“What is the purpose of this?”
Those are the six words. There you have it.
Next time you want to spend money on anything, ask yourself this question first. I guarantee that if you do, your investing/spending intelligence will expand so much that you’ll put Einstein to shame.
This brainstorm didn’t come to me overnight. As you’ll see, I developed it over many years of extremely painful research. But make no mistake. This wisdom is powerful and transformative.
You might chuckle, but the idea came to me after sitting through countess Bar and Bat Mitzvah “celebrations”.
For those of you who don’t live in New York, Los Angeles or Miami, this is a celebration of a 12 or 13 year old Jewish child coming of age. Usually, the parents throw an extravagant and ridiculous party for said offspring. The price tag for one of these shin-digs usually eclipses that of an automobile. If you’re lucky – like me – it’s a used Kia. If you aren’t so lucky, it’s a brand new Lamborghini.
I have 3 daughters and I’ve suffered through dozens of these very loud parties.
What happens is, all your kid’s friends’ parents invite you to the parties and you almost have to go. It wasn’t so bad after my eldest put us through this grinder with all her friends’ parties.
But I have 3 daughters….remember?
It reminds me of Michael Corleone’s famous quote, “Just when I thought I was out they pulled me back in.”
When my second child hit age 12 she put us back at the beginning of this process again. Oh the humanity!
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy a good party as much as the next fellow. Loud music doesn’t bother me all that much – even when the kids do the Macarena or “the Chicken Dance” to Madonna or Britney Spears at 200 decibels.
What I find intolerable is mindless extravagance and often times that’s what these events are.
Each of these parties was a replica of the other. Sometimes I forgot which party I was at. They were all exactly the same. Same food. Same games. Same schtick. Very very forgettable..
I can guarantee you, that if the parents who threw these parties had asked ,”What is the purpose of this?” they would have saved themselves a bundle and enjoyed a more meaningful celebration with their children.
If you’re completely honest, there is really only one reason why people spend the kind of money they do on weddings and Bar Mitzvahs. They do it because everyone else does.
For me, that’s not a good enough reason to mortgage my right kidney.
If you want to celebrate a child’s coming of age, do something meaningful rather than mindless.
If you want to celebrate the joining of two people into one couple, follow the same advice.
The best way to insure that what you do is indeed meaningful is to ask yourself, “What is the purpose of this”.
Of course, you don’t have to wait for your two-year old’s Bar Mitzvah or wedding to start profiting from this concept.
Ask yourself the same question before you buy your next car or carton of milk.
This probably makes perfect sense to you but you may still encounter one or two problems when you try to implement it.
The first problem could be your spouse or life partner. The second problem may be your children.
Let’s consider the later first because it’s a much easier hurdle to clear.
Let’s say your kids try to convince you they need one of the following:
- A gold-plated, ivy-league undergraduate degree in history when you could save 75% by going to a state school.
- A wedding that cost more than a Greek Island when they could have a wonderful and beautiful celebration in your backyard.
Whip out your 6 word Spend-0-Slayer and ask them, “What is the purpose of this?”
They might explain why they need a degree or a wedding but they won’t be able to justify why they need the priciest version of each.
This is where the rubber meets the road. This is where the corn leaves the husk.
Ask them “What is the purpose of the costlier version when the lower cost version seems to give you what you need?”
If your kids have watched too much “Law and Order”, they may be able to make a case.
Sometimes, the more expensive choice is indeed a better decision.
For example, if your six year old has outgrown her bike and really wants the spanky new red one with the streamers coming out the handle bars…..you might want to go for it.
Depending on the circumstances, it could be a small investment that will pay huge dividends in terms of self-esteem for your daughter.
But everyone has a limit. I don’t think that spending $25,000 on a party for a kid who can’t even shave yet makes sense. I also don’t think that spending that much (and more) on a wedding is particularly clever. Tell you what…..if your child is having a Bar Mitzvah or wedding and you want to spend some dough to help build their self-esteem…..spring for the spanky red bike with the streamers. That should do the trick.
If your child wants you to spend a ridiculous amount of money foolishly, look at this as a teachable moment. Don’t tell them what you already know. Keep asking them the magic 6 words until they admit that they want what they want because everyone else has one or does it that way.
An undergraduate degree is meant to help you get a job so you can support yourself.
A wedding is meant to celebrate marriage.
None of these are meant to impress other people but that’s what many of us use them for. Explain to the kids that by making the more expensive choice, they may actually have less of what they ultimately want. You’ll only get them to see that if you ask the question – what is the purpose of this?
Take the example of the undergraduate degree. My middle daughter recently graduated high-school and after being accepted at some very pricey schools, we decided as a family that the best choice would be a lower cost state college. She realized that by agreeing to this, she would graduate college with no debt and some money leftover to help fund an MBA. She was clear about the purpose of her undergraduate degree – help her get a job or continue on to get her post-grad education. If she would have gone to a pricey Ivy League school, she’d finish college in debt and with limited choices.
Let’s go on to the second more formidable problem – your spouse.
The best way I can help you deal with this is by way of example.
I wanted to have a small Bat Mitzvah for my daughters but my wife would have none of it. While we didn’t go nuts, we spent a lot more than I wanted to. Going back to my car analogy, my wife’s budget for the party was something along the lines of a new Camry and my budget was closer to that a used moped scooter. We settled on a budget that was closer in line with that of a used-Kia. We compromised.
When it came to the Bat Mitzvah party, the answer to “what is the purpose of this” was clear – make my wife happy… stay out of bankruptcy and divorce court at the same time.
Pick your battles well. But use the 6 word spend-o-slayer- it may turn out to be your most effective weapon to tame the extravagance beast.