Updated on 09.17.14

11 Things You Can Do Today to Fall Behind Financially

Trent Hamm

Financial success is something that’s built up slowly over time. It’s not something that happens in one giant rush (unless you’re very lucky) – instead, it’s the culmination of a lot of little choices made over many years.

Every day, we’re faced with lots of choices. Good choices lead us down that path towards financial success, safety, and happiness. On the other hand, poor choices lead us to financial instability, uncertainty, and fear.

Many lists like these show you actions you can take to move down the path to success. However, I’ve learned time and time again that life’s best lessons are taught by the things you do that lead to failure. And I’ve failed with my finances, many times. I’ve nearly gone bankrupt. I’ve switched not only jobs, but whole careers.

And I’ve learned that these eleven things are sure-fire ways to fail.

Mail It In
It’s so easy to simply take it easy. Instead of really pushing ourselves to do something tremendous at work or in life, we have a tendency to kick back, get the minimum done that we need to get done, and move on to the next thing.

Here’s the thing, though. The more often you just do the minimum and mail it in, the more others come to expect this of you. They’ll start choosing others for key tasks. They’ll start spending time with people who want to do a great job.

And soon you’ll find that the people who just do the minimum are the first ones cut loose when times are tough.

Every time you can step up and carry through a task – even a very simple one – to a high level of success, you take a step in the right direction. Do it regularly, and others begin to notice. Do it consistently and others begin to value you.

Avoid Thinking About Tomorrow’s Goals
You go to work. You come home. You take care of the stuff that needs to be done. And then you enjoy your free time.

It’s really easy to get into this routine – it’s convenient, it keeps your head above water, and it’s flexible.

But what it fails to do is help you build towards anything more in your life. Where do you want to be in five years? If you’re not bothering to think about it, you’re going to be in the same place you are right now in five years – or in a worse place.

Why? The people out there who are setting goals are the ones getting ahead of you. They’re planning for the future and taking actions every day to get there. If you’re not even thinking about the future – and what you want from it – those goal-setters are walking right by you.

Yes, life is hard. Everyone else has all the advantages. People play dirty and they take away the spoils that are rightfully yours.

Yet, every minute you spend complaining about it and stewing about it is another minute lost. Those lost minutes are being used by other people to get ahead.

While you complain, someone else is polishing up a presentation that will make them look great. While you complain, someone else is starting a side business. While you complain, someone else is getting their work done with just a bit more polish.

Yes, there’s a big role in life for constructive critique – it helps everyone. Complaining is not constructive critique. Constructive critique is done directly to someone else with the desired end goal of improving their work or their situation. Complaining has no goal other than allowing you to vent your negativity.

Even worse, the people who listen to your complaints get the impression that you’re a complainer – a person who doesn’t produce solutions, but instead complains about those who do. Over time, they’ll migrate away from you, from the negative to the positive.

Buy Unnecessary Stuff
It’s quite easy to decide that an individual unnecessary purchase is worthwhile – and even required. A $5 cup of coffee isn’t going to break you. A new DVD won’t, either, nor will a new paperback. So why not buy?

Each purchase you make, though, is like a drop in a bucket. One or two won’t make your struggle any more difficult, but over time, those drops start to add up. That bucket gets heavier. Before you know it, that bucket is holding you down – it’s so heavy that it’s no longer possible to make any sort of speedy forward progress.

But that doesn’t change the situation today, does it? By all means, buy something you don’t need. Put another drop in that bucket. You can carry it. For now.

Just remember, each time you make the choice not to add a drop to that bucket, you make your journey just a little bit easier. Make those choices again and again and again and you won’t be weighted down like everyone else. You’ll be free.

Spend Lots of Time Idling
When I’m done with my workday, the last thing I want to do is dig into another major project. I want to kick back and mentally relax. I want to zone out for a while and do something completely trivial. Sometimes, I find that I can burn the whole evening that way.

