When I was a boy, I said to my father that I wanted a fish. I thought I wanted a little orange goldfish in a small bowl that could live on the kitchen counter, just like other kids. My father knew that. But instead of buying me a goldfish, he went to the pet store and bought a 20-gallon aquarium with a bunch of expensive tropical fish.
The fish were fun for a day, but I was seven, eight or nine years old. I quickly lost interest. The fish became a nuisance rather than a novelty. And finally one of us three boys – I don’t remember which one – broke the tank, and then we had no fish.
Papa was like that.
If he was interested (or if he saw that one of us was interested), he was “all in”. This was part of his draft money. He had an invisible money script that made him delve deeply into what interested him to pass money on. No wonder I grew up to have a similar money script myself.
An “all or nothing” type
My tendency to “all-in” was already evident at a young age.
I liked in third grade war of stars, The other children did that, of course, but I did Really like war of stars, I read everyone war of stars Book and comic that I could find. I kept asking to watch the film. I spent the small pocket money that I acquired war of stars Trading cards (and Hardy Boys books). I was obsessed
I kept this tendency as I got older. For example, I learned to love comics. But it wasn’t enough just to buy a few comics here and there. No, I had to buy as many as possible whenever possible. I wanted them all. (At some point I had them all – or almost all of them. When I sold my comic book collection in 2013, I had bought it each Marvel at comics from the Bronze and Silver Ages with the exception of perhaps a dozen key comics. I also had a huge collection of DC comics from that time.)
Or I went deep into astronomy at college. I attended an astronomy course in my first year and really enjoyed it. While some people may have continued reading astronomy books after another, I went crazy. I searched the local bookshops and bought all of their astronomy books. (I have never read most of them.)
The astronomy books were just part of a bigger problem. You see, I loved Books, I started collecting them. When I saw an interesting book, I bought it. This started at college but continued into my marriage. When my wife and I bought our new house in 2004, it was over 3000 Books. When our friends helped us move, they grumbled about how many boxes of books we had (and rightly so).
“You’re an all-or-nothing type,” my wife once told me.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“You don’t know how to practice moderation,” said Kris. “You can’t just have a little bit of something. You want everything and you want it now. Look at your books. Watch your comics. Remember how you eat cookies, breakfast cereal, or ice cream. “
She was right. I can’t bring cookies, breakfast cereal, or ice cream into the house, and I know that. If I do, it’s dangerous. I eat the entire cookie pack at once. I devour the lucky charms within two days. And don’t let me start with ice cream! It is better for me not to have these goodies in the house at all.
Instead of trying (and not trying to moderate), I choose to abstain completely.
In 2007, I agreed to meet a Get Rich Slowly reader for the first time. Sally Parrott Ashbrook (what happened to her?) Came into town and invited me to dinner. We talked about my inability to moderate. She offered wise advice.
“I have a similar problem,” said Sally. “And what I learned is that. I gave myself permission if I wanted ice cream – if I did Really I want it – I can have it, but I have to get it and eat it outside the house. I have to go to an ice cream parlor and eat there. That way I don’t feel like ice is prohibited. I can have it whenever I want. But I can’t take it home. “
Since then it’s been my ice cream policy. Unfortunately there is no breakfast cereal shop.
Moderators and abstainers
In 2013 I heard Gretchen Rubin speak at the World Domination Summit. In her 40-minute presentation on happinessShe presented a concept that really resonated with me. At 2:08 p.m., Rubin speaks of resisting temptation. She says there are two types of people: moderators and abstainers.
Here is an excerpt from her speech:
Samuel Johnson wine was offered. He refused to say, “For me, abstinence is as easy as moderation would be.”
When I read that, I thought, “That’s me! I am like Samuel Johnson. “I can’t have one. I could say no But I can’t stop with just one. And that’s the thing.
Abstainers do very well if they don’t have one. It is not in the house. They don’t even take a french fry, then they forget it. But as soon as they start, they will have big problems stopping.
On the other hand, moderators feel trapped and rebellious when told that they cannot have it. You have to know that sometimes they can have it. You need to know that they can have a bit. They need to know that they can have it if they want to.
