We’ve all set up reward systems for ourselves. Maybe we tell ourselves that we can order a pizza if we spend all day cleaning the house, or maybe we tell ourselves that once we finish this task at work, we can spend a few minutes checking social media.
(And then if we find ourselves checking social media before we’ve finished the task, we tell ourselves we’re going to set up a social site blocker.)
Mr Money Mustache suggests applying a similar system to the next big purchase we plan to make — and delaying the big purchase until we’ve achieved at least one big personal goal.
In his case, the big purchase is a Tesla, and the list of goals he wants to achieve first include everything from “building a master bedroom deck that doubles as a carport” to “waiting until his son is old enough for month-long road trips to be feasible”.
The reason this system works, Mr Money Mustache argues, is because it focuses on other ways you can improve your life — which removes some of the pressure to improve your life with the big purchase.
It’s pretty hard to tell yourself that NO, you can never have what you want. Instead, I’m just telling myself what things need to happen first, before clicking “buy” on the Tesla website.
And if these things are healthy, happy things (raising my son, getting other labour-intensive projects done with my own hands, and planning a great future series of camping and roadtrips), I divert my attention into living a good life right now, instead of doing the easy thing which is just buying myself another treat.
Obviously, there are some situations in which this system doesn’t make sense. If you need a car to get to work, for example, you aren’t going to put it off until you’ve established a daily exercise habit (which is another one of Mr Money Mustache’s suggestions).
But if you see something shiny, unexpected and expensive and your first thought is “my life would be way better if I had that thing,” it’s worth taking a look at your current habits and goals and asking yourself whether your life would also be better if you worked towards improving or achieving them.
And then tell yourself that you’ll buy the shiny expensive thing after you’ve developed your new habit or achieved your personal goal.
If you still want to buy it, of course.
As Mr Money Mustache reminds us, the best thing about this system is that you may find yourself with a life you like so much that you no longer want whatever you told yourself you were working towards.