Every time I do that, though, I end up realizing in the long run that it’s a mistake. I look down at my flabby stomach and ask myself why I didn’t exercise more. Wait, it’s because I was idling. I look at a house-cleaning backlog and berate myself for not keeping up with it.

Every moment you spend idling is a moment where you’re letting some aspect of your life slip away.

That’s not to say idle time isn’t worthwhile – it is. We all need rest sometimes, mental and physical downtime. Where the problem comes in is when you’re resting physically when you have plenty of energy or you’re resting mentally when you’ve got plenty of concentration available to you.

What if you’re worn out mentally but not physically? Do a physical task that doesn’t require much thought, like cleaning or exercising. What if you’re worn out physically but not mentally? Do a sedentary task.

Save your leisure time for things you deeply personally enjoy. And when you’re both mentally and physically tired, take a nap.

Hire Someone Instead of Doing It Yourself
Mowing the yard is hard work – I’ll hire someone to do it. I’ll hire a housekeeper so I have more time. I don’t want to get my yard ready for the spring, so I’ll hire a lawn-care outfit. My toilet doesn’t work, so I’ll just call a plumber.

Such choices are often easily justified in that they save time or that they take care of a task you don’t know how to do. These arguments would be worthwhile if you actually utilized the time for something productive or you were incapable of learning.

First, the time factor. If you’re truly doing something more productive with your time while someone else is mowing the yard, that’s probably a worthwhile expense. But rarely is that the case. Quite often, it’s just a matter of shuffling time around and what you actually gain is more idle time. Why not get out there with a push mower, get some exercise, and get your yard mowed?

What about the knowledge factor? Usually, when you pay someone to do something you don’t know how to do, it’s really expensive and it doesn’t save you much time, either. So why not try to teach yourself how to do it? There are tons of resources online to help you with almost any household activity you might want to try – and most of them are quite a bit easier than you think.

Not only do you save money by doing it yourself, you usually learn something useful in the process. Perhaps later you’ll be able to share that skill with others, becoming a more useful friend.

On the other hand, why not just throw cash at the problem?

Shop Without a List or a Purpose
You’re on your way home from work and you remember you need milk, so you stop at the grocery store to pick it up. While you’re in there, you remember another thing or two you need, and before you know it, you’re wandering out with $50 worth of food.

Your friends want to go do something and you wind up at a store for entertainment’s sake. Before you know it, you’re back home with three or four bags with items in them. What happened?

Every time you enter a store without a list or a very specific purpose, you run the risk of being unduly influenced by marketing and peer pressure. You look around at the items on the shelves, often arranged to put attractive things right at your eye level. You wander without purpose, taking in that information. If you’re with friends, you’re often engaged in discussion about how it would be nice to have these items. Thus, unsurprisingly, you often walk out with stuff you really didn’t need.

A much better plan is to never enter a store without a very specific plan. Know exactly what you’re going to buy before you go in the door. At the grocery store, that probably means preparing a list in advance. In other situations, that means willpower – deciding before you ever go in that you’re not going to buy anything at all, no matter what.

Use the Plastic
Hand in hand with shopping without a purpose is the temptation of using credit or debit cards to aid and abet poorly-considered purchases.

For most people, plastic means you don’t have to have the cash to buy the item. They don’t even have to think about whether they have the cash to buy the item. They can just swipe and walk out with the item.

This is the big reason why it makes sense to go cash-only, at least until you have the willpower to not use the plastic for any unnecessary purchases. Without that strong willpower, it’s so incredibly easy to just swipe the plastic that it’s no wonder people get in deep financial trouble.

As with many other things on this list, it’s a “drop in the bucket” factor. Doing it once isn’t a big deal – nor is doing it twice. But with each little decision, you fill up that bucket more and more, and carrying that bucket becomes harder and harder.

So, each time you make a strong choice here, you keep that bucket lighter. You make it easier to make progress. And you get to your destination quicker.

Put Off Important Tasks
I really need to get signed up for that 401(k) plan. I should get an automatic savings plan in place. You know, I really ought to get an emergency fund set up.

