I have a plain white t-shirt that I’ve never worn; it’s sat in my drawer since I bought it two years ago, despite the fact that I already owned a perfectly good plain white t-shirt. Given the alarming rate at which white t-shirts tend to discolor, stain, and get grungy, it seems ridiculous to own two of these highly impractical items, but I bought the second one for “someday.” My thinking was that at some point in the probably near-future, my current white shirt would become unwearable, and I wanted a new one on hand IMMEDIATELY for that eventuality. Also it would be nice to have a “nice” white shirt in case of an occasion where I felt my current one looked a bit too ratty.
Now this whole thing is kinda patently ridiculous. Given the general folly of wearing a white t-shirt (and the very large probability that I will forget what I’m wearing and inevitably end up eating something messy for lunch. Nature abhors a vacuum and apparently also a pristine white shirt!), I don’t tend to wear one very often, thus extending the life of said shirt. And true, said shirt is now a bit ratty for anything where I’d be wearing something other than jeans with it, but since I still haven’t worn the nice “backup” shirt, that gives you an idea of how often this has been an issue.
Also you know what there aren’t shortages of and that I could replace pretty easily on short notice? Basic, plain white t-shirts.
This plays out in a surprising number of facets of my life even though I’m not consciously aware of it: the Amazon gift card I only just finally spent, the tea that’s apparently too nice for any old regular day, ditto for a few fancy candles, the cute kitchen towels and the nice linen napkins that I don’t want to ruin with stains (why is it that kitchen towels are all inevitably white/light colored? That’s like taking the magnetism between white t-shirts and tomato sauce and multiplying it by 100 because those live in the kitchen!). Hell, I even do this with ideas for posts I could write: I shouldn’t write that thing now because I should keep it as a backup Emergency Post Idea for the future, never mind that I’m struggling to find an idea now!
I’ve noticed this mindset even with things I’m not actively saving for “someday.” For example, my hiking boots. I bought them right before a backpacking trip in Torres del Paine while studying abroad in Chile, so I was working with a limited selection and tight deadline for getting them. Despite this, I found a pair of boots that I love. I’m certainly not saving them for the future: in the years since I bought them, I’ve put a lot of miles on them on four different continents. Sunday’s solo hike rounded out three weekends in a row of hiking. But I still worry about what happens when “someday” arrives: what if I can’t find another pair that I like when I have to replace these? I know this is irrational, but still.
Money and “someday”
Things get interesting when you mix this mindset in with money. We put off many money-related changes we could make in our lives for “someday,” and many times this doesn’t serve us. We don’t know how to get started with investing, for example, so we put it off for some day when we know more about it. Someday we’ll take control of our money by tracking our expenses and making a budget so we can stop feeling like we’re living paycheck to paycheck but for now, eh.
It’s certainly easier to leave things as they are instead of taking the effort to make changes or to learn something you need to. I’ve spent ages waffling on what kind of side gig would be best for me to pick up with the limited time and very limited energy I have after working all day. These half-hearted attempts to find income streams other than my 9-5 paycheck have delayed me boosting my income/savings rate, but wow is it so much more effort to actually do the thing, rather than leaving things as they are. Why bother when I can always do it some other day? (Hello, yes, I am a chronic procrastinator.)
I think a significant part of this thinking stems from the imposter syndrome. If I stop to think about it, I’m saving the nice things for “someday” when I feel more like a Real Adult who has need for them. That’s certainly not the full motivation (some of it is inertia—it’s just easier to use the things I always use and that are always in easy reach), but there’s a lot of that there. Given that I am paying my own goddamn rent and bills, have a full-time job, and am otherwise responsible for all other aspects of my life, I don’t know what I’m waiting for. Quite possibly for the moment when I feel like I know what it is I’m actually doing, which is a hilarious joke.
It’s also easy to get overwhelmed by all of the things we know we need to do. We need to work to get money, use that money to pay bills and pay down debt, put some towards an emergency fund, and invest the rest in the right portfolio. Oh and, y’know, live a little in between. That’s a lot to manage. It feels even more overwhelming if we think it somehow all needs to be done perfectly; if other people appear to have their shit together, there’s no reason for us not to be the same way, right?
Changing this mindset
First off, the older I get, the more I realize most of us have no fucking clue what we’re doing and fake it til you make it is pretty much the rule we all live by (and if it’s not, well I guess now everyone knows my secret…). I’m a grown-ass adult, and the someday for the nice candles and tea is now, no fancy dinner party necessary!
It also doesn’t make sense to save things for someday. For one, there’s a sunk cost associated with them: I’ve already bought that second white t-shirt, so I might as well wear it! Also, I will never be a minimalist, but I’ve been working on trying to pare down the amount of things I own. If it’s in my apartment, I should be using it, otherwise I should get rid of it because I clearly don’t need it.
As for money, I’m not saying that you should go blow all of it this instant because it doesn’t make sense to save it for someday. It should absolutely be saved for the “someday” of retirement (be that early or regular), planned large future expenses, or unforeseen emergencies. But there’s a fine line there between saving for the future and being cheap or refusing to spend money now. Live your life! Buy your coffee if you want.
When it comes to changing your money, there’s a real danger of thinking that if you don’t have everything figured out 100%, you might as well not bother. That’s incredibly counterproductive thinking. The PF community as a whole has said a million times that the best time to start investing is now, and it’s true. The longer you wait, the more that costs you. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.
As for me, I spent this past weekend finally working on picking up a side gig. No more waiting for some unspecified someday to figure that out: I think I’ve found something that should work for me pretty well, and I’ve got a few other ideas on the back burner in case this doesn’t pan out. So stay tuned for that. Also since it took me two days to figure out how to articulate all this, I had plenty of opportunity to pull something out of the drawer it usually sits in:
Go use your own fancy napkins this week, friends.