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The Quest For Perfection

In my last piece on simple ways to save money, I mentioned four tips to help make your dollars go further:

  • Agree on priorities
  • Cut credit
  • Create a budget/plan
  • Forget about the Joneses!

So, this is all well and good to say, but how do you practically do all this? Where do you start?

Just to confuse things (!) I am going to go straight to tip number four! In my mind, getting our thinking right is crucial to getting any new habit to stick – especially when it comes to your finances.

I want to start with a personal story, I think it best explains my point 🙂

Ok, I love peaches. Beautifully juicy, sweet peaches. I remember one year in my early 20s, I had recently moved out of home and was doing my food shopping. I took my time in the store trying to choose the perfect peach. It looked beautiful. No blemishes or marks and just the right softness. However, when I bit into it, it was all wrong. It wasn’t the delicious, juicy piece of fruit that I’d hoped for. It had no flavour and the texture was far from tasty.

Now, my father is a farmer. When I next saw him, I asked him how such a perfect looking piece of fruit could so miss the mark on the inside. He explained, as well as being sprayed with fertilisers and probably pesticides to get it looking perfect, the fruit had most likely been chilled, close to freezing. That means it lasts longer and can meet the year-round demand from consumers.

I still think of that time, now. The way things appear on the exterior doesn’t necessarily reflect the interior and vice versa. This can really be applied across many different facets in life.

At times, we may look at someone who appears to have the shiny, perfect life – you know them, The Joneses. They might have a newer car than us, a nicer home (in the right neighbourhood), new clothes every other week and regular, lavish holidays. We want it all too. And now, please! In my experience, The Joneses are often living under huge financial stress.

Please, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with wanting a beautiful home, or that everyone who has a ‘shiny’ life is somehow under huge financial pressure. I love that lots of people have amazing, truly blessed lives.

I admire success. People who’ve worked hard to achieve their goals and continue to work hard and keep growing. I believe money and things are amoral – neither good nor bad. The pursuit of success is normal and understandable. The problem comes when we pursue it all, at all costs. There tends to be seasons too. Some years, our budget may call for thrift over luxe! Choosing to overspend can cause real harm to ourselves and our relationships.

What is that thing that drives us to want it all? Or at least our personal version of it? Why do those ‘I want what she’s got’ niggles pop up every now and then? Is it just me?! I hope not! Why are we so often prepared to do whatever it takes to ‘supersize’ or upgrade our lives and possessions, without thinking about what this ‘fast-money’, instant gratification culture is doing to our souls and our futures?

I definitely don’t want this to read all doom and gloom, it’s more about being mindful of those thought processes and trying to enjoy where you’re at, in any season. If this speaks to you, I really just want to encourage you in that first step of recognising what’s driving your behaviour and owning it.

I also think about the movie Inside Out … I love that visual of which emotion might be sitting at my mind’s console … Joy? Fear? Sadness? Anger? Disgust? If you haven’t seen the movie, I highly, highly recommend watching it with your kids. It’s brilliant.

Next, try talking to someone you trust and respect, someone who’s smart with money. It needs to be someone you’re comfy sharing with, and someone willing to share their insights. It may be your partner, a friend, a family member, or someone at work who you respect and want to learn from. If you’re comfortable you could even ask them to help you pull together a simple budget, or give you tips on what works for them when it comes to saving and importantly, avoiding or curbing unnecessary spending.

The following step is to stop comparing. I truly believe that comparison is the single biggest stealer of joy. Our contentment in who we are and what we have are things to feel proud of – not things to compare against. I think we are all meant to run our own race. It’s about doing life, our life to the best of our ability!

And finally – pursue the things you are passionate about, or as I like to refer to it, do what makes your ‘soul sing’ (corny, yes, but also true). Comparison may steal your joy, but using your unique gifts and talents to do what makes you truly happy will bring contentment.

If you haven’t quite worked out what these things are yet, that’s totally ok too. It took me a long time, and I’m still learning things about myself – particularly, where my strengths and passions intersect. My advice is to take some time and figure out how you “take your eggs” (shout out to those who get my Run-Away Bride reference 😉) and discover what it is you’re good at, like and enjoy doing. And, stop comparing! – Karen x

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