This False Belief is Keeping You Broke


Photo by Luca Zanon on Unsplash

An equity partner at my firm once asked me how I was and I replied with what I thought was the perfect answer – “Good. Busy.” He gave me a quizzical look and walked away. I still don’t know what he meant by it.

This was years ago but I still remember the encounter, likely because I’ve never been one to say I’m “busy.” Sometimes I have conflicting plans, but I’m not busy. I spend a few nights a week sitting by myself in my apartment, writing this blog, cleaning, doing work, cooking, etc. To me, busy people are the social butterflies who have way too many invitations to make time for whatever boring thing I’m up to. I’m sure you have busy friends that are the same. Maybe you’re that busy bee.

I started to wonder about busy people several years ago when I noticed that the people I saw most often were 1) the med student I was dating, who I would see once a week between 7pm and 9pm, in between his hospital shifts and classes and studying for tests; 2) my sister, who was working full time and pregnant with her second child, her first son a rambunctious 3-year old; or 3) my lawyer and consultant friends, who I would meet up with around 11pm at night to get a break in during our 80 hour work weeks. Still, we were not the busy ones. These people always were ready and willing to meet, because their schedules left so little downtime.

I know what you’re thinking – the people who were “busy” had the time, they just didn’t make the time to see me. YES! Exactly. I wasn’t a priority to them so busyness was a good cover. But I wonder if they really thought they were too busy. A lot of people do.

I wrote a comment recently that I didn’t understand why people didn’t make their own peanut butter. It takes literally 30 seconds of blending peanuts with oil and salt and you have a much tastier, fresher, cheaper product. I got a reply – the reason people don’t make their own peanut butter is “time.”

Do people really not have enough time in their lives to spare seconds to make something better? Again, I see what you’re thinking. Of course they have the time, they just don’t care about the difference between store bought and homemade peanut butter. And that’s fine. But why not just say that? What would happen if that person said, I do not care enough to spend 30 seconds to have a tastier, fresher, cheaper product. If you don’t care about pleasure, health or expense, then it seems you care a lot about time. But what are you using that extra thirty seconds for? Probably nothing. People fritter their time away in worse, more meaningless ways than they fritter away their money. Maybe if we’re honest, we would say, I care about convenience more than anything else.

What if we were honest about all our “busy” excuses?

I have time but I care more about convenience than getting out of debt. I have time but I care more about having an easy comfortable life than my health. I have time but I care more about watching junk TV than learning by reading books.

What if we said, I have everything I want and need to achieve my goals but I choose not to?

It’s very difficult to save money if you are stuck on convenience. Making food is less convenient than buying food. Taking a taxi is faster but more expensive than taking public transit. Accepting the salary given to you is easier than negotiating a higher one. If you think you have little to no time to do the things that are cost-efficient, then it’ll be very difficult to save money. Hence you’ll always be broke. But if you can learn to carve out some time to reach your goals, that’s the start of something possibly life-changing.

Are you suffering from the cult of busyness? Is it keeping you from admitting what your true priorities are in life? Or are you actually so busy that you can’t spare 30 seconds to make your own food or read this blog post?


2 thoughts on “This False Belief is Keeping You Broke”

  • I’m still seeking to balance my time now that I’m semi-retired. That Times article about convenience was great, read it last week and saved it. You’re right, it’s healthier and better to make homemade peanut butter. It’s also healthier to ride your bike or walk to work than either driving or public transit. But you eventually reach a limit of “no time left” if you choose all inconveniences purposely.

    I love doing things the hard way. I’m a stairs guy, no elevators here. I bike to work. I bike to get groceries. But I don’t wash my clothes by hand 🙂 It comes down to picking and choosing where to insert convenience in your life and where to do things the better/harder/healthier way.

    Great post and great meeting you Sunday!

    • Sure, there’s nothing wrong with convenience. We can’t all be Amish! And to be fair, because I’m car-free, buying stuff is a lot LESS convenient for me than making it. Still, the knee-jerk rejection of making peanut butter because of time constraints was an eye-opener for me.

      I read your comment a few days ago and it has weighed heavily on me every time I take the elevator. =P

      Great meeting you too!

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