I’ve started a debt reduction experiment. It’s highly personal.
Problem: Having trouble saving money, not getting any younger.
Experiment: Each time I am just about to consider spending money on something, anything, I imagine myself homeless and carrying that particular thing down the street.
Hypothesis: I’ll spend less money.
It would be a dull experiment if I were already self-disciplined in the area of personal finance. But I’m really not, so it’s been quite interesting. My largest expense after education, rent and healthcare, used to be books, followed closely by clothes. Food is in between there somewhere. And it would be a tedious experiment for a scientist, if I forced it upon myself. But I didn’t, it arose quite naturally as a visualization, maybe partly because I live in NYC and we have so many who are homeless here. It’s an intrusive thought of sorts.
In the thought experiment I’ve now become, I visualize myself homeless, walking down the street carrying whatever I thought about buying. And then I just can’t buy it, whatever it is.
Books are hard to resist, but with over a thousand in the library area of my little apartment I just have to ask myself the question. What would I do with them if I had to get up and go and couldn’t come back? It’s baffling. Clothes are easier to resist. Imagine me homeless walking down the street in Brooklyn carrying all my new clothes in my arms. Can’t do it.
I can imagine carrying food, so I still do buy food without inhibition. And I’m very, very happy to imagine carrying my education down the road with me, a welcome companion as she is to me in any circumstance. College tuition is still fine.
For the other, nonessential things, it would be so sad to find myself in a situation where I cared more about momentary pleasures now, then I care about having a place to “be” later.
I don’t wish to give the impression that I’m living life on a precipice, although at times in the past I have. It’s more that I only recently started thinking about my own future in a real way, in a physical way. Thinking that earthquakes can happen, floods can happen, fires can happen–it’s difficult to think any other way now as mother earth groans under the weight of our mining, fracking, drilling, building, and collective consumerism.
Most disturbing, is thinking that I might not always be healthy and working, because that future is most surely going to happen at some point or another. And no, I didn’t save for a rainy day. Not yet.
Results: You might imagine that this visualization has forced me to really cut back on spending. It has. It has become impossible to buy anything nonessential, and I’m getting a savings going now. I feel more free the less I buy.
Maybe this experiment could benefit others too, just imagine.
Before you buy your next _____ , imagine carrying it down the street, homeless.
Odd feeling, right?
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