Is Too

Monday, May 27, 2013

Before I get into the nuts and bolts of the personal finance books I’ve been reading, and the various philosophies that go with the various approaches, I just want to get one thing out of the way.

In the spirit of There are Two Kinds of People in the World, I will say that when it comes to keeping track of things, there are definitely two kinds of people: People who like to track data and people who do not like to track data.

Neither of these approaches is right or wrong, and neither is better or worse than the other.

The benefit of tracking data is that you end up with … data. Data is useful. It tells you exactly what is happening. Data doesn’t lie, it is what it is. This is how much time it took to do that project. This is how you spent your money.

Some people enjoy the process of gathering data, they like to see a story unfold in front of them, they like to have a record of what happened. Gathering data helps some people feel like they know where they are, where they are going, and how long it might to take to get there.

Many people, however, loathe the process of gathering data. They find it tedious and time-consuming and difficult and unpleasant. (It is especially unpleasant when you don’t like what the data says. I ate how much?) It takes all of kinds of energy that they would rather be spending on things they actually enjoy doing.

But just as extroverts have trouble understanding introverts, and don’t see how anyone could possibly rather stay home and read a book than go to a party, people who do not enjoy tracking data cannot imagine that anyone in their right mind could possibly feel differently.

This bias comes up repeatedly in the book All Your Worth by Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren Tyagi, which I am currently reading. They emphasize over and over again that their approach does not require ongoing data tracking, because, in their words, “That is not living.”

So before I get into my analysis of the book, I just want to offer this public service announcement.

Life is made up of all kinds of experiences. Some of them are wonderful and some of them are awful and some of them are tedious and some of them are exhilarating.

Everything you do is living. Everything you do is life.

Changing your baby’s diaper and watching a movie and fixing breakfast and breaking your arm falling off a ladder and vacationing in Bali and mowing the lawn and talking on the phone and building sand castles and paying bills and playing tennis and watching other people play tennis and cleaning the toilet and going to the French Laundry for dinner. And looking at your receipts and bank statements to see how much you spent, and adding it up and thinking about whether maybe next month you could spend a little less and still be just as happy.

That is all life, it is all living.

And don’t let anyone tell you that it isn’t.

5 Responses to “Is Too”

  1. Marcia Says:

    Yes! Anyone who says that tracking data is not living…doesn’t know very many engineers, scientists, accountants, actuaries…

  2. lessisenough Says:

    Yeah, no kidding!

    I feel like it’s fine to not want to do something, but it doesn’t mean you get to completely dismiss the whole concept and impugn everyone who does it. Let’s not be so judgmental, people! To each his own.

  3. Agreed. But then, I’m someone who tracks her toothbrush, razor, and contact lens usage, plus the days I use shampoo or wash my makeup brushes. You know, just for fun. There’s something for everyone!

  4. SoCalmomwhocooks Says:

    I’m so very glad you’re embarking on this new line of financial posts, and can’t wait to hear more, but I agree, there seem to be two camps in the finances world, the track everything, budget-tatooed-on-the-body type of people and the “I couldn’t track my expenses if you paid me to do it” camp, but admittedly, this can also be overlayed with a season’s of life spectrum, and as you say, the persons who are more inclined to, through economic malodies or need to get their credit score improved, etc., embark on the tracking and stringent budgeting lifestyle as a short-term perspective. Perhaps I fall into this camp, as I had gone a period of time when I lived well beneath my means and had a savings account with overdraft protection so that I was able to get by with checking my bank statements monthly and not balance my checkbook at all. I kept receipts so that I could faint after returning from my annual lux vacations with my two kids but spent money more easily. In the last few years (post financial crisis) it’s much different and I came to this site for that very reason, to learn to stretch my food budget and overcome the syndrome of walking out of the grocery store with a bill at least 4-5 times what I’d expected or really needed, because things were 2 for $5, 3 for $7, etc.and I had no real inventory in my head of what I was going to prepare for the next several days’ meals. But with diligence and incentive to change, I’ve really absorbed alot of this blogger’s advice and concepts and I think that over an extended time of practice, we can positively change old habits and put on new, healthier habits. I’ve also learned as I get a bit older (over 50) that it doesn’t really matter what (most) other people think of my data gathering…i.e., having a wallet stuffed with ATM receipts, buy 8 burgers get 1 free cards, and receipts of all kinds is not a crime, even if complete strangers will make (somewhat rude) disparaging remarks…it’s like a caterpiller becoming a butterfly…and butterflys can soar above the flowers (and weeds) eventually…

  5. lessisenough Says:

    Thanks! And yes, we are all caterpillars working on being butterflies…

    And definitely I will be writing more on money & happiness (& everything in between). I feel like everyone needs to find their own way, and all the books and blogs have some advice that is going to work and some that isn’t, and the trick is figuring out which is which.

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