All of these tasks fall into the category of being “important but not urgent.” That means they’re things that should be done, but since they don’t have to be done immediately, they’re easy to put off.

And so many of us do. We put off these important things that need to be done. Often, we replace them with idleness or with tasks that are urgent but not important (like answering telemarketing phone calls).

The only problem is that the more we do this replacement, the further we fall behind. We miss out on building up our emergency fund and our retirement because we kept putting it off. We miss out on some stock market growth. We actually have an emergency, but don’t have enough money to simply take care of it.

Every day we choose to delay those “important but not urgent” tasks – exercise, financial tasks, and so on – the further we slip behind. Every day we choose to take ahold of at least one of these tasks, the further ahead we get. We make that choice every single day.

Give In to Habits and Addictions
Caffeine. Cigarettes. Alcohol. Drugs. Shopping. Television. World of Warcraft. All of these things can easily be addictions in people’s lives. They consume their time. They consume their money. They consume their motivation.

In the end, they become shackles, holding us back from progress.

The more addictions you can break free from, the more time you have and the more money you have. Getting through the transition to an addiction-free life can be really difficult, but as long as you’re held back by an addiction, you have a constant money and time leak in your life. The need to fix coffee every morning. The need to buy cigarettes all the time. The need to re-stock the liquor cabinet. The need to meet up with your guild every night. Time is money, and addiction eats them both.

Every day, you have a choice to make a change and walk away. Do you continue the habit – or do you make a change?

Surround Yourself with Unhelpful People
In the end, we’re often a reflection of the people around us. It’s been shown time and time again that our salary is often equal to the average salary of our five closest friends. Why? If we surround ourselves with people with negative behavior, our own behaviors become negative. If we surround ourselves with people with positive behavior, our own behaviors become positive.

What are the people around you like? Are they striving to get themselves in a good financial state? Are they helpful and supportive to you? Are they positive about the world around them? Do they listen to you? Do they encourage you to think of the world in a different way?

Or perhaps they just always talk about the same old stuff. Do they complain a lot? Do they spend most of their time in escapist behavior? Do you feel like you can’t ask them for real help? Do they just reinforce what you already think?

Take a strong look at the people around you – the ones you spend your time with – and ask yourself if they’re helping you to grow as a person – or if they’re holding you in place.

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  1. Complaining can SEEM to be constructive, because at some very minimal level we’re “doing something”, but you’re so right, it’s a virtual waste of time.

    TV and radio talk shows don’t help either, since that’s virtually the format they’re based on and they’re so popular right now. They trot out a bunch of people with Problem X, let them tell their story, then an “expert” comes in and solves their problem, all within 60 minutes.

    Of course, in real life, there are few real experts, and fewer still who can tell us how to solve our problems, especially if we don’t really want to actually do something to make it happen.

  2. Meg says:

    I prefer hiring out some of my tasks, but then I can afford to. Besides, it’s the only way I can steal enough time to practice music and work on my writing career. I’ve gone the route of trying to do everything myself and allowing myself no downtime even though I had a stressful job, and I flamed out after doing that for a while. I say, it’s okay to spend as long as you get good value out of it and it’s within your budget. I can always make more money. I can’t make more time.

  3. SwingCheese says:

    It is always amazing to me how much more I accomplish when I turn off the tv. I never mean for it to be, but tv is a HUGE time suck for me. And I don’t even have cable!

    But is caffeine really that big of an addiction? I just plan time to make coffee into my morning routine :)

  4. Baker @ ManVsDebt says:

    I also would add, “Overextend yourself into a house” to this list. That seems to get more people in trouble in my life than any other single factor I’ve seen. O.k., maybe not credit cards, but close.

  5. Kurt says:

    One thing I would question Trent is using the sentence “The people out there who are setting goals are the ones getting ahead of you”. I agree with the premise, but I don’t agree that life is about getting ahead of people. Instead, getting the most out of life for yourself. Thinking about goals will definitely help in your life. Who really cares about getting ahead of your neighbor? Otherwise, liked the article.

