Rinse and Repeat

One of the most frequent complaints I get from readers of The Simple Dollar is that I often repeat some of the basic tenets of personal finance. Let’s face it – in some respects, The Simple Dollar is repetitive. By now, I must have riffed the principle of “spend less than you earn” at least a dozen times (well, let’s see … one two three four five six seven eight nine ten eleven twelve).

So why do I keep writing about this stuff? Why do I often try to hammer away at the same points? Here are a bunch of reasons.

Repetition Breeds Success
Repetition of the key principles every once in a while is good – it serves as a reminder of the basic moves we all need to make. I know that for me personally, repetition and constant reminders of the keys to success, particularly through someone else’s words and thoughts, are key for keeping me on the right path. That’s why I read about 30 other personal finance sites every day and also keep up with tons of reading on the subject.

Repetition is a key factor in many personal finance tactics. The day in and day out repetition of making the choice to drink the less expensive coffee is one that leads to having more money at the end of the month. The month in and month out repetition of investing that money in an index fund leads eventually to a nice big chunk of change. Repetition and persistence are keys to the game.

Easier Said Than Done
The principles may seem easy, but they’re often incredibly hard to actually execute. It’s easy to know the right move to make, but it’s hard to always make that correct move. There are a lot of reasons why this is so, and a regular re-examination of the basics, particularly in terms of personal failures (and personal successes) offers a lot of insight on how and why it’s worth moving forward.

A perfect example is an essay I wrote a while about about failure in achieving short-term goals. I write quite a bit about goal setting – I think it’s a very valuable thing to do. But I often don’t reach my goals – what can I learn from that failure?

Reaching Someone New
I get hundreds of new readers every day, in addition to all of the regular readers. These people often find my blog through Google, searching for things like ” how can i change my life around financial” and “i am scared to get into student loan debt” (yes, two real search terms from people who found The Simple Dollar in just the last hour or so). These people are out there seeking answers and I want to be able to give them the right answers – the best answers.

That means teaching the fundamentals and doing it in a variety of ways so that when that desperate searcher out there types in a term and finds The Simple Dollar, they at least have a good chance of finding the answers they need to get themselves on the right track.

I get emails all the time from readers who have gotten themselves on the right track financially because of The Simple Dollar – and those are the people I write for. Every time I help someone realize how they can improve their financial life, I’ve achieved what I set out to do – and the more people that are helped by The Simple Dollar, the better. Along the way, that might mean some repetition – but that’s a price I’m happily willing to pay.

From Another’s Eyes
Everyone is living a different life and looks at these principles from a different perspective. Take a minimum wage earner – “spend less than you earn” to that person is going to mean something much different than what it means in my life. Similarly, my idea of spending less than I earn is far different than, say, Warren Buffett’s idea of the same principle.

Because of this, it’s easy to analyze these principles through all sorts of filters. How does a college student spend less then they earn? How about a blue collar worker? How about a self-employed person who deals with irregular paychecks? This is why I love talking about reader’s questions, even on issues that were covered before – someone else’s experiences color everything differently.

A Fresh Perspective
A new angle can make an old idea seem fresh again and breathe new life into it. Whenever I think about basic principles, I try very hard to look at them from a new angle. How am I applying this right now in my own life? How did I fail to apply this in the past? How could I apply this in the future? What would happen if I lost my job?

I can also throw in other contexts as well. For example, about a week ago, I looked at how you can apply basic principles to living your dreams and I covered (again) the idea of deliberate practice. But in the context of using it as just a piece of the puzzle to assemble a larger dream – in this case, my reader’s dream of being a golf professional – put it in a different context. It was deliberate practice with a focused and career oriented purpose.

Down the road, I see other contexts for deliberate practice within personal finance that can cast a new shadow on the principle – these currently reside in my “idea box” for future posts.

The Basics Are What Works
In the end, I cover the basics because they are the parts that work. Spending less than you earn is the key to personal finance. Deliberate practice will make you better at whatever you’re working on. Index funds are the best choice for most casual investors. Keeping track of your spending will help you corral the cash that leaves your pocket.

Why do I write about it again and again? It takes vigilance to make these things work. It takes new angles to inspire me – and likely to inspire you. It takes a fresh perspective to grab someone’s imagination and convince them to make a big challenging change.

And in the end, the basic stuff really does change the world.

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