‘You don’t know, what you don’t know.’
When I was younger, I despised hearing this statement since I mistook it for implying that I lacked intellect. But now I know what this expression means. It’s reasonable, and it reminds us that there’s a wealth of information just waiting to be discovered. We are unlikely to be maximizing our lives as effectively as we could be without it.
Like a good budget, this phrase is all business. It doesn’t care about emotion. When you know better, you do better, and the same applies to stretching our limited dollars.
For example, if you continued to keep your money in the same bank ‘because your parents did’, you could be missing out on the cheaper or free options that exist out there. Once you realize that not all banks are the same, and that it’s even possible to get free banking – LIGHTBULB MOMENT – you can make an educated decision to switch. Saving $15 a month on banking, works out to $180 a year, for quick and painless effort. THIS is logical. THIS is good planning.
I’ve formed a pretty solid budget, and built up some knowledge on things like the cost of groceries, and eating cheap. I bring a routine salad to work every day, so on Sundays I’d shop for the week, including buying whatever cheap, partially-healthy salad dressing I could find. One Sunday night, when prepping for the week, I realized I forgot the dressing and the store was closed. SHIT. (It’s bad enough I have to eat a salad for lunch, but now I have to eat a plain salad.)
But a friend was with me and suggested I make my own dressing. I was confused.
If the idea of making a dressing is something you already knew (which apparently is perfectly normal) feel free to judge the hell out of me. I NEVER KNEW THIS WAS POSSIBLE.
We mixed a little olive oil, white vinegar, Dijon mustard and cracked pepper and made a dressing FAR SUPERIOR to anything I had ever bought at the store. I have all of these basic ingredients sitting at home at all times anyways, and here I was just giving away money to some company.
I was impressed with this new finding. I’d spent an average of $2 a week on dressing. That’s over $100 a year on SALAD DRESSING. I figure the homemade option costs me under $0.50 a week. In a matter of a quick comment from a friend, I saved $75 a year, and found a healthier and better tasting salad dressing. WIN-WIN-WIN.
Read also: Lifestyle Inflation: A Two-Headed Monster
It goes to show that no matter how good you’ve gotten at managing your money, there are always opportunities to continually improve. I know that saving $1.50 a week isn’t the fast-forward ticket to early retirement, but apply the concept to any of the big-ticket items and it is STAGGERING. Buy the $25K car instead of the $30K one, and invest the $5K in savings for retirement. Even after adjusting for inflation, you’ve given your future self $16,200! (30 years, 4%). What if you bought an even cheaper car? What if you drove each car for 1-2 years longer instead of upgrading? What if your household could survive on one car instead of two? Now we’re OPTIMIZING.
I didn’t know what I didn’t know, until I took the time to figure it out. Now my future is looking far more prosperous than I ever knew it could, thanks to basic research, and life lessons learned when you’re out of salad dressing.
Track your spending. Challenge your budget. There is opportunity there, you just have to seize it.