We’re All Financial Optimists, and It’s Hurting Our Bottom Line

Are you an optimist or a pessimist?

Do you see the glass half full or half empty?

No matter your answer, I have a secret for you.  We’re all financial optimists, and it’s hurting our bottom line.

Don’t believe me?

I didn’t expect you to.

You might say, my finances are a mess.  I have debt; I’ve pulled money out of my 401(k).  I’m definitely not a financial optimist.

But, I’d argue that you are.  When you look into the future, you don’t see bankruptcy and years of the same financial mess.  You likely think that eventually things will get better, and you make decisions based on that.

If your financial situation isn’t that bad, you’re probably even more of a financial optimist.  Say you’re getting ready to buy a house, and you know that your limit is a house that costs $250,000.

You find the perfect house.  The problem?  It costs $270,000.  Still, you decide to buy it, even though you know you can’t afford it.

What do you tell yourself?

  • It’s in a good neighborhood, and the house will appreciate.
  • In just a few years, inflation will make your now nearly unmanageable payment much smaller, and paying it won’t be such a hardship.
  • You’re just starting your career, and in a few years you’ll be making a lot more money, so the house payment will be easier to afford.

Sound familiar?

Just a few years ago, millions of people thought their houses would appreciate, and then they were caught up in the housing crisis.

Houses don’t always appreciate, but we optimistically think ours will.

Sure inflation will make your house payment more manageable, but you’ll have other expenses in a few years that you’re not thinking of because you’re thinking optimistically.  In a few years, maybe you’ll have a few kids to fill that house, and they’ll cost a lot of money.  You’ll be spending more on food, health care, transportation and day care, just to name a few things.  Suddenly, having a manageable house payment doesn’t really make a financial difference because you’ll have so many other expenses competing for your money.

If you’re lucky, your career will soar, and you’ll make more money, but that doesn’t always happen.  You might get laid off and have to find a job that pays less.  You or your spouse may decide to quit so one person can stay home with the kids.  Or, maybe you do get raises, but at the same time your health care premiums go up every year so your pay essentially stays stagnant.

Of course, thinking optimistically is beneficial to our mental health, but for our financial health, recognize that thinking optimistically hurts your bottom line.  When you get ready to make a large purchase like a house or a car, don’t forecast into the future.  Determine if you can afford the item now, in your current situation.  If you can, you’ll tie up less of your future money and benefit from this.  If you can’t, it’s best to pass it up.

Think You Can’t Afford the Paleo Diet? Ways to Make It More Affordable

The Paleo diet is gaining popularity, and it can be a good choice for people who have to avoid gluten whether because of a gluten intolerance or Celiac disease.

Sure, if you’re gluten free there are many great options available like gluten free pasta and breads, but those can be very pricy.  Sometimes it’s cheaper to just avoid those kinds of substitutes.

Long Term Savings from Following the Paleo Diet

If you’d like to follow a Paleo diet but think you can’t afford it, keep in mind a few things:

1.  A Paleo diet can lead to weight loss.

The savings here won’t be immediate, but over your lifetime, the savings is significant.  I began following a Paleo diet last September, and in the 9 months since, I’ve lost 75 pounds.  All of my numbers for cholesterol, blood pressure, and sugar count have improved.  I know I’ve saved myself on medical expenses in upcoming years than if I hadn’t taken the weight off.

As another point, I don’t know how many hundreds of dollars I spent on Weight Watchers over my lifetime.  With a Paleo diet, I eat until I’m full, and I don’t get hungry again for several more hours.  There’s no struggle, so weight loss is easy, and I don’t have to count calories or points or pay for the latest weight loss fad.

Making the Paleo Diet more affordable2. You’ll save hundreds by not eating out.

Of course, you can eat out on the Paleo diet, but we just don’t eat out as much.  We’re easily saving at least $200 a month on meals out.  Now we go out to eat only when we’re traveling or for birthdays.

3. You won’t spend money on processed foods.

You might think chips and candy and other processed foods are cheap, but when you buy them in quantities that most Americans do, they add up quickly.

So, keep in mind these initial savings once you switch over to a Paleo diet.

