Where I live, we have a lot of small livestock farms. There are a lot of cows on those farms and having spent a little time around those cows, I’ve learned they can teach us a very valuable lesson about money and money behavior – live inside your fence. Next time you’re near a farm, take a moment to consider what I’m about to share – it could just change the way you handle money from now on.
This is not going to be a lesson in cattle – I’ll leave those to the farmers out there. But as a casual observer who likes cows (they’re delicious), even I’ve noticed there is a good parallel here. Your income is your “fence.” You can do pretty much whatever you want, provided you don’t try to outspend your income. Too many of us are like the ornery cow that drives the farmer crazy and usually ends up on the family dinner table as a big juicy steak. Let’s break things down a bit.
Cattle in my area are generally given a nice, large pasture with plenty of grass to feed on. The only limitations on where they can roam are dictated by a fence – usually barbed wire or electric – that runs around a given field. Anywhere inside their fence, the cattle can do anything they like and they’re perfectly safe. But some of them aren’t content with these circumstances – just like you and me. They want to see if “the grass is greener on the other side” and try for all they are worth to find a hole in the fence or in some cases, to simply go through it. Much to the farmer’s disdain, the cow ends up in a dangerous position, roaming around lost.
That’s just like us, isn’t it? We often want to find a “hole” that would allow us to spend more money or cheat on our budget. But I can tell you, when you go outside our boundaries, there is often trouble. We end up lost, without direction and at serious risk of something going terribly wrong.
You see – even if you don’t like me calling you a cow, we have a lot in common with them when it comes to our behavior with money. We are always looking around, “chomping on something” and wondering if it is good enough. We’re always looking to see where our fences are and then, all too often, plotting how to break out of them. Knowing there is danger, we still do it. But why? We all innately know the grass isn’t greener on the other side. We all know for most of us there is plenty in the field where we are now.
Through this silly post, I want to provide one big encouragement – find your fence, establish it as your boundary for daily living and stay within it! There are very few money problems for someone who always lives on less than he makes. It is your money – it is your decision what do to with it. Just don’t spend more than you bring in. That math will never work!
Have you roamed outside your fence? How did it work out for you? I’d love to hear your story of trying to make your money work when you outspent your income. How long did it last before you realized it was a BAD move?