Oct 12, 2008

"Pay Yourself First" and other Ideals we have Recently Lost

Over the years, we have forgotten a number of things that our parents did, more things our grandparents did and even more so what our great-grandparents did. One of my favourite phrases of recent times is "It's the way of the future" but in a lot of circumstances, we really can learn from the past on how to best to get along in life.

Here I'll name a few ideals we seem to have lost over the years and hopefully we can start to bring back into life to make it better, easier, more fruitful and also make us financially better off.

"Pay Yourself First"

When was the last time you heard that phrase? A while ago maybe. Certainly for me, it's not something that has crossed my mind since I first heard it when I was in school. My parents didn't use it a lot though I fully expect my grandparents did.

In Personal Finance circles, it's a very well known phrase and one which seems to be the staple of better financial management from which all other tips and techniques arise from. Obviously paying off high-interest debt is the first thing that should be done but that gets you into the swing of paying yourself first. Then it's just a case of switching from paying off someone else to paying yourself.

I'm sure there are many different ways to do this but siphoning off 10% of your salary is the first place to start. Currently, that's exactly what I'm doing but I plan to increase it to 15% and finally 20% at a later date. If you add that to my KiwiSaver contributions (plus my employers on top), in a few years time I hope to be shifting the equivalent of 28% of my salary aside. This is in addition to making extra payments on my mortgage.

Growing your own Veggies, Get a Vegetable Plot

A few years ago, I had a vegetable plot. I lived next door to an old couple of 80ish years old. Once my garden was in harvest I had far too many carrots, beetroot and onions for me to make use of. I wanted to can some things - especially the beetroot - but at the time I didn't have the equipment. Instead, I gave some to my next door neighbours.

Without asking, something magical happened. They came around the next day with a 'harvest' of their very own. Silverbeet, lettuce, potatoes and parsnips! I was shocked but at the same time, very happy and very thankful.

It got me thinking that, in their day and age, that swapping would have been commonplace. They were originally British so I suspect in the years after WWII, having a part of a communal vegetable plot (something still very British) would have been commonplace.

Currently I don't have land I can (or want) to grow veggies on but my yearning to get back to the good old days is growing ever larger. Being able to pick a fresh carrot for breakfast, some tomatoes for lunch and maybe an apple at tea creates a very satisfying moment. I can't wait to get a veggie friendly place again so I can again reap the rewards - both nutritionally and monetary - by growing my own veggies.

Building to Last and Fixing the Things that Break

In our throwaway society, two things have changed. The first is that consumables are now built to be thrown away and replaced. "No user serviceable parts inside". Not only that but we have also lost our ability to fix other things too, things which are user serviceable.

Take my car for instance. It's not very complex but at the same time, I have no idea, none whatsoever, how to fix it if something goes wrong. Yes, I can learn about it - and I should - but hopefully I'll be getting rid of the thing soon anyway (heh, that's one way to remove a problem). Then again, knowing how to darn a sock or patch a pair of jeans is something we can and should all do.

Obviously you can't keep repairing things forever but you can sustain them for a while. Also consider giving them to charity to be given or sold on since there may still be some use in them yet.

Creating our Own Entertainment

Long before the days of games consoles, kids used to keep themselves entertained. The amount of time I used to spend in the street kicking a footy against the kerb was huge in relation to kids nowadays. TV, computers, games consoles, music players, portable entertainment all seem to keep kids occupied but whether their imaginations are getting a run-out is speculative.

When was the last time you saw kids on the street playing for hours with a spinning top or hitting marbles against each other? Me neither. Whilst I don't expect that form of entertainment will go down these days I do think they still have a place especially to encourage imagination which is something which will certainly help in later life.

Having recently bought a pedal bike, I'm already yearning back to my younger days when we would ride around for hours, getting in to all sorts of situations but thoroughly enjoying it too. Not only that, but it also gives me more exercise and is yet another activity that doesn't have an ongoing cost once the initial payment is made.

Going back further, when we were hunter-gatherers, our bodies expected a certain amount of exercise and they still do. Whilst we are still evolving, we're not nearly evolving as much as the technology we introduce into our lives and they just can't keep up. Give our bodies what they deserve and get out there running, biking, roller-blading, swimming or playing games. It's also great for the mind.

The Way Things Were

Looking even further back into history reminds us of even more things we no longer think about. On a recent TV program I saw it reminded us that the more basic an activity is, the more our bodies and our minds respond to it. Exercise and cooking our own meals - as opposed to watching TV and eating take-outs - not only make our bodies and minds feel better but are also helping save money at the same time.

It's no coincidence that the things that make us happier and feel better, are the things that actually cost us less.

Any other activities you can think of that our ancestors did, we don't but should still consider to make a part of our lives? Leave your comments below.


Anonymous said...

If I paid myself first, I wouldn't have enough money to pay rent. Now why would I want to do that?

Anonymous said...


Obviously a little common sense goes a long way.

If your outgoings are more than your incomings, there are other things you will have to do first. It might be worth looking into other ways of generating other income and/or cutting down on your spending. Good luck.