How to Save Money When Buying Paleo Groceries

If you do decide to follow a Paleo diet, here are some ways you can cut costs on groceries:

1.  Buy your meat directly from the farmer.

Ideally, you’ll want to buy grass fed and pastured meat.  We buy 1/2 side of grass fed beef from my cousin’s husband.  We get ground beef, steaks, roasts, etc.  The meat averages about $5 a pound.  There are also several grass fed and pastured suppliers near us, and we stock up whenever they have meat on sale.  We have a deep freezer to keep all the meat.

2.  Subscribe to a CSA.

A CSA (community supported agriculture) allows you to buy organic produce straight from the farmer.  This year, for $850 we subscribed to one that gives us 1 and 1/9 bushel of vegetables a week for 19 weeks.  There are enough vegetables each week to feed our family of 5 copious amounts of vegetables and some extra for us to freeze and use in the winter.

3.  Grow a garden.

I like to grow things that are expensive to buy in the winter like collard greens and kale.  We blanch them and freeze them to add to soups in the winter for an extra nutritional punch.  However, grow anything you like to eat that grows well in your area.

4.  Buy produce on sale and stock up.

If you live near a farm, consider going to the farm and picking the produce yourself.  Last year we bought 50 pounds of organic blueberries.  We froze 30 pounds and made jam and jelly with the other 20 pounds.  It only cost us $130.  However, within 8 months we ran out, so this year we plan to buy about 80 pounds to last us through the year.

Likewise, Whole Foods recently had organic grapes on sale for .99 a pound.  I bought 25 pounds and froze them so we’ll have grapes and grape smoothies in the winter.

Initially, buying Paleo food can seem more expensive.  However, there are many future costs you are eliminating by eating a healthier diet.  In addition, there are ways to save, especially if you’re willing to buy in bulk and preserve your food.

If you’re following a Paleo diet, how do you save money on groceries?

The Heffernan Principle

I never watched The King of Queens during its primetime run, but I have watched it quite a bit on reruns.  My favorite episodes are those that are about money.  Since Doug and Carrie make a fairly decent living (as a delivery driver and a legal secretary, respectively), but have wants a lot bigger than their wallets, money (and how to find more) seems to be a recurring theme.

The main financial issue with the couple, especially Doug, is that he can’t rein in his inner child.  Let’s call it the Heffernan principle.

1.  He sees what others have and wants it too.

In the most recent episode I watched, Carrie’s father, Arthur, who lives in their basement, won $2,500 at bingo.  Doug decides the money should be theirs since they help support Arthur.  Even though they need a new refrigerator, he wants the money to buy new golf clubs.  Once he manages to get the money from Arthur, he’s not satisfied and wants more new clubs to complement the ones he just purchased.

Heffernan Principle2.  He blames others for his mistakes.

In one funny episode, Doug and his friend, Deacon, are following in a car behind their wives in another car.  Deacon mentions that they’re passing a strip club that sometimes leaves the door open and that he likes to peek and see if he can see anything.  Of course, Doug can’t resist, so he takes his eyes off the road and promptly crashes into the car the wives are driving in.  Doug has to pay for the repairs to Deacon’s car, but he doesn’t want to because he claims Deacon really caused the accident even though Doug was driving.

3.  He’s envious of others who work hard and save for their goals.

In another episode, Deacon and his wife, Kelly, invite Doug and Carrie up to their new vacation home–a cabin.  Doug and Carrie are immediately envious and determine that the reason why Deacon and Kelly could afford such a nice home is because when the couples go out together, Doug and Carrie pay for everything.  Of course, this is not true, but they just can’t accept that another couple making about the same wage as them could save their money and buy something substantial.  For Doug and Carrie, money leaks out of their hands far too easily to save for such a large purchase.

The King of Queens is a humorous show about a couple trying to live their lives in Queens, New York while living with her father (who’s also broke, by the way).  Like many couples, they struggle with money, but a main reason for that is because Doug can’t rein in his inner child.

While Carrie is well-intentioned and more mature in this aspect, she inevitably is persuaded by Doug and follows along with his train of thought and his antics.

Sure, as the audience, we have fun laughing at Doug and his misguided thoughts and actions, but have you ever thought if you, too, are like Doug Heffernan deep down?  Have you silenced your inner child when it comes to money, or are you still struggling as Doug is?