Thiag's blog

On Money

When I started earning, I never paid much attention to how much I was saving, and investing. Now and then I would bump into something that reminded me of the power of compound interest, index funds, importance of saving, being thrift, etc., but I never put much effort into it. Most of the time my money sat idle or in bad investments. This was an expensive mistake. A mistake that resulted from multiple factors.

One of the reasons was my self-image. I liked to think of me as a person who is not fond of money or luxury, someone who gives more importance to love, work, and society more than self-interest. I knew that chasing money at the cost of other values is unwise, but I didn't realize that not chasing money is different from not caring for your money. I guess, years of hearing exaggerated stories of fictional and real heroes not caring about money in pursuit of greater goals had an influence on me. I missed to see my irresponsibility lurking behind the selfless and heroic self-image.

One other reason was lack of awareness about my spending habits. I never made expensive purchases. I don't change phones often - I usually have them for 4 years or so, no expensive vacations, clothes, cars, or smart watch, while many of my friends would do some or most of these. So, I lacked a sense of guilt that I was doing something wrong with my money. I had a subconscious confidence that my spending habits are not bad enough to warrant scrutiny. I equated not buying luxuries with being good with money. I didn't realize that freely spending on supermarket, and restaurants quickly added up to be on par with expensive gadgets.

The one that costed me the most was telling myself that I don't have the time to care deeply for my money. Even after slowly realizing that I am not managing my money well, I kept telling myself that I don't have the time to dive into it. I was convincing my family and my girlfriend's family to accept our relationship, I was figuring out how to grow in my career, or if I should switch careers, what is the meaning of my life, discovering my interests - all those important stuff. I thought I can sort my money once I figure out these life questions. Years went by. Some problems were solved, some still stay to this date, some new problems cropped up. Managing money was still in the back burner. The truth is, I have always had the time. Amidst dealing with the same life questions, I found time to vacation, watch crappy movies, hang out with friends, practice yoga, meditation, etc. It wasn't the time that I lacked, but the responsibility.

I have been tracking my expenses diligently for the past three years, and I have a new found appreciation for the effect of small expenses on my wallet. I plan my snack better after I found out that $1 chocolates and meal bars from vending machine had costed me $300 over two years. I mentally compare prices of items at various stores I frequent, and put off buying something if I can wait until my trip to the other stores where it is cheaper.

A couple of years ago, I did a rough calculation on how much money I have lost by letting my money sit idle or in bad investments. I couldn't sleep well for the next few days. I realized that the day of having all my problems sorted out before taking money management seriously will never come. I resolved to be more responsible with money. Over a course of two months, it took me a total of 20 to 30 hrs. to research safe and decent investments - essentially index funds, calculate losses in pulling back money from bad investments, tax saving options, choosing economic options for recurring expenses like insurance, phone, and internet, etc. I was blown away by how much more I could save, and how money could work to earn more money even during a pandemic.

Money always has to work for us to earn more money. Not putting our money to work because we are figuring out life, career, or marriage is akin to hiring people and paying them salary for doing nothing, while telling ourselves that we will put them to work once we solve all other problems.

#money #saving

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