  6. Bill in Houston says:


    We have a definite winner in the “Buy Unnecessary Stuff” category. As Americans with access to easy credit we bought anything and everything in an effort to keep up with friends, neighbors, other family members, or even complete strangers.

    I used to be one of them until I stopped giving a damn what people thought of my stuff.

    Note to SwingCheese: Caffeine is a big addiction, at least to me. The difference is that I brew my own when at home, never buy coffee from a “barrista”, and partake in the office coffee pot when available. Funny thing is that most Starbucks habitues don’t buy coffee. They buy coffee flavored fru-fru drinks with lots of whipped cream, sugar, chocolate, or caramel. That’s their money makers. Their coffee of the day is (almost) a loss leader. My home coffeepots have always had timers so I just set it before I go to bed. Even a 20 dollar Mr. Coffee has a timer. For the price of less than a week’s worth of Starbucks the average person could have two month’s worth of home brewed coffee, including the coffeepot, filters, and blend.

  7. This is a post that needs to be read, re-read, and contemplated. I feel as though many people do each of these 11 actions in one way or another.

    I love hiring people to do things that I don’t want to do, but do I always make sure that I spend my time doing something more productive? No…Do I spend an unnecesary amount of cash on caffeine and *gasp* gambling? Yes…Do I put off important tasks? Yes Yes Yes.

    I pride myself on productivity, so this list was very eye-opening as I’m sure it will be to others. It’s important to evaluate what you are doing with your time, with your money, and ultimately with your life.

  8. Baker, I second your “don’t overextend yourself into a house” comment. I couldn’t imagine how all these people feel spending 40% – 50% of their incomes on housing payments. Even if you’re able to make the payments you’re not going to be able to enjoy life. I guess the same thing can be said about car payments.

    -Gen Y Investor

  9. Cara says:

    I believe that your conclusions in the hiring someone else section are far too general. For someone who has a 9 – 5 job and little other commitments, maybe it is worth taking the time to complete the job himself, and save some money. But what about those of us who work 70 – 80 hour weeks? The time/money equation becomes totally different. Our free time is truly limited, and the last thing we want to do is spend our precious free time cleaning the house, or mowing the lawn. It’s also a mistake to assume that those 70+ hour a week workers are a small minority in this country – America is a hard-working society and I would guess that a lot of your readers probably work far more than the standard 40-hour work week. Personally, I think it would be great to see an article on these time/money considerations (maybe I should just read “Your Money or Your Life”), because sometimes it is worth it to hire someone instead of doing it yourself (an obvious example that comes to mind is that time spent with children and loved ones, when time is limited, is FAR more important than mowing the lawn- given that choice, how would you spend your Saturday afternoon?)

  10. “For most people, plastic means you don’t have to have the cash to buy the item.”

    Not me! :) I just used my cc to buy my brake stuff for my car… Nearly $500 worth. The money’s sitting in the bank, I just figured I could earn a pinch of interest and a tiny bit of cash back doing it this way.

    For the time/money problem — Maybe it’s working *too* much? Maybe? *Gasp* Unless people are telling me they work 50+ hours a week doing something they love… (I’m going to go out on a limb and say that, well, most people just don’t.) Sorry, but if I find I don’t have enough “idle time,” I tend to cut back so that I don’t burn out. It’s not worth it to stress myself to death, and I’m going to fight tooth and nail to not end up like most “hard working” Americans. Who are just working themselves to death, making money and forgetting to live.

    Revolutionary though, I know. Perhaps I’m just too much of an idealist… But I can say you won’t catch me working that much unless half of it is what I choose to do and enjoy doing.

  11. SwingCheese says:


    You’re right about the Starbucks thing. I just make my coffee at home, using milk and sugar (and I occasionally splurge on a bottle of syrup if I’m feeling fancy). I rarely go to Starbucks, but I can see how a routine of going there would really add up.

