The US Presidential Election is Over! Now, What's Next?

The US Presidential Election is Over! Now, What’s Next?

After what felt like an eternal circus of campaigning, and 6.9 BILLION dollars in election spending, the results are in (pending some close races). We have a new President preparing for a new administration. They’re prepping their game plan, but what about you? What does this election mean for you? What’s next?

Each election cycle I see the same infuriating poll conducted:

Are you better off than you were 4 years ago?”

 

The reason this question makes me mad me is that it places the responsibility of our lives into the hands of someone else; those hands being one’s of politicians, of all people.

I have a deeply rooted belief in that we have full power to change our own lives. We do not live in a society where we’re born to take over the vocation of our parents. Like Baldwin and Hopkins, I believe, “What one man can do, another man can do.

True or not, this value of mine is what I would call a “strategic blind spot”. If I dive deep into it, I’m sure I can find a hundred reasons not to believe it, but for now, I’ve decided to overlook those in favor of ignorant bliss.

As a corollary to this belief, I believe much of the trouble we face is self-imposed. We have a natural tendency to build mental quagmires and become prisoners of our thoughts.

Ben Franklin summed this up best when asked if the taxes were too high. He responded by confirming that the government does indeed tax us heavily, but that we are more heavily taxed by ourselves. “We are taxed twice as much by our idleness, three times as much by our pride, and four times as much by our folly.”

I don’t know how to make the next 4 years better, but I know how to make tomorrow better.

The US President Election is Over! Now, What’s Next?

 

The next step is exactly that. It is one small step we need to take to put ourselves forward. I know for us, that involves small 10 minute tasks that might save us a few bucks. It might mean a 10 minute phone call to see if we can remove a charge or it might mean spending an hour on Sunday switching our phone plans.

When all those small changes are added up, we see extraordinary results. In one year, we’ve doubled our savings rate from an already high ~23% to an even higher 40%+.

We might have had a few changes that led to big gains, but the majority of that increase is due to small tweaks we’ve made and are still making.

Change starts with the man in the mirror. Once we gain an honest clarity of our strengths and weaknesses then we can live our lives in a more intelligent fashion.

We all have weaknesses, that’s part of being human. We all stress about this or that, but the difference is some of us get stuck in analysis paralysis. With so many decisions to make, we freeze up and make none. We kick the can down the road and let our future selves take care of the mess.

In the spirit of public disclosure, I’ll share a recent blind spot that we’ve eliminated (for now). I expect this change to be more permanent, but I know we’ll slip up again in the future.

What harmful blind spots are we entertaining?

 

I’ll hash out our harmful blind spot below but I hope you can see parallels for your own. I emphasis the word harmful, because as mentioned above, some blind spots can serve to help us.

We recently underwent a major shift in our “food,” budget where I now spend a good 8 hours on Sunday cooking meals. The benefits were obvious to me: we eat healthier food and it costs of significantly less.

Some of the benefits to cooking were unknown to me. I now spend much less time thinking about and preparing/acquiring food than I did before. It might not seem like much, but I used to spend a few minutes before each meal thinking about what I was going to buy or what I would cook. Now that I have a routine, I’m more or less on autopilot. By cooking on Sundays, I’m able to batch together multiple meals in a short amount of time.

As I mentioned on the “failures,” of our 90 Day Frugality Challenge – we still have plenty of blind spots to tackle. This includes our cell phone bills, medical bills, and a new one recently, our monthly pet expenses.

We’re always asking ourselves what can we fix today? What small change can we make now to help us lay an extra brick into our palace of financial independence?

Those answers are what I would also call, actual blind spots. Those are the decisions and routine changes that we know we’re capable of making, but there’s something holding us back. Typically, for us, it is an excuse. Our biggest excuse with not cooking was that it would take MORE time.

It is odd how that earlier mental prison has now turned into a source of joy for us.

We’re not worried about what the future will look like. We’re just focusing on making each day better than the day before.

In the end, we’ll be happy to say, “We’re better off than we were 4 years ago.”

Your turn now! What harmful blindspots are you entertaining? What areas in your budget have you not tackled yet because of paralysis by analysis?

