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Procrastination Makes for Easy Frugality

Procrastination Makes for Easy Frugality

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    We’re used to thinking of procrastination as a bad thing. We should avoid procrastinating; if we do something now, we don’t have to worry about it later. But when it comes to our personal finances, procrastination isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sure, we need to get our bills paid on time, but by practicing putting off other expenses we can save money in the long-term.

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    Procrastination and Saving

    The longer we can put off a particular purchase, the more opportunity we have to save up for it. Some people like to replace certain items as soon as they show signs of wear: cars, clothes, equipment of all sorts. But that approach doesn’t get full value out of those things that we’ve already bought — and it makes it more likely that we’ll have to make a purchase on credit, paying more than sticker price when all is said and done. With a little creative procrastination, you can also increase your chances of buying whatever you’re after during a sale. If you can keep an eye on prices from a particular vendor for as little as a month, you can often take advantage of a sale.

    While nursing a car that’s on a downward trend isn’t great, it can get a few more months of transportation out of it. That’s a few more months you can be putting money in the bank for a down payment on a new ride. You can patch clothing or stretch the life of equipment and extend their utility in just the same way. Some people will argue that fixing up something broken will actually cost you more than purchasing something new: putting a new transmission in an older car can cost the same as purchasing another car entirely. I’ll admit that there isn’t really a way to put a patch over a broken transmission, but there are a lot of problems that you can solve with short-term fixes. Remember, you’re just trying to delay a purchase rather than avoid it entirely. If your car (or whatever you’re trying to procrastinate replacing) is to the point that it’ll be more expensive to replace in a few months — you’re expecting towing fees, an accident or a similar problem), then go ahead and replace it. But if the problem is along the ‘duct tape the mirror in place’ lines, try procrastinating.

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    Procrastination and Forgetting

    Making a policy of procrastination can plug a hole in your pocket. Most of us have wandered through a store and discovered that we really need something — maybe a new television or a book — that we didn’t even know we wanted when we entered the store. Stores are designed to create that feeling. There’s nothing wrong with wanting those cool toys, but it’s generally worthwhile to try to procrastinate buying them. Set a time limit: if you still really want that must-have product in three days, you can come back for it.

    You’ll find, though, that most of the time you’ll actually forget all about that item you absolutely ‘needed.’ Procrastinating is a way to limit unnecessary purchases without feeling like you’re depriving yourself. I’ve actually tried to make a policy of procrastinating about more than just impulse purchases. If I see something advertised that seems absolutely awesome, I don’t automatically add it to my shopping list or even my wishlist. If I still remember about it a couple of days later — then I add it to my lists. Procrastinating doesn’t mean that we can’t buy stuff — it just helps us narrow our purchases down to stuff we really want.

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    Procrastination and Renewing

    Waiting to renew subscriptions and memberships can pay off. If you put off paying for a renewal, you may find that you don’t really use the service you’re paying for all that much. And if you do like it enough to renew, it’s still worthwhile to wait to renew: because companies want to ensure that you’ll keep paying them, they’ll often offer deals to those customers with subscriptions or memberships about to lapse.

    My favorite magazine is notorious about this: the first reminder to renew that I received this year was for the full price of the magazine. But by the time I actually renewed, I had received several offers, each cheaper than the last. I only paid about $10 for the full year’s subscription — about a fifth of the normal price — and I didn’t miss an issue, since I received the first offer about six months before my subscription would have lapsed. This style of procrastination can take a little more planning than others — it’s useful to set yourself some sort of reminder of the last day you can take advantage of a particular deal or the last day you can renew without having to re-sign up for a service.

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    What Else Can You Procrastinate?

    I have noticed that procrastinating is only an effective strategy when it comes to spending money. If you’re trying to save or earn money, procrastination isn’t a practical solution. But within the spending category, it can be a simple strategy to keep money in the bank.

    I know that plenty of people have saved money through a little practical procrastination. Let us know the ways you’ve been able to take advantage of putting something off to save money in the comments.

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

    The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

    Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    How to Self-Taught Effectively

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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