Quickly Fulfilled Desires – “The Things That Control You”

Like a lot of younger folks (I’m under forty, thats still young right?) when I find something I desire I want it right now.  But as someone who looked wiser than me pointed out “Those things which you can easily grasp have the most control over you”. It sounded confusing to me at first but I’m sure there’s some wisdom in there. I understand it like this… if you can whip out the credit card whenever you want to buy something, then spending has control over you. Whereas you should control the spending! If you pour yourself a beer every time you even think of having one, then beer has some control over you. You are no longer in control of your drinking. For some of us the things we desire in life have to be put a little out of reach so we can exert control over them. We can put things physically out of reach, separating ourselves with distance. So even if you want a beer there is none in the house. Or we can separate ourselves via time i.e I only drink beers on Fridays and Saturdays and so you wait till the weekend, you put your beer drinking in the future. I’ll fully admit that chocolate in the house has control, I have to eat it. They only way I can resist is to actively remove temptation. I do this by eating all the chocolate in one go……..but usually by not buying any except for rare treat occasions.

All the beers I would drink, if i had my way
Just a couple of beers won’t hurt

I wanted to upgrade my phone about 2 years after I bought it, but it still worked and had all the functions I needed. I delayed the purchase until my current phone no longer supported the apps I wanted, was far too slow and kept crashing. Then I waited even longer till a model came out that suited me. Thankfully new gadgets have no control over me. Do you upgrade every year, are you controlled by technology?

I discovered early on in my life that money does indeed have some power over me. When I look at my bank balance I immediately find ways to spend it. Over the years I developed strategies which involves moving most of my money (money for savings, investments, bills) to separate accounts. Then my checking account only has my spending money left in it. And I’m allowed to spend that however I want. As the years go by I’m getting a lot better at holding on to that money and a positive balance in the account no longer drives me to spend like it once did.

It takes time to learn which things in life have the most power over you and how to push back and regain control.

Time travelling wealth

By investing and saving my money I am putting as much of it as I can into the future. Out of reach and yet still under my control. In a way I have time travelled my wealth to distant future, hopefully a future that involves driverless electric cars and robot butlers. Some of it is going 29 years into the future! (Kiwisaver, can’t touch till I’m 65). A portion of my funds are only going 15 years into the future. I’ll have to patiently wait till I catch up to it. I’m putting my wealth out of reach where it no longer has any power over me and hopefully in the interim years I will be well practised at budgeting and living within my means so when it finally comes time to pull the plug on the job and quit work forever I’ll be able to manage the lump sum in a way that will make it last till the day I die.

A big pile of cash
This looks about right.

I wonder if 2 million dollars dropped in lap right now (apart from the inevitable bruising and crush injuries) would I be able to make it last forever? Have I learned enough yet? Have I practised disciplined budgeting for long enough to keep control over 2 million and not got nuts buying home-brew equipment and extravagant holidays?

I figure that the large amount of time it takes to reach financial independence is a right of passage that educates and tempers us. It’s a chance to make small investing mistakes with small chunks of savings, its time to learn how to build a portfolio or find out who you can trust to build one for you. Learning that just because you have money in the bank does;t mean you can afford to buy whatever you want. I’m only a year into this way of thinking, but I’ve learned a lot about myself by setting off down this path. I’m looking forward to learning even more.

7 thoughts on “Quickly Fulfilled Desires – “The Things That Control You””

  1. This makes me think of the wise words of P.T. Barnum, “Money is a terrible master but an excellent servant.” By finding ways to master your own spending and saving patterns, you have found an excellent servant for you in retirement. I love the way that you spoke about how things can control us, and that we should strive to control those things instead.

  2. I took a whole course in undergrad about how technology controls us! Admittedly, the professor was a bit … off (he didn’t he HAVE a cell phone, and was a bit paranoid about being tracked and so on), but many of the points were totally relevant to personal finance. I’m writing right now on a 4+ year old Macbook that’s still kicking (mostly)! I try to wait as long as possible for upgrades.

  3. The food metaphors are very appropriate when it comes to money. Out of sight out of mind. That’s one of the reasons why I think 401Ks are so great. You don’t miss what you can’t see.

    I don’t think 2M would change us. We’d travel more; maybe buy a new (used) car. I don’t see the point in buying new cars and Mr. Groovy is not a car guy.

  4. I see you almost sold your soul to the ‘upgrade my phone’ Devil. Good on you for resisting. I’ve been resisting most of my life but occasionally I sold out, especially when I was young. I had the first Walkman of anyone I knew, and then the first mobile phone (a Motorola brick). With age comes patience and restraint I think. Well, for some of us anyway.

  5. Quickly fulfilled desires!! What you can easily grasp will control you.

    Well said! This is proving to be the biggest problem when it comes to my diet. While I do good most of the time, the slips I’ve gone through were all because that junk food was within my reach.

    I like how it applies to finance as well. If I had invested my savings (other than emergency funds), it won’t be sitting with my spending money. And that means very less money to spend. Hmmmmm…. I’m going to think more on this one.

    Thanks for the fantastic article!

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