Why you waste energy trying to save on things that don’t matter

Have you ever spent five minutes in the grocery store trying to decide between the organic and non-organic item?

Have you ever stood outside of Starbucks asking yourself if you could rationalize spending money on a coffee?

Have you ever spent hours researching the differences between two different mutual funds and their portfolios and risk targets, trying to figure out which is better to invest in?

Hmm, which one of these is not like the others?

So many decisions

We encounter many decisions of a financial nature each day. You might get to the end of the day and find only three receipts in your wallet, but you may have made dozens of decisions during the day. Think about it: How many items do you buy in a single grocery store trip?

And these decisions do add up. Good financial habits, such as creating a spending plan (and sticking to it) that allows you to work towards your goals, is the key to success, but that “single” key is made of so many little keys.

The problem is that we can sometimes be lulled into thinking that we’re making real progress when we’re not.

Decision fatigue

Each time we make a decision, we lose a little bit of creative energy. After many of them, you might be pretty fatigued, and your level of fatigue increases if any of those decisions are hard. How fresh are you going to be after a hundred decisions?

If we’ve spent all of our energy making little decisions, most of which don’t really move your needle (for heaven’s sake, buy organic and get the coffee if you want it) we don’t have any energy left for making decisions that really do matter.

And what kinds of decisions matter? Here’s a few:

  • Figuring out your debt payoff plan
  • Determining your investments
  • Making a spending plan
  • Asking for a raise at work
  • Planning your career intentionally
  • Figuring out your target amount to save for retirement

We don’t have to make any of these decisions above, and yet we do have to make our daily decisions.

This leads to one of those paradoxes of the Eisenhower Decision Matrix: what is urgent often takes the place of what is important.

Also, the small decisions are, well, easier than the big ones. Which can lead to a false sense of accomplishment. Look at all that I decided today!

Problem is, that the big stuff still isn’t covered. Don’t pat yourself on the back just yet.

Save your energy (and buy the coffee)

Which is the main reason why I say buy the damn coffee. Save your decision making energy for tackling the big decisions. Any one of these big things is way more important than all those little decisions put together. Don’t lull yourself into thinking you’ve accomplished much when you haven’t.

Besides, you’re going to need all your energy for the hard work that lies ahead. I mean, planning your career with intentionality? I have a headache just thinking about that one.

But it’s way more important than any decision I’m going to make at the grocery store.

But enough about me. What big financial decision are you thinking about these days?

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