Well that was easier than I thought.
Just over a month ago, I wrote here about how I was gonna try not to drink alcohol during February.
Its been a fascinating experience. When I first started, it honestly felt like this could be one of the harder challenges that I’ve set myself.
And that’s not because all the others have been easy. For example, I ran a marathon without training for it. Although that felt hard in the moment, it was all over in 4 and a bit hours. Could I last for 1 month?
Well…as it turns out, yes! The interesting thing is that it gets easier as you go on. If you are a rational sort of person (and you probably are) you might think that going 28 days without alcohol would be 28 times harder than going 1 day without.
But no! Drinking alcohol is a habit that we get into. And if we get into it, we can get out of it. It was hard the first week but after that it just got easier and easier. By the end of the month, I had fallen out of the habit and wasn’t really missing it at all. If someone turned round to me today and said that I wouldn’t be able to drink for another month, I’d be fine.
I felt great and, as a bonus, was able to eat as much as I wanted and still shed some fat.
Having said that, there was one big challenge. I hadn’t realised that Dry February clashed with our winter sun holiday. To make things interesting, this was one of those all-inclusive holidays with as much free food and drink as you can hold.
The Escape Artist is British. And, if you are British, it is basically good manners to drink as much alcohol as possible when the sun comes out. And when the booze is free…well that’s good personal finance as well….am I right?
The Escape Artist did not get to where he is today by leaving £5 / $5 / €5 notes lying on the floor. Nor by turning down free food and drink. So imagine my inner turmoil when the sun is shining, I’m stood in front of a free bar…and, oh no, its Dry February!
But, in the face of this temptation, I reminded myself of my commitment to you, dear reader, and I went to the gym instead.
I often use analogies to bring personal finance to life. But sometimes I think The Escape Artist might be too subtle…so I’m gonna spell this one out for you:
If I can go without alcohol for a month…even in a free bar…then YOU can go a month without buying any shit
For the avoidance of doubt, the items below count as shit:
- Plasma screen TVs
- Curtains / cushions / drapes / doilies
- Sports Utility Vehicles
- Anything on cable TV shopping channels
- Chicken MuckNuggets
- Designer toilet seats
If you are thinking of buying something and are in any doubt as to whether your purchase counts as a valuable investment or spending on shit, please feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll let you know.
Now, at the risk of annoying alcoholics, I’m going to suggest that one month without alcohol has changed me for the better. And I’m not just talking about my abs. I’m going to propose that The Escape Artist is slightly less of a dick than he was before the challenge.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still quite capable of being wrong / annoying / egotistical [insert your favourite criticism of The Escape Artist here]. But I’m a little bit better than I was before. My willpower is stronger and my habits are better. These are things that power your frugality muscles.
Some of you will no doubt be enthusiastically agreeing that The Escape Artist is a bit of a dick sometimes. But I invite you to at least consider the possibility that you too are a bit of a dick sometimes. If you’re human, it kinda goes with the territory. 😉
On this note of humility, I want to talk about complaining.
It’s so easy to complain. Its so common we often don’t even realise that we’re doing it. And it would be nice to pretend that we in the world of Financial Independence are immune from this.
Sadly that’s not the case, as revealed by a quick glance at the comments section of any popular website. Mr Money Mustache wrote about this in his brilliant post: Can we all stop this fucking moaning about our government?
To get rich you must focus on what you can control (or at least influence). You should ignore pretty much everything else…especially The News.
All moaning, complaining and whinging takes time and energy. These are scarce resources. Every minute that you spend writing an angry complaint on the internet is a minute that you’re not sorting your pension out or working on that looming deadline.
Most of the time, the real problem is with the person complaining. Many angry commenters are suffering from low level anxiety or depression that could be fixed simply with better diet, more exercise and sleep. Pro tip: not having a hangover helps!
So one key takeaway from all this is:
Put your own house in order before criticising the world
There are many things about the world that The Escape Artist is not particularly overjoyed with. These might include:
- Donald Trumps’s haircut
- Jeremy Corbyn’s…errr….stewardship of The Labour Party
- The way the human race is destroying our environment
- The way that many offices have become soulless factories of mind control, health and safety, political correctness and general bullshit
- etc etc
Sadly, The Universe doesn’t give a shit about my feelings on all these. But I can put my own house in order before criticising the world.
- I can’t do anything about Donald Trump’s hair, but I can stop drinking for a month.
- I can’t stop Jeremy Corbyn destroying The Labour Party but I can read to my children
- I can’t stop logging in The Amazon rainforest but I can encourage people to buy less shit
- I can’t stop the forces of political correctness from squeezing out humour from the workplace…but I can crack some risque jokes on my own website.
Are you starting to see the pattern here?
The veteran American writer P J O’Rourke has spent many years observing political posturing and whiney behaviour (both as a journalist and parent). He draws a parallel between political activists and his teenage children in this neat quote:
Everyone wants to save the world…no one wants to help with the washing up
I’ll repeat. Get your own shit together before criticising the rest of the world. Personal finance is basically self-improvement. If you look at Mr Money Mustache, that’s a self-improvement blog with a money theme. Same with The ChooseFI podcast.
When we FI seekers cut down our spending, what’s really going on? It’s a mixture of delaying gratification, applying reason over kneejerk emotion, mindfulness and living intentionally. This is all self-improvement.
When we boost our income, it’s a mixture of working harder, delaying gratification, becoming more creative, taking more intelligent risks, being more resilient, being better with other people. This is all self-improvement.
When we learn to invest better, it’s a mixture of learning, delaying gratification, applying reason over kneejerk emotion. Did I mention that this is all self-improvement??
If you think that personal finance is about life insurance, PPI, endowment policies and all the other nonsense, then you’re looking at it wrong. You don’t need any of that. It’s all a distraction from doing what matters: earning more, spending less and investing the difference wisely.
I’ll let you into a secret now.
My article Is It Even Possible To Go One Month Without Alcohol? was not just about drinking. It was also about how to avoid fundamentalist dogma, false certainties and moral righteousness
This blog describes how I see the world…its my truth. I don’t mean that my way is The Only Way. You are allowed to see the world differently (you are also allowed to be poor).
We’ve already established that The Escape Artist is not Mother Theresa and is not perfect. So, to wrap up with the alcohol theme, I’ll finish with the immortal words of Tucker Max:
I hope they serve beer in hell.
Meet-up Thursday 15 March in London
There is a Financial Independence London Facebook Group meet-up on Thursday March 15 in The Cittie of Yorke Pub, Holborn from 6pm onwards.
You are welcome to come along and meet other FI-seekers (who will all be lovely people) in the real world! Hope to see you there. 🙂