What Salsa and Personal Finance Have in Common
One of the challenges of having a young infant is that once you get them to sleep, you have no idea how long they are going to stay asleep. For uptight types like me this is basically torture. Although I’m trying to roll with it as much as possible, one strategy that helps me is not to get started on ambitious projects that I’ll be frustrated if I can’t finish.
Like writing a blog post. lol
But one day last week, I tricked myself into completing a small project of sorts. Baby was sleeping. I was making tacos. And we had soooo many garden tomatoes. So I decided to cut up one or two tomatoes for a topping. Then I realized, we have all the ingredients for salsa. Now if I set out to make salsa, I would feel completely overwhelmed. So much chopping, and that baby will wake up any minute and I won’t actually have salsa to show for it.
So I told myself, just chop some cilantro for another topping.
Baby kept sleeping. Okay, just cut an onion. Also a topping.
Baby still snoozing. I’ll just cut a couple more tomatoes. I can always ask Neil to do the jalapeno when he gets home. And then I realized, I don’t have to get through this whole colander of tomatoes. I’ll just make as much salsa as I can, even if it’s barely any. One tomato at a time. Because some salsa is better than no salsa.
And miraculously, that baby slept right on through the making of a sizeable bowl of salsa. One tomato at a time. I even got to the jalapenos.
While I was chopping away I thought, sometimes money is like this. You just have to take it one tomato at a time. I can’t tell you how many times someone has explained to me why they can’t save more, or spend less, because they can’t do it all the time. Sometimes consistency is crucial to improving your financial situation. Investing $100 once isn’t really going to get you anywhere. But if you never try to make progress because you’re afraid you’ll lapse at times, that isn’t going to get your anywhere either.
Why not just take it one tomato at a time? What’s your tomato? It could be a money-saving measure, saving toward a goal, investing, or paying off loans.
For example, it may be forming a money-saving habit like making a menu and grocery list before shopping. Just do it once. Maybe the savings will help motivate you to do it next time. Even if you only make a menu or list half the time, you’ll save more than if you never made one. Same goes for hundreds of thrifty strategies. And for bigger-picture things like saving or paying off debt. Just because you can’t contribute extra every month doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it when you can. Does writing a will overwhelm you? Just make the first phone call.
Are there projects you shouldn’t approach this way? Sure. Take our recent bathroom remodel: we couldn’t just leave the plumbing half finished or the floor torn out for long. But many other tasks–like cleaning that bathroom–can be done in increments when needed. And many financial goals are finished incrementally, too. Whatever it is for you, just take the next step and see what happens.
What financial step do you find overwhelming or intimidating? Have you ever broken down a goal into little steps?
That salsa looks great! I remember how wonderful it was when our baby’s naps were timed just so. It was such a gift. “Even if you only make a menu or list half the time, you’ll save more than if you never made one.” That is a message to spread far and wide: progress happens despite imperfections. Our whole journey out of debt has been riddled with errors – but we’re just about at the finish line. It’s like AA’s one day at a time philosophy – and Dale Carnegie’s day-tight compartment analogy. And if today is a failure, tomorrow doesn’t have to be. The whole is overwhelming. The task for today is not.
I definitely look forward to settling into more of a nap schedule as she gets a bit older!
When you think about it, we all make progress in many areas despite many errors and imperfections. Those analogies/slogans are very applicable to personal finance.
As the saying goes, big things have small beginnings!
By the way, reading through this blog post has made me hungry again!
Another great and relevant saying! I know people who have started diets by simply cutting out soda. Once you see those first few pounds drop, it is super motivating to continue and do more. Same goes for saving money.