Money bat­tle with ‘bet­ter’

The Tribune (NZ) - - YOUR HEALTH - ROB STOCK rob.stock@fair­fax­me­dia.co.nz

I’ve had my eye on a lovely, shiny ‘‘poi­sons’’ cabi­net for the garage for months. My poi­sons, tox­ins and nox­ious sub­stances are stored out of reach of the kids in a large plas­tic crate.

How much bet­ter the garage would look, if they were stored in a shiny cabi­net.

Bet­ter. Every­body strug­gles with bet­ter be­cause it is so hard to tell false bet­ter from real bet­ter.

Deep down, I know the shiny cabi­net isn’t worth it. The amount of ‘‘bet­ter’’ I will get for my $300 just isn’t enough.

Peo­ple are hard-wired to want bet­ter.

We want to im­prove our lots in life, and our liv­ing spa­ces.

It’s a force that drives us to strive, and to shop, often reck­lessly. It can prove toxic to personal fi­nances.

The false forms of bet­ter are all about us.

In its most ex­treme form, it is lu­di­crous. I read re­cently about the launch of de­signer nap­pies so

hip­sters’ ba­bies can look as hip­ster as their par­ents.

Often, it doesn’t seem so out­right silly.

Bet­ter is putting water­proof speak­ers in the shower. It’s up­grad­ing the car ev­ery three years. It’s mag-wheels. It’s a new car stereo. It’s re­fus­ing to drink the free cof­fee in the of­fice kitchen and in­stead treat­ing your­self to cafe cof­fee each day.

It’s an­other pair of shoes. It’s the pa­leo diet. It’s the un­nec­es­sary ex­tra present at Christmas. It’s the mag­a­zine-ready home. It’s a $45 hair­cut. It’s a bar­ber shave. It’s the 22nd Beanie Boo your daugh­ter owns.

Un­de­ni­ably, bet­ter-look­ing nap­pies make for mildly more eye-friendly ba­bies.

There is a mod­est bet­ter­ment from be­ing able to hear Sia sing Chan­de­lier in the shower than try­ing to hit the top notes your­self.

But there is an­other form of bet­ter. Ac­tu­ally, it is a bet­ter form of bet­ter. It’s called sav­ings. Hav­ing money is bet­ter than not hav­ing any.

Hav­ing a debt-free home is bet­ter than hav­ing a mort­gaged one.

Hav­ing the choice to work less, re­tire early or tell your boss you won’t do some­thing un­eth­i­cal, is bet­ter than the al­ter­na­tive.

The false forms of bet­ter can eas­ily crowd out the bet­ter forms of bet­ter.

Now to tips for dis­tin­guish­ing false bet­ter from real bet­ter.

I’m not go­ing to pre­tend I have all the an­swers. I’m prone to putting off buy­ing some­thing un­til it is well over­due.

I once went a year before re­plac­ing a bro­ken fridge, though in my de­fence it was before the kids were born. I get called mean some­times (hor­ror).

In my hum­ble opin­ion, real bet­ter has these char­ac­ter­is­tics.

It brings a deep, calm­ing hap­pi­ness rather than a shop­ping-thrill kind of rush.

It doesn’t rob fu­ture you of com­fort, sta­bil­ity and choice.

It’s about keep­ing up with your plan, not your neigh­bours.

And each year ends with you wealth­ier and closer to in­de­pen­dence than you started it.

PHOTO: KRIS VANDEREYKEN/123RF

Rash spend­ing can prove toxic for your fi­nances.

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