-Matt
Master Distiller

14 comments… add one
  • Full Time Finance Nov 9, 2016, 6:08 am

    So very true. The reality is whom is president has little to do with your daily life. Congress and president combined have some impact but even then the vast majority of your life is on you. Take control and drive it to where you want it. Don’t focus on the noise and things you can’t control, as it just gets in the way or gives you too many excuses to not try. Those excuses are the only thing that will ultimately hold you back.

    • Distilled Dollar Nov 9, 2016, 10:06 pm

      Noise is a great way to describe it. I’m all for being an educated citizen, but at a certain level, that education slides into entertainment and/or an unproductive hobby.

  • Penny @ She Picks Up Pennies Nov 9, 2016, 6:14 am

    Focusing on what we can control as individuals is crucial today and every day. However, I don’t know that I can say this isn’t having an impact on my day or my life. And I know that there are many, many people who absolutely won’t say that.

    • Full Time Finance Nov 9, 2016, 7:33 am

      Here is a thought experiment that may help. Go back and look at articles and comments over the last 5 elections. In every case there was a large portion of the population as distraught as you are today. What changed in those ensuing 16 yrs? I asked my wife this question and collectively we were able to tie government impacts to free flu shots through our health care. That’s the sum total of impact. I don’t see that changing. Might not be of comfort though.

    • Distilled Dollar Nov 9, 2016, 10:29 pm

      I would probably agree if I sat down and thought about it but like I said in the article – I’m choosing to have a conviction that I can make effective changes today to make tomorrow better, regardless of who the President is or isn’t.

  • Mrs. Picky Pincher Nov 9, 2016, 8:01 am

    For us, I think investing is our blind spot. We’re so focused on getting out of debt right now that the thought of investing and growing our worth is too much to entertain. I know we need to pay more attention to it and I’m working on it.

    • Distilled Dollar Nov 9, 2016, 10:28 pm

      If you’re hung up on investing, I’ll recommend my 591 word investing 101 summary of everything anyone needs to know to get started. Investing is a constantly evolving game for many people and my approach (index funds via Vanguard) is a great start for those looking to invest for 10+ years out.

  • Financial Panther Nov 9, 2016, 2:44 pm

    I really resonate with that blind spot analysis. I know I have the same issues with cooking. It’s just so easy to go out to eat and I am just too lazy a lot of the time to make myself food. Even just a small improvement, bringing my lunch to work once or twice per week, for example, would go a long way in improving my health and making sure I’m better off later.

    • Distilled Dollar Nov 9, 2016, 10:32 pm

      One challenge I’ll propose is commit to cooking for ONE full week AND agree ahead of time you’ll have the remaining three weeks of the month to do what you did before. This way, you can test the waters and give yourself some time to reflect. Maybe it isn’t something you value enough at the end of the day, but at least you’ll have a clearer pro/con analysis when you decide.

  • Go Finance Yourself! Nov 9, 2016, 8:42 pm

    Great post! Sounds like your attitudes and beliefs really line up with mine. I truly believe that you make your own future by the decisions you make and the work you put in. Some of us have a head start over others, but we still have the ability to change our situation for the better no matter who is President.

    • Distilled Dollar Nov 9, 2016, 10:34 pm

      Yes! I may have mentioned it above but at the end of the day the race we have is with ourselves. It doesn’t matter where we start, as long as we’re aligned on moving forward, that’s what will make the difference.

  • Jay Nov 10, 2016, 6:44 am

    This was a really insightful post. I totally agree that our future is in our hands. But I appreciated your corollary that our problems are also largely of our own making. And that by diligently focusing on doing the little thing right, day-in-day-out. Keep pushing! 🙂

  • Andrew Nov 10, 2016, 9:09 am

    Great post. The harsh reality is that no one (except yourself) will fix your life. It doesn’t matter who is president. Even if Hillary had won, your day to day life would not have changed that much.

  • Millennial Money Nov 11, 2016, 1:52 am

    Thanks Matt. Although I am personally worried for anyone who has student loan debt given Donald Trump’s likely reversal of a lot of the student loan forgiveness plans. I wrote a bit more about his likely changes and the impact on student loans in my new post: http://millennialmoney.com/donald-trumps-impact-student-loans/

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