  12. Patty says:

    Great thoughts! Hope everyone can read this posting. Thanks!

  13. Michelle says:

    Bill and swingcheese:

    One cup of plain coffee at starbucks costs around a dime to make. They charge $1.85 for it. How is this a loss leader? true, they’re making most of their money on the $5.00 lattes and frap’s but they’re making plenty on plain coffee as well.

  14. There really are so many ways to mess up, but none of them are necessary. So often we focus on one at a time as our personal pet peeve, but this post really put them all into perspective. Thanks!

  15. AJ says:

    Geees. You know how to make someone feel guilty. I am off to return some stuff tomorrow. *Hangs head*

  16. Todd says:

    Great post, Trent. I like this format.

    I had a professor years ago who gave us a list of “Ten Ways to Fail this Course,” and it worked for me better than any of the lists of things to do to succeed.

  17. Craig Ford says:

    I think it is interesting that all of these are mostly just ‘little’ things. However, it is amazing how much those little things accumulate over time. I’m in the middle of putting off important tasks as I write. Perhaps this will motivate me …

  18. Yadda says:

    Thank you for noting that cash-only is a substitute for willpower. I don’t go cash-only, and we’ve *never* had a balance carry over from one month to the next on our credit card.

    I’ve also got friends who will lecture anyone and everyone that doesn’t use the envelope system. The problem is that they’re “entertainment fund” is empty every month, and we end up spending less than they do. If the cash is there, people will spend it. That’s why I’ve always been leery of cash-only budgets. If you’re cash-only, you’ve already made the decision to spend the money. With no cash in my wallet, I can still think it over.

  19. Louis-Philippe says:

    Great post,

    I had to stop and think, all of those things are so true and we don’t even realize it.

    Now I’m decided on changing my bank,getting the most out of my hard-earned money and not letting it “sleep” in a low 0.10% checking account!

    “should be done, but since they don’t have to be done immediately, they’re easy to put off. ”

    Now I’ll go and move some into a good saving account (ING direct probably) and the rest will go into Climbing-Rate Term Savings or Term Savings.

  20. B Simple says:

    Nice post Trent. I would add trying to keep up with the Jones. Just because someone else spend money unwisely does not mean you have to do it as well. Because your co-worker or neighbor just purchase the fancy new car or new toy does not mean you have to go out and purchase one also.

  21. Tyler Karaszewski says:

    “Mail it In” must be some midwestern figure of speech or something. I can’t think of any meaning for this phrase that doesn’t involve the postal service.

  22. ema says:

    TV is such a waste of time – I also (like commenter #3) can accomplish so much when the TV is off. That’s why I got rid of mine. But then my fiance moved in with me and brought this piece of evil… Well, at least we haven’t hooked it up and can only watch DVDs (still a huge waste of time, though)…

    I read about “don’t break the chain” – it’s a strategy from Jerry Seinfeld. You get a calender that shows the whole year on one page and a red pen. Then you set up a new routine and for every day you do it, you mark the day in the calender. After a couple of days, you have a chain of red days and you are tempted to NOT break it. I started it last week at the office for three things: emptying my email-inbox, tidying my desk before I leave and reducing the hours I loose to blog-reading. For points 1 and 2 I am great on track, now I have to tackle point 3. ;-)

  23. TV is indeed a tremendous drain on our available free time. Pick something you really like and turn it off the rest of the time. Use the new free time to do something that produces results.

  24. Frugal in Europe says:

    I always hate it when you write posts like these… but I always do something afterward what I have been putting off. So thanks for another great post that got me going!

  25. Dan says:

    When I saw “mail it in” I thought you were referring to making bill payments via mail (snail mail)….which is one of the things that got me into trouble….because…I used to try to time the arrival of my payment with the deposit in my account….not only would I have several times where I overdrew the account, and several times where I incurred a late fee….I also incurred a Full Month of interest on each card…

    paying online, and making the payment as soon as the billing statement is cut was the fastest, best(est) way to get out of the hole….

