There is an Arabic saying: “Itha biddak it hayru, khayru.”
Translated, it means: “If you want to confuse or bewilder a person, give them choice.”
But before we delve into that, let me share the following.
I know a wealthy Iranian restaurant owner who liked to check on his customers. After exchanging pleasantries, he would sit down and say with great aplomb to them, “Floos kteer, mushkilat kteer.” – a lot of money, a lot of problems.
This brings me back to the issue of choice.
Most people dream of being rich, or at least having more money in their lives. But with this comes the need to make many decisions. Have you thought it through? Not only what to invest the money in and how to best manage it, but also where to live and what to buy – in other words, what would you do with the extra money?
Being rich means that you have more choices and more freedom. But as the restaurateur noted, having more means that we need to deal with a new set of issues.
If money were no object and the world was your oyster, where would you live? Which continent, country, town, street? What kind of house would you buy?
It might sound like a dream come true. But think about it: having all those choices is not as rosy as it seems. Being confused by choice goes beyond having untold wealth.
Imagine that you are lucky enough to work from home or you are location-dependent. In other words, imagine your work involves travelling to deliver speeches and run workshops all over the world, and so you could live anywhere. Where would you choose? And why?
This second scenario means that you have choice within certain boundaries – namely the parameters of what you can afford. If you think about it, these boundaries give your life structure.
You have choice, but it is limited choice. And even then it can be overwhelming. I know of people who are in this seemingly enviable position, except they are jealous of people who have little say in which city to live in because of where they work.
So I would like to invite you to think about the financial limitations in your life as a blessing. They give you structure.
It might sound like a bad thing, but it is not if you think about it.
Most of us know that it is easy to get sidetracked when you do not have a deadline to work towards.
In money terms, I would like you to define that deadline in terms of what you can afford. As for what you are working towards, think of it as what fits with your current, limited budget, life aspirations, current phase of life and circumstance.
The definition of a deadline includes a line which does not move, and a boundary around a person.
So your money deadline, or your boundary, is your earnings.
Life coaches often talk about the need for “structures” to make life “easier”. They’re generally referring to the systems in our lives that streamline a task or process. Classes, routines, and protocols – these are all types of life structures that help us get things done.
We should have the same approach regarding money. The money that you currently earn is a finite amount, just as the hours of the day are.
And just as life coaches show people how to compartmentalise and address the stress in their lives and make the best use of time, I would like to invite you to do the same with the money in your life. Break it down into what you honestly and realistically can afford, and what that buys you.
The big shift in thinking that needs to happen for many people is that it is about managing your spending, not your income.
What I mean is this: many people have in mind what they “need” to earn to live the life they want. They are not earning it right now, but they are spending as though they are. Stop. Look at what you currently earn, and instead of rejecting or dismissing it, relish that limitation. Work towards earning more, but live within the constraints of your income.
Think of it as giving your life structure so that you can define and design it for yourself.
There is beauty in limits. Constraints give your life shape. Discover your constraints and rejoice in them.
Nima Abu Wardeh is the founder of the personal finance website www.cashy.me. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org