How to sort the rational wheat from the emotional chaff …

I published a post last week called 10 steps to whatever it is that you want … how to weigh up the cost of a lifestyle decision which outlined a basic Making Money 101 decision-making process to help you sort your way through a discretionary purchase decision (you know the type: “Hey, that 48″ plasma screen would look really great on that wall!”).

You see, I come from the school of Ambivalent Frugality – sometimes you should … sometimes you shouldn’t. After all, money was invented to trade for ‘stuff’, right?

We just have to trade it for the RIGHT stuff, only when we can AFFORD it; and, the 10 Steps were designed to help us do exactly that.

Now, I don’t normally do a follow-up post so quickly … after all, what will I have left to write about next month?! 🙂

[AJC: kind’a reminds me of the old joke: why shouldn’t you look out of your office window all morning? Because you’ll have nothing to do all afternoon!]

But, Diane had a great question attached to my original post that this post is designed to help her answer – and, I hope that it helps you, too!

Here’s part of Diane’s question:

Have a dilemma regarding is it a need or a want – I have a house now, student loans, bad debt ) and need to decrease everything. I have a rescue Old English Sheepdog I’ve had now over a year and a half. Always meant to get a [larger] fence up, even prior to getting him, but had different expenses and no savings to cover them (hence the debt climb) and have put off getting a fence up … under the 10 questions, it doesn’t qualify as something to change lifestyle, but … I think this is a need, but … it is a financial decision as well. It’s not putting food in our mouths, but it is providing shelter and protection for the family dog who is also protection for us (single mom household). Or is this too left-field?

Now, this is definitely not left field, but – at least on the surface- the 10 Questions seem more designed to answer “can I afford ‘stupid stuff'”-type questions than these really tricky emotional ones.

In my experience, when we get into emotional ‘need v want v life-changing’ questions, rational decision-making can fall flat on it’s head.

But, I have a simple solution …

… one that doesn’t need to involve attempting to answer (preferably, Qualified Shrink Assisted) a myriad of ‘soft’ questions like: “will the animal suffer if you don’t put the larger fence up?” and/or “will YOU suffer if you delay puttin the larger fence up?” and/or “did your parents emotionally ‘fence’ you in when you were young and are you projecting this onto your dog?” and so on [AJC: Sigmund would be SO proud of me].

Instead, I shortcut the whole process for Diane – and, I suggest that you give this a try next time you are trying to avoid answering the 10 Questions because you really need something that you probably can’t afford, too – by simply asking her to do the following:

Follow the 10 questions exactly as written … that’s what I put them there for!

Simple … isn’t it?

Now, Diane, if you followed this advice on Sunday when you left your comment, by now you would have made your own sane, rational decision. Right?

If as I suspect, given your financial position, it was against Poor Pooch then I have a question for you:

How do you really feel now, having made that really hard decision?

…… [Diane inserts emotional feeling of (a) relief having made the ‘right’ decision, or (b) pain having made what feels like a terrible, albeit financially correct decision, or (c) she’s emotionally dead] …..

Diane – and all of us – that is the only way to sort through an emotional need from a want:

Make the decision rationally, then see how you really feel …

then, go with your feeling!

That’s what LIFE is all about … and, didn’t we just say that our money is to support our life?


PS There’s a neat shortcut to this process: when faced with a difficult choice – and you don’t want to pay for professional advice to help you get through the decision-making process – simply flip a coin and mentally go with the decision. Dig deep to see how that makes you feel … and, go with your feeling!


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8 thoughts on “How to sort the rational wheat from the emotional chaff …

  1. I’ve done something similar to this before. I’ll take two objects that feel the same (two different colored chips, or two pennies with different dates) or more if there are more options. I put them behind my back, switch them around, and before I look, I evaluate if I feel like “cheating” and making it more likely to answer one particular way. Sometimes it’s easier to determine if you want to “cheat” than it is to sit down and sort out how you’re feeling.

    If I don’t feel like “cheating” than the two options are emotionally pretty much the same, and I can live with whichever option I go with. Often the hard decisions turn out this way, which is why they are hard to make. But once you’re sure you can live with either choice then it doesn’t matter how you make the decision (magic 8 ball, asking your neighbor, etc).

  2. @ EA – Sounds like a great alternative … why don’t you send me one Class II and one Class III 1804 Silver Dollar and I’ll give it a try!

  3. Thanks!

    I even used this method with someone at work over something trivial, but hadn’t thought of applying it here.

    I didn’t see your original reply to my comment, so if it was heartless – as you suggested – somewhere you found your heart again.

    You’re right about the questions that are unknown – is the dog suffering (as some online group that will unleash and “steal” your dog would have you believe) from inconvenience or really being deprived, or is it my own guilt I need to buy the fence for. Yeah, yeah, Freud might be proud of you, too – I’ve always wanted to be “unleashed” myself and free as a bird. But that might have just been the trickle-down effect of the 60s and being a child of the 70s.
    Nothing Freudian at all.

    Thanks for pointing out this new post – I was starting to think you’re posting too often for me to keep up!

  4. @ Diane – Thanks for your original comment – and this follow up – as inspiration for this f/u post. Hope all turns out well for Pooch.

    I post daily … right now, I’m 27 days ahead … I thought that I would slow down if I ever get close to zero in the ‘buffer’ … I’m interested in any suggestions?

  5. 27 days ahead? I’m surprised (and amazed) a bit. I’m more the casual blogger, i.e. I blog when I have time or want to. The way yo u approach blogging is just different. When my schedule clears up a bit, I think I’ll give your approach a try to see how it goes.

    Keep up the awesome work 🙂

  6. @ Alex – Too much Life, not enough Time 🙂

    I guess the trick is to keep writing as long as (a) I have something to write about and (b) people keep reading.

  7. Your blog is the first thing I opened up in the morning (no kidding). I’m waiting until my savings are accumulated enough to start the real investing using your investing approach. And while I am still an “accumulated investor”, I think it’s the time for me to read, learn, and ask questions. I’m glad that you are willing to share your wisdom through your blog. I can tell right away that more and more people will be benefit from what you are writing. Maybe your experience won’t be applicable to everyone (there is still “chances” and luck in everyone’s life), but the ideas and principles are invaluable. I read somewhere that the best thing in life usually comes free.

    Maybe you should edit your writing and publish an e-book. I’ll definitely buy it.

  8. @ Alex – Through your comments and e-mails, I know a little more about you than you are sharing here: you are also undertaking a key Money making 201 step of starting your own web-business/es. With a little of that ‘luck’ that you mention, you should be well on your way!

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