  26. Johanna says:

    What about complaining about people who complain? Is that good or bad? And what about complaining about people who complain about people who complain?

  27. NMPatricia says:

    Great post (as usual). Just wanted to say, tongue in cheek, that much of the time I feel that reading blogs and my email often helps me fall behind – because I am not doing something more concrete such as making stuff from scratch (which I do) or doing stuff around the house to improve quality of life (which counts too, right?). However, some of my enjoyment comes from reading blogs (especially Trent’s) and I do learn alot. Hopefully, that counts…

  28. Kevin says:

    @Tyler (#14):

    I think you’re right. The rest of the world says “phone it in” to mean the same thing Trent is apparently trying to convey with “mail it in.”

  29. Michelle says:

    I disagree with “use plastic” as a way to fail. Maybe you meant just credit cards? Because we use our debit card for EVERYTHING. I haven’t carried cash in years. It actually helps us spend less money because every purchase is online and we can balance the checkbook (which is actually a spreadsheet) every night. I don’t have to worry about keeping reciepts or always wonder where my money went, because I have an electronic record. And since my hubby sees the spreadsheet too, we keep each other accountable for purchases. When we have cash, it’s gone and we have no idea where it went! A credit card, I can see getting in trouble with, but I don’t think a debit card is going to get people in the same trouble.

  30. alison says:

    I completely agree with using plastic versus cash. We’ve started using cash for our groceries, and not our debit card. Cash makes it hard to make a second or third trip to the store in a week, unless it’s planned, as in, “I will spend $75 today, and $10 i three days to replenish our milk and fruit supply.” Just using our debit card was too easy–we have the money available, but would prefer to save it for other things. We still keep our debit cards in our wallets, but it’s also nice to know exactly how much cash we’ve spent on groceries and not see it on our monthly statement. We use our debit cards for most things, but using them or food hurts us like nothing else does.

  31. David Posey says:

    Good stuff. We are currently downsizing our house and plan to be completely out of debt (including house) with in 5 years. All of these things will rob us of that goal!

  32. Craig says:

    Complaining never helps and gets annoying very quickly. Make something of your time, don’t waste it and think about your goals of the future to help keep yourself motivated. I like your list and agree with most of them. I try to use debit card more so I can see exactly what I am spending but have no problem using a credit card as long as you pay it fully off.

  33. When ever the topic has anything to do with being frugal, latte’s come up as an almost cliche extravagance. But in defense of Starbucks and other coffee shops, you don’t need to buy $4-$5 lattes every time you go in, you can buy a regular coffee for $1.70, which isn’t going to break anyones budget, even if you do it 2-3 times a week.

    Now you can save by making and bringing your own coffee for the ride to work everyday, but I really like Starbucks as a meeting place. I actually don’t much like their coffee, but where else can you go and shoot the breeze with family and friends for 2-3 hours for only $1.70?

    That’s actually quite a bargain compared to other forms of entertainment, and it’s always healthy to combine activities with bonding time with others. Sometimes you can spend a lot of money precisely because close friendships are lacking.

  34. Gwen says:

    Trent, can you clarify? I’m not sure what “Mail it in” means either?

  35. Frank says:

    RE “mail it in” – the phrase I’m familiar with is “phone it in”… here is the def from the “Urban Dictionary” (www.urbandictionary.com):

    “Perform an act in a perfunctory, uncommitted fashion, as if it didn’t matter. “

  36. Carey says:

    “Mail it in” is 19th century-ese for “phone it in”.

  37. Mol says:

    I am a big complainer and I hate it! (see what I did there..) Is breaking the habbit of complaining the same as any other or are there specific excersizes you can take to break it?

  38. Laziness is the biggest key to failure. Anybody who works a single digit work day and then complains about why they can’t make more money should just stop complaining. You’ve got 24 hours a day to do something with your life, and working 8 hours a day isn’t that special.

