Recently, I’ve come across several financial “gurus,” both in print and online, who make the claim that the little expenses in life don’t really matter in terms of getting ahead. “You’re wasting your time worrying about the details of lunch,” they say, “when you should be focusing on drastically increasing your income.”
It’s an appealing argument, one that particularly appeals to people with a strong do-it-yourself entrepreneurial spirit. Think big! Dream big!
Problem is, it doesn’t really work like that.
For starters, very few people succeed at anything without being detail-oriented. For all the talk about Steve Jobs being a visionary business leader, he actually succeeded because he focused on details, not just of his business, but of his life. He was constantly re-evaluating and editing even the littlest details of his life.
Want another example? John D. Rockefeller, arguably the biggest American business success of all, was so focused on the details that he found a way to save thousands of dollars for his business by simply eliminating one drop of solder from each can of oil sold by his company. It’s all about attention to detail.
A detail-centric approach to life doesn’t just end at one’s career or professional interests. It extends to all aspects of life – and that includes extending to your lunch and other personal details.
Of course, the reason that little details like the drop of solder matter so much is because they’re magnified by repetition.
The same is true for lunch. If you can come up with a lunch routine that saves $3 each day off of what you’re doing now, you’re saving $1,100 per year. That’s about 4% of the take home pay of an average American family for the year. This is saved just by paying attention to one detail and fixing it.
$1,100 is seed money for a microbusiness. It’s a solid down payment on a car. $1,100 is money that can get you through a rough spot.
Again, the counterargument that many would make is that most details won’t save you $3. To that, I say, so? If I can spend fifteen minutes figuring out a more efficient system for doing laundry that cuts energy and water use by 10% at home, I’m saving about $0.05 per load forever. Our family does a load of laundry every day. Over the next decade, that fifteen minutes of thought is going to save us $182.50.
Please, tell me something else you could do in fifteen minutes that would bring home $182.50 after taxes.
Frugality trains the mind to look at details.
Frugality trains the mind to search for efficiency.
Frugality reduces your monthly bills, thus increasing your financial gap between spending and saving regardless of your short term professional or business success.
Frugality often exposes ways to save time and energy as well as money, freeing you up to apply it elsewhere.
If I meet a professional who isn’t frugal in many aspects of their life, then I’ve met a professional who’s not detail-oriented and doesn’t search for value or efficiency as a matter of routine. Is that a person you’d pick out for success?