My earliest memory of putting a long term financial plan together is around age 10. Of course, long term was about 6 months, but I planned, saved and eventually purchased a 13” black and white Sanyo television with bunny ears (I’ll explain black & white, bunny ears and small TVs that don’t hang on walls to any young blog readers another time).
I think my parents were shocked. They had agreed that I could have a TV if I saved enough on my own, but never thought I’d make it past a baseball card shop with any money left in my pocket.
We didn’t have cable because it was a “waste of money that would rot our brains.” But, as MTV, ESPN and other “vital” outlets for information came into vogue, it quickly became something I had to have in my life. When I first got my own place after college, Time Warner was the first call I made and I’ve been hooked ever since.
Many years and rate increases later, the love affair is over. One month ago today, I pulled the plug on cable.
The point isn’t to go into depth about my personal entertainment decisions, though part of this is somewhat therapeutic and I thank you for humoring me. Rather, I want to talk about how I got to that decision and how it has helped me better approach goals as a financial planner.
I’ve thought about pulling the plug ever since access to entertainment and news programming via the internet was easily attainable (by the way, the options out there today are pretty amazing and a tidal wave of change is coming). My planner brain always starts with cost analysis and this decision was no different. I crunched the numbers and saw the value, but cable was still a service I could afford and enjoy, so the ever-growing bill kept coming and I kept paying.
Recent conversations with friends and family and other research led to a realization. My thoughts about cutting cable had nothing to do with money. The fact was I wanted to prioritize my time differently and no longer valued being able to watch “must-see” TV across 200 channels on demand.
When we face an issue with financial strings attached, we tend to immediately tie the solution to money. While an important aspect of that type of problem solving, I don’t know if it always helps us arrive at the best answer. Whether you can afford something should not be the only measure of value.
It took getting away from the penny pinching focus that my brain runs to far too quickly to get to the “why” behind the desire for change. Was shutting off cable a financial gain to me? Sure, but I’ve known that cutting cable would save money for years. That’s not what drove the decision. It was a shift in values, in how I wanted to prioritize my time and realizing that I no longer valued the time spent with cable television as I had in the past.
The next time you’re weighing a decision about where you spend your time, talent and treasure, consider first setting the financial side of the question aside. Take a look at your goals for what they are, why they’re important to you and not just the dollar signs attached. Taking this step will help ensure the work we do with you to help meet your goals are truly focused on those things that are most important to you, not just maintaining a lifestyle full of things you may not value.