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How Much Does An Opportunity Cost?

fork_in_the_roadWorking as a Money Coach allows me to assist people in grasping deep personal insights and then use these to make more informed choices. In some cases, the insights are so profound they create a “shift” in perspective that leads to positive changes in the quality of their lives.

I do this through a simple exercise that works like this; I ask people to craft a vision of what they want most in their futures. The replies I get include things like; beautiful homes, luxury cars, magnificent vacations and wonderful experiences shared with family and friends.

Next I ask them to reflect on these desires and ponder what personal value(s) would be satisfied if they were to materialize. People find this exercise interesting because they’ve never explored the underlying meaning of their longings in this way. They reply with words like: security, freedom, peace, abundance and happiness.

This is where the insights start to emerge. I next ask “To experience security, freedom, peace, abundance and happiness is it essential that you attain the specific things described in your vision?” The answer is invariably “No.”

People tend to become locked-in to a particular point of view which blinds them to other opportunities. My goal is to help them become aware of additional possibilities that exist. From here, they can be more intentional about how they allocate their often limited supply of dollars in service to what matters most i.e. to better connect money with meaning.

Here’s an example. One Saturday I got an email from Judy (not her real name), a client, requesting an urgent phone conversation. When I called, she explained that she and a good friend had discussed taking a trip together some time back, but nothing had ever come of it. Earlier that day the friend called to say she’d found a wonderful vacation opportunity at a great price! The catch was, it had to be booked by 5pm that day.

Judy explained that since first considering the trip, her priorities had changed. On one hand, she felt she should agree to go, out of respect for her friend. On the other hand, she felt she should decline because she would have to use money that was now set aside for another goal.

I asked Judy what word came to mind when she thought about taking the trip. She answered “Loyalty”. I then asked, what personal values had she originally thought the trip nourished? After a minute she said “Friendship, fun and adventure”. Are there were more affordable travel options that would still satisfy these values, I asked? She perked up and said “Yes! We could take a staycaction at a fraction of the price!”. With that in mind, Judy called her friend to explain her dilemma, and her solution. The friend was sensitive to Judy’s predicament and together they starting making staycation plans.

Moral of the story: Through a simple conversation, Judy experienced a shift that opened her to the many ways friendship, fun and adventure could be fostered. Her values of loyalty and personal commitment were upheld and the conflict that had gripped her was transcended.

How a Foodie Can Save on Expensive Meals Out

I do most of the cooking in our household. I love that because it gives me full menu control which is important, because I’m a dyed-in-the-wool foodie. I’d go without shoes before giving up decent food. Don’t get me wrong, dinners out are great too but at $250+ a pop, too many can be a real killer to our future fun(d). I’ll talk more about this in future posts but for now, suffice to sSouthwest squash dinner Feb 21 15ay we’re deeply committed to growing our future fun(d)

I hate feeling restrained or conflicted when it comes to deciding between one of my loves (food in this case) and the future fun(d). Last Saturday’s dinner is a great example of how I don’t have to.

I have four cooking goals; cheap, easy, good, leftovers. It’s not always possible to nail all three (good is non-negotiable) but with a little creativity I hit more often than miss. Saturday is usually the highpoint of my foodie week. The time’s available to cook and we get to sleep in a bit on Sunday morning. It’s winter here in Canada which is perfect timing for one of my go to comfort food favorites, Southwestern Stuffed Acorn Squash Let’s see how it squares with my four goals:

Cheap:

1 acorn squash $2.97 (on special)
1 can black beans $.90 (on special)
I package of turkey sausage (4 links) $3.26 (on special)
1 onion $.30
1/2 red bell pepper $.75
1 cup cherry tomatoes $1.00
Sour cream/Cheddar cheese $.50
Spices $.25

Total $9.93 serves 2

Easy: Cooking squash is easier than making toast, it just takes a bit longer, allow 1 1/2hrs. The turkey mixture takes about 20 minutes and is impossible to screw up.

Good: The picture says it all, yum! (We paired dinner with a Perez Cruz Cab $15.95)

Left overs: After heaping 2 spoonfuls of turkey mix on the squash there’s still 2 – 3 cups left over for a free lunch. Cha-ching! Just heat in a microwave for a wonderful meal (with or without the cheddar and sour cream). Add an apple for desert ($1). Who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch?

Here’s my scoring summary out of 10:
Easy: 10
Cheap: 10
Good: 10
Leftovers: 9 (I usually shoot for at least two free lunches)

Add another cha-ching for the future fun(d) too! The thing to understand about managing money is that it’s really just about managing our decisions.

Note: I sometimes make a great non-meat version of this dish by substituting a wonderful Jamie Oliver vegetable chili. I make it in a big batch, which has the advantage of dropping dinner for two to $8 and yields four free lunches!

P.S Drop me a note if you’d like the recipe.

Have you tried and failed at personal budgeting?

blog-01If you’ve failed at personal budgeting, don’t beat yourself up. Before working with me, most people I coach have tried and failed at budgeting. In fact, from a coaching perspective I consider it a positive sign when I hear people say they gave budgeting a shot and threw in the towel! No, it’s not because I’m a sadist. Let me explain:

  • Even if their efforts didn’t seem to pay off, it tells me that they have wrestled with the problem and in doing so, demonstrated that they brought engagement to their money lives. This is important, because engagement is a one of the 4 building blocks for achieving money clarity. Without engagement, money clarity isn’t possible. So while they may feel their time spent struggling with a budget was a complete waste, I see it as valuable experience and know that in reality, nothing was wasted.
  • I don’t believe budgets will work for most of us which of course runs contrary to the advice of many money experts. This was a belief that formed in part, through personal experience. When I was first looking for a better way to control my money, I tried budgeting and failed miserably! Not only did this come as a shock, it was just a little bit humiliating. If a financial services veteran couldn’t live with a budget what hope do regular, non-financial type folks have?
  • Finally, when we see what doesn’t work, we become more open to new approaches that might work. Coaches work in the realm of personal change and as coaches, we know that when it comes to making any important change, whether it’s losing weight, quitting smoking, starting a new business or taking control of your money, the one universal prerequisite is that we must be open and willing to change.

So, let’s just forget about failing at personal budgets and instead answer the 4 questions below:

  1. Is now the right time for you to make positive changes in your money life? If so,
  2. Are you truly open and willing to adopting new and different behaviours? If so,
  3. Are you prepared to experience the feel of discomfort that often comes from adopting new behaviors? If so,

Prove it to yourself! What is the one discomforting change you could make right now that would bring immediate improvement to your money life?