    A lot of people have great ideas, but not a lot of people execute on them. They just talk, talk, talk. Stop being lazy! Making millions is much easier than you think!

  39. William Gerald says:

    Keep up the good work!

    RE: Leaving an estate for heirs item

    Another drawback to letting the recipients know in advance is the in-fighting and name calling that would occur, if/when you should change your mind.

  40. Ana says:

    Great advice! Not to defend addiction, but my husband and I play World of Warcraft almost every day for a couple of hours. We both work full time jobs, have no children and we enjoy gaming and socializing with people all over the country. It does take up a lot of our time, but we decided that’s our entertainment and compared to going out to movies and other things, it’s relatively inexpensive, and we can play in our underwear in the comfort of our home. It’s a hobby and we enjoy it, but we do know people who are addicted to the game and their life revolves around it. Definitely makes you think about our society and where we as individuals fit into the whole spectrum.
    But we both enjoy this site and visit often. Thanks for the little bits of inspiration!

  41. J says:

    It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion, It is by the beans of Java that thoughts acquire speed. The hands acquire shaking, the shaking becomes a warning. It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion

    Otherwise, quite a pep talk article.

  42. Fantastic stuff. Really.

    With the economy the way it is, for those of us that have already escaped from the depths of financial hell, now might be the perfect time to relapse.

    After all the hard work to get out of debt, it doesn’t end there. Of course, its much easier, but one still has to maintain.

    When/if you get down, you just have to stay focused.

    All of this eceonomy crap will be over soon enough….well, maybe later than sooner, but it will end, trust me.

  43. Lise says:

    I’ll confirm just how addictive WoW can be… I quit playing (for the third or so time) about six months ago, and I’m shocked when I consider how four years of my life basically went down the drain. I feel like I didn’t mature, didn’t make any progress in my life, didn’t do anything of value in those years… and now I can never get the time back. When you’re in the heart of the addiction, though, nothing seems as important.

    Now that I no longer play, I still struggle against my energy levels… I seem to be the kind of person who can sleep sixteen hours a day and still feel tired (I am so not kidding… I slept five hours at a stretch after a full night’s rest yesterday, and still went to bed at 11pm). I have to admit using caffeine as a crutch here, because I can’t seem to find any source for my lassitude. Very frustrating… sometimes I just feel like I’ve replaced one roadblock with another.

  44. J says:

    @Lise — do you exercise? While you might expect it would make your energy levels decrease, it can actually increase them. I’ve also found that it does other things like decrease stress and increase productivity. The hard part is the first couple of weeks of breaking the self-reinforcing spiral of sleep -> listlessness -> sleep that just never seems to improve.

    Also, keeping a regular routine is also key (at least for me). Finally, excessive sleep can be a symptom of depression, you might want to talk to a doctor about it.

  45. lisa Allen says:

    I have to admit I feel uncomfortable about the last point (Surround yourself with unhelpful people). I’m one of these folks who is a bit empathetic. I don’t immerse myself in their stagnant situation, but I can’t help but feel a little sympathy and listening isn’t a *bad* thing…Also, I don’t want friends to drop me if I hit a bad patch!

  46. Tara says:

    I really liked this article, although I am a bit leery of the American obsession of having to be productive at all times. I prefer a more “dolce vita” lifestyle. I do what needs to be done, but I don’t feel guilty for spending 2 hours every evening reading.

  47. Katie says:

    Lise, you may want to get your hormone levels, particularly for your thyroid hormones, checked. Hypothyroidism can cause extreme fatigue, as can other medical conditions. Talk to a doc and hopefully they can help you feel more energetic, whether you need meds, a lifestyle change, whatever. Good luck!!!

  48. Lise says:

    Wow, I’m surprised how many people replied to my comment! J, I will be the first to admit my exercise habits are not as good as they could be. It does seem to help my energy levels, though, so I do attempt to make time for it in my life, but there are days when it’s a struggle even to get out the door for a walk. Today was a good day, and I was out of bed by 9am and walking. Monday was a bad day. (These are the two weekdays I don’t work). It all depends.

