Turns out when it comes to saving, it’s better not to think of your life in terms of any sort of trajectory, per se, particularly an upwardly mobile one. Better to think of life in terms of the eternal, Sisyphean present. Assume things will never improve. This is your life.
If you don’t save for a vacation now you may never take a vacation.
According to a study published in Psychological Science, via Apartment Therapy of all things, we are somewhat counter-intuitively more likely to save money by being pessimistic about our financial situation and not focusing on the future:
In three studies they found that study participants who were encouraged to adopt a cyclical mindset with a focus on the present made plans to save more money and did save more money. In one of the studies those in the cyclical orientation group had a 70% higher estimate for how much money they planned to save in the coming two weeks and, afterwards, reported saving 82% more than those in the linear orientation group.
Why? When we feel optimistic about our future — our earnings and our ability to save— we are more likely to defer putting money in the bank until a time when we feel in a better position to save.
You know what, I kind of buy this. I don’t know when I stopped thinking of my life as something that hadn’t yet started, but I know it was FAIRLY RECENTLY. It was probably when I saw the movie Drive and all the gratuitous violence somehow made me keenly aware for the first time, in a way no one should be, that I will die. I didn’t ask to be born, and I will die.