memorial Day is coming up in a few weeks. This is a day that used to be devoted to remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice to defend our freedom. Today it’s an excuse for a tire sale and a bar-b-q. Black Friday wasn’t even a thing 30 years ago and today, stores open earlier and earlier on Thanksgiving to get more and more shoppers in the door.
To Be Fare
Okay, I want to be fare so I’ll admit that for many people, it is legitimately impossible to save serious money. The barista at my local Starbucks probably doesn’t make a whole lot of money and he lives here in New York just like I do – it’s one of the most expensive cities in the world. But even for someone like that, maybe putting away a hundred or two hundred a month isn’t possible. But five bucks is.
What’s Five Bucks?
I know what you’re thinking – Eric, you’re cracked. Yeah, I can probably scrape together five or ten dollars to put away every month and maybe even every week. But big deal – what’s five bucks going to do for me? I’ll tell you what it will do – it will get you in the right frame of mind.
I know that five dollars a month isn’t going to make any difference in the long term. That’s $60 over the course of a year. In a lifetime maybe you would save up a few thousand dollars, which is something to be sure but it’s hardly a savings plan. However, the point of this isn’t to get you to just put aside five dollars a month. It’s to train yourself to do things differently.
The Real Way to Lose Weight
A study recently came out which shows that most of the people who lost a ton of weight on The Biggest Loser ended up gaining back a lot of what they lost. The study argues that the body naturally fights back against weight loss. That may be true but I believe there is another reason why it didn’t work and indeed why diets generally rarely work.
The reason is simple – you are trying too hard. As human beings, we learn to accept certain behaviors as normal because we’re used to them. So the person who goes on a dramatic diet and loses hundreds of pounds may have had the will power to do it in the short term but he or she probably can’t keep it up long term.
Instead, the way to do this is to take small steps and gradually train yourself to do things differently. Saving money is the same thing – start with something relatively painless. Five bucks a month is something that virtually anyone can save. By doing this, you are getting into the habit of putting money away. As it continues, you’ll eventually find yourself putting more away because you’re used to it.
Before you know it, that $500 repair bill isn’t going to be a problem for you anymore. It’s going to be no big deal because you’ve gotten yourself used to putting money away and now you’ve got a nice little nest egg.
Oh and for anyone who needs to lose weight (and I admit, I need to shed around 30 pounds myself), use this same advice – take it slow and make small changes. It will work a lot better in the long run than trying some drastic diet which may let you look good for beach season but which will have you rebounding come the Fall.