    Katie, I actually had my thyroid levels checked just recently. There didn’t seem to be anything wrong with the function. I’ve also had iron and B vitamin levels checked, which can also be a problem.

    I think I’m going to go back to my doctor and see about a sleep study. I worry about sleep apnea or narcolepsy.

  49. Todd says:

    I like the phrase “mail it in.” I hope you made it up, Trent. It sounds like “phoning it in” done even more lazily and slowly.

  50. Yadda says:

    Mail it in means to not give your best effort.


  51. Ellen says:

    I feel really strongly about the parts on buying unnecessary stuff and and shopping without a list. The biggest difference between my sister and myself is our shopping habits. I am the type of person who goes to the store with a goal. I get what I need and go home. She is the type of person who heads to a store and comes home with bags and bags of things she never knew she needed. She had to work three jobs while going to college full-time just to make up for what she was spending.

    The important thing to remember is that every cent counts. Pinch your pennies (another interesting article on this in terms of groceries http://tiny.cc/3Abce)

  52. A in NC says:

    GREAT post Trent!

  53. CleMBA Stein says:

    There is a little 156 page paperback book that will put this all into perspective. “Life’s Street Smart Money Manual.” Or go to Clemba.blogspot.com and laugh and learn. It is not at bad as they say.

  54. Funny– the sad thing is many folks fall right into these traps.

    I am so tired of complainers complaining about problems they put themselves into in the first place!

  55. Wren says:

    One cup of plain coffee at starbucks costs around a dime to make.

    Michelle, with all respect, I don’t think you have a clue what it cost a coffee shop to serve a cup of coffee. That number first got thrown around in the early 1990’s, and it referred to the cost for serving an 8 oz cup of mass-produced drip coffee in a sit-down, high-volume diner using tipped employees and equipment provided by the coffee purveyor. It was applicable to the likes of Denny’s and Shoney’s 15 years ago. And even 15 years ago, it wasn’t applicable to coffee shops selling high quality coffee. (Not that I think Starbucks qualifies for that statement, but that’s my personal bias.)

    I realize the point of Trent’s statement was that you can save money giving up coffee or making it at home. Whether it costs a company a dime or a dollar to PRODUCE something doesn’t matter when we’re talking about what it costs the consumer to PURCHASE the item, but if we’re going to throw out numbers, let’s at least have them based in some reality.

    I owned an independent coffee shop, so it’s a subject I know a little about. Even if you don’t count the cup, lid, napkins (customers always take a handful), sweetener, cream, stir sticks, brewing filter, and water (doesn’t come out of the pipes for free, you know), it’s STILL more than a dime. We certainly didn’t have the buying power of Starbucks, so our cups were 14 to 26 cents apiece (depending on size) and lids were 8 each. So a large cup costs us 34 cents before anything was poured into it. Still a big profit when I can sell it at $1.75 you say? Wait, there’s still the cost of the grinders, brewers, water filters (a must in our area), in our case a roaster, gas for that half a million BTUs of gas to run said roaster, electricity, insurance, rent….oh, and let’s not forget the green coffee beans and the freight costs to get them from the importer to our location. Notice I haven’t said anything yet about paying someone to serve (or roast the beans for) that cup of coffee?

    Sorry to digress, but that’s “dime” thing is a fallacy that gets on my last nerve.

  56. Roberta says:

    Wow. What a great post. I really needed to read that right now, as there are a few things that I need to do such as set up my 403b at work, insulate one room of my house that for some reason had no insulation covering it in the attic when I bought the house. These are great reminders.

    On the positive side this post makes me feel very much on track because I am doing (or not doing as the case may be) many of the others: shortly after buying the house, for instance, I bought a mower and a friend taught my son how to mow the lawn.

    Using this post, I checked in with myself on how I’m doing, and I’m doing really well, but I still have some areas that need addressing . ..

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