Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Dry July, Pointless Habits, and Finding Your Dream Money

Okay, let's get serious. Saving shouldn't always be about sacrifice, but do you have some vice  that's costing you a ton of money? 

Chances are, you have a habit that's, well, just a habit. Nothing you particularly glean enjoyment from. Just something you do because you do...

Today marks the end of Dry July. It's a movement started in Australia to raise money for the Prince of Wales Hospital Foundation, and is proudly supported by Adam Spencer of ABC Radio's 702AM, who's raised $19,251 for the charity.

But it's some of the conversations he's had about it on his radio show that have intrigued me. His listeners are competing to raise the most money, but they're also discovering the amount they're saving by staying off the booze!

These people are also realising how often they drink purely from habit. It's not something they set out to enjoy, but when they look at their social calendars, they realise how many of their upcoming events they would normally expect to be getting a little sloshed at, and they're marvelling at the thought of still going to them and staying sober!

"Alright, alright," you say "Stop evangelising already! You think we should all stop drinking and save the money instead."

Well, no.

Not really.

It's just a metaphor for the habits we've most of us get into. Buying something just out of habit isn't fulfilling unless you know you get tremendous enjoyment out of it. I have a friend who has a ritual meal every couple of weeks - she goes and buys herself a couple of crabs and settles in for a night enjoying her seafood. She feels much better for it, and it's a simple pleasure that makes her fortnight.

There are other more destructive habits which really can remove a vast quality of life from their habituants, and they don't even realise this until they give up. If they give up.

I suppose you think  I'm going to get on my bandwagon here and bang on about how smoking is a filthy, smelly habit that will most likely kill you, and can harm those around you as well. Well, I'm going to pick smoking as my example of a habit, mostly nervous, yes. And I'll happily state all of the above as a firm belief and add that it's just as inconsiderate to kill those around you who are passively smoking your pollution. I don't want to hear you post nastiness here. I have a best friend whose life has been drastically shortened by his father smoking around him until he was ten years old. He has emphysema, and he's never smoked anything in his life.

But getting down from my bandwagon, I also know that a great many smokers would rather quit if they could, and have tried quite a few times to do so. You actually have my sympathy in that sense. I'm mainly using this as a great example of a quality of life being improved by the money that giving up such a habit can save. Maybe I can help:

Take some friends of ours: Habitual pack-a-day smokers, they were on welfare because one had an autoimmune disorder and the other was injured in a workplace accident. They also had four children, so it's not like there was a lot to go around. One day they decided they wanted to go to a big event, and they needed to save up for it, so they quit smoking. Suddenly they didn't know themselves - they could *do* things again - go out to movies, make things, learn new crafts. It gave them a whole new lease on life, and they wondered why they'd ever allowed themselves to go so long wasting their money on a meaningless habit. They're now some of the most vehement anti-smokers you'll meet!

Another friend allowed her local gym to keep taking money out of her account every month for over a year because she thought she'd get around to going in "one day", and it seemed too much effort to give them a call and cancel her subscription. Over $1000 later, she finally picked up the phone for a five minute, 20c call to cancel, and she's never looked back.

Do you have a habit you don't know why you're continuing? If you have a need to save money, take a look at all your weekly, monthly, and annual expenses, and work out which ones aren't really giving you very much value or enjoyment any more (and remember that enjoyment also means value quite a lot of the time!). Then work out how much you could save for something you really want and value from not simply spending that money out of habit.

It could be: 
Alcohol
Newspapers (do you need the depressing news?)
Gym Subscriptions you don't use

Send me suggestions for this list!

If it's smoking (or even something similar), every time you think of having a cigarette, put the money for a pack in a tin... at the end of a month, shock yourself at how much you've saved, and reward yourself with a really nice treat. Then get down to putting that money away for that special something you've always dreamed of!

Best of luck finding your dream money!

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