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Fiscal Discipline: It Is About Looking Ahead

August 8th, 2014 at 10:56 am

Fiscal discipline is about looking ahead. Because tomorrow does come. And a grown-up knows that more can be done than just sitting in the present waiting for whatever that tomorrow may bring.

A child may keep eating cookies until he or she gets a bellyache. But an adult sees the bellyache coming and knows to stop. Likewise, a grown-up sees the financial bellyache coming and does not just keep spending money until it is all gone. Or just keep charging on credit cards because there is still some available credit not yet used up. An adult looks ahead. Or, perhaps more realistically, an adult should look ahead. So why do so many people behave like children and not look beyond spending more and more in the present?

In my case, increasing income did not automatically result in increasing spending. It is hard to explain why. I loved my well-maintained, gorgeous-looking ten-year-old Thunderbird. I did not covet a newer car. One business suit for each day of the week, with a dozen ties and shirts to vary the look, was enough for me. I did not wish for more. And why would I ever want more than 4 pairs of dress shoes?

Instead of automatically and thoughtlessly continuing to bump up my consumption in the present, I asked myself what could that money do for me in the future. And in that future, I saw myself living in my own house.

I saw myself with no neighbors stomping on my ceiling or banging on my walls. With no daily rides in crowded cramped elevators. With no tedious weekly up-and-down-the-hall laundry trips. With no jogs across the parking lot in the rain to get to my car. With no inevitable rent raises every year. With the freedom to paint my walls, or install a built-in, or play loud music. In short, I saw myself living a much better life. And "all" I had to do to make that future a reality was to keep my wallet in my pocket in the present. To be fiscally disciplined now.

It was an offer I could not refuse. I had a future to look forward to. I had a reason to remain fiscally disciplined.

So why doesn't everyone look ahead? Why do so many people just choose to spend in the present with no thought of the future?

Fiscal discipline has to have a purpose. A goal. A heavy-duty carrot in the future to help staying on course today.

Fiscal grownups choose meaningful long-term satisfaction over transitory instant gratification. And it is goals that will keeping eyes and mind focused on that long-term satisfaction.

The takeaway: "Some" tomorrow is coming. Fiscal discipline can make it a tomorrow worth looking forward to.

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2 Responses to “Fiscal Discipline: It Is About Looking Ahead”

  1. snafu Says:

    I'm guessing a lot of consumers have been taken in by the clever marketing that is bombarding them nearly every waking moment. They have been programmed to buy stuff, shopping is entertainment. I believe a lot of buying is to try to fulfill some type of emotional need. Not the prettiest/handsomest, most popular kid at school can buy a cool car, wear trendy, brand name clothes, live beyond their means to bump up their self image in spite of the evidence that it didn't help last year and isn't helping now either.

    Last century it was called 'keeping up with the Jones. It would be helpful if every teen had to work one semester in a restaurant. If you believe you are what you eat, most people would eat at home because a great deal of restaurant food is so full of fat, sugar and salt. It costs about double to eat things that are bad for you and contribute to problems later in life. huh!

    When I did the grocery shopping yesterday, I was the only person in the busy store who seemed to have a list. I seem to be dinosaur who makes a meal plan so that I have what's needed, when it's needed and avoid expiry date operations.

    I don't think parents are teaching their children money management. Perhaps grandparents didn't teach it? Perhaps parents are working so many hours they are exhausted by the time they return home. I've wondered if women in particular have done a real cost/value analysis of what they net for each hour of work. In grandmother's day, there was a woman at home who needed the entire day to cook, sew, wash clothes, clean floors, tend large gardens, nurse, care for elderly neighbours and more. We heard stories about how gran and her sisters got together to do big tasks like canning food for winter and clothes exchange, repair, remake for DKs back to school. I've heard a lot of women say what they need most is a wife at home to do the household tasks as they can't keep up their double roles.

  2. cpparrot Says:

    I struggle with discipline still. There is a definite parallel for me at least in my money management and my diet. When I fall off the wagon on one, I am likely to fall off on the other. We went out to eat last night for burgers to satisfy a craving, then went to Menards to go shopping immediately afterwards to "walk off dinner". At least I bought things I needed to replace: light bulbs, a toilet seat, a dehumidifier. Not as fun as shopping for shoes, but it also satisfied a craving to buy something.

    Shopping is definitely entertainment for me. When we are out and I am bored, I want to stop at the new big box store to look around. Nine times out of ten, I drive past because it is not in the budget. But that 10th time, I give in to the craving and usually buy something on a whim that I don't need. I get a short burst of an adrenaline high from it, especially if it's on sale.

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