Opportunity Cost

The hardest lesson I learned while doing Dave Ramsey has to have been his brief mention of “Opportunity Cost.” He mentioned it as if it was a given, but ever since then I have been hung up on it, struggling with what it means. Basically, opportunity cost means that when you spend your money on one thing, you can’t spend it on something else, and vice versa. It’s a silly thing to be so hung up on, but as someone who is low income and struggles with money anxiety, it is really throwing me for a loop.

I keep catching myself about to spend money working myself into a tizzy about how if I spend this money on this now I won’t have it to spend later. This could be a choice between x or y. This paycheck we had a small amount of extra money, and I worked myself into a panic trying to decide whether to pay off debt, go to the doctor, or go to the dentist with it. It is an almost crushing fear that if I make the wrong decision God will never forgive me and we will never have money again, which is ridiculous, but it is the worst of the fears that arise in me. What sucks even more about this, is I’ve done it a couple of times, and ended up wasting the extra money because I couldn’t decide which important thing was most important.

Even writing this it sounds ridiculous. I keep debating if maybe I was too spoiled as a kid. Maybe I didn’t know it but I got everything I wanted, so now I’m incapable of accepting defeat, but to be fair, that’s not how my childhood was, however much the people say millennials are entitled because they got whatever they want, I didn’t. I watched my parents struggle, a lot. I was terrified about money as a kid, so I think it’s more likely that every defeat feels like a promise that there will only be more defeat, and it will never get better. I think what I fight within myself is less the spoiled rich kid and more the savage Scarlett O’Hara turns into when she is fighting to make sure her family never goes hungry again. Who knows which is crueler, one who is fighting for their life, or one who doesn’t know how to fight?

The point is, though, that I am working on learning to be patient as we work the baby steps, and to accept that we are meant to use our money, and it is ok to take the risk that we take every time we spend any. Every time we spend a single penny, we cost ourselves the chance to spend anything else. What I have found is that when my Scrooge takes over(the side of me that hoards and is afraid of letting go) the money doesn’t get spent until my irresponsible side screams her way out and throws the money away on something stupid. Then, I lost the opportunity to give the money to any of the truly important things that it belongs to.

As odd as it sounds, I have found the most effective way of fighting this is to spend some money. While I am in Scrooge mode, I go grocery shopping, or I set some money aside. I practice trust in myself and my decisions, let go of the money, and afterwards I am able to breathe a little better. It’s not irresponsible spending, but something that has to be spent anyway, to give myself the feeling of letting go, but in a responsible way. I’m not sure this is sustainable because sometimes I feel like I should have waited, but for now it works against the hoarding impulse.

The other thing that is really helpful for me is talking to my husband about it. Even if he doesn’t have the right advice at a given time, speaking my concern out loud sounds insane enough that I’m usually able to calm down a little and see what’s happening. But usually my hubby has some great calming words that help me to slow down, take a breath, and make the right decision.

Overall, doing Dave Ramsey is sure ripping up the carpets in my mental fixer upper. He’s opening up closets and caverns and broken pieces I didn’t know were there, or if I knew, I didn’t know how bad they were. I can feel the change happening in me as I try to stick with the baby steps and the intentionality that they require. It’s amazing to see how much money affects your personality and how much working on it can change who you are as a person. It’s humbling in a big way, but I’m hoping it pays off just as big in the long run. ♥️♥️♥️ Baby step 7 here we come!

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