So they have a box of cookies in the closet, it gets stale and crumbly. The moderator just wants to know it’s there. The abstainer? It’s lucky if it’s there the next day.
I knew right away that I was like Samuel Johnson too. I am also a abstainer. I am an “all or nothing type”. I find it difficult to practice moderation.
On her blog Ruby goes into the difference between moderators and keepers. She says that:
- Moderators find occasional indulgences that increase pleasure and strengthen determination. Moderate flinches at the thought of never doing or getting anything.
- Abstainers have trouble stopping something once they start. Abstainers are not tempted by things that they have decided are taboo.
I am a 100% abstainer. When I make a decision – really make a decision and commit it – I am golden. Take alcohol, for example. I didn’t have a drink in 2020. I wasn’t even tempted. Why? Because I decided that I am not drinking right now, and I committed myself to this decision. But the moment I take my next drink, my willpower will break.
My girlfriend, on the other hand, is 100% a moderator. “I hate the absolute,” she often says. “I hate to say that I can’t drink – or anything.” She also wants to drink less, but has enjoyed a couple of beers twice this year. You can do that. It doesn’t make them want beer every day. (If it were mine.) And luckily, I’m not tempted to drink when Kim drinks because I pressed the off switch.
Now neither type of person is better than the other. They are just different.
However, this does not prevent the moderators from complaining about overly rigid abstainers. Moderators say things like, “You should practice the 80/20 rule. Doing the right thing in 80% of cases, and in 20% of cases it’s okay to treat yourself. “It doesn’t work with abstainers.
And abstainers tend to believe that moderators “cheat” when they treat themselves occasionally. For example, when Kim and I keep our diets strict, I’m always strict. I don’t let myself be spoiled. Kim, who hates absolute things, cannot. She eats well most of the time, but has a snack here and there.
In the seven years that I learned this concept for the first time, I realized that it was not a black and white thing. In reality there is a moderator-tuner spectrum, and each of us falls into a different place on the continuum. We are also moderators in some areas of our lives and abstainers in other areas. I can’t moderate my ice cream consumption, but I have no problem moderating with pizza (which I also love).
Still, some people – like me – tend to be dominant about abstinence. And others, like Kim, tend to dominate the moderator.
Here’s a current real-life example that I can’t moderate.
I enjoy a virtual card game called hearthstone, On my own I would play it all day every day. I am not joking. And when I was in depression last year, I often did. I climbed into the hot tub at about 10 a.m. and played Heathstone for several hours – until the iPad’s battery ran out.
When I started bringing my shit together and coming out of my downward spiral in December, I found I couldn’t moderate my game. So I brought my iPad to the office here and put it in a drawer. Occasionally I take it home for a night or a weekend and let myself play the game. Otherwise it lives here.
Moderators and abstainers with money
Knowing where you trust the moderator-tuner spectrum can help you make smarter decisions with money.
For example, when I paid my debts fifteen years ago, I had to make a rule: I wasn’t allowed to enter comic stores or bookstores. I knew that if I did, I would buy something. Probably several some things. Instead of exposing myself to temptation, I never let myself be tempted.
You will find that I am still putting this principle into practice.
Last year, when I decided to buy too many films on iTunes, I made a choice. I decided to completely do without the iTunes Store. I knew that this was the only way for me to reduce my expenses. (Because it didn’t remove my iTunes editions. It just softened them. If I knew there was a new movie that I wanted, I still bought it. But I didn’t allow myself to search for it.) to browse.)
This is an example of how barriers and preparations are used to do the right thing. Knowing that it is difficult for me to make the “right” decision at the moment, I have to set up systems that make me less forced to make decisions. The use of barriers and pre-commitment is an excellent way for abstainers to make wise money decisions.
I suspect – although I have no concrete evidence – that abstainers are more likely to have difficulties with debt. I am not well balanced. I was in debt because I spent every penny I earned (and more). I got out of debt with a similar lack of balance. In the past fifteen years I have managed to achieve some balance in my financial life, but it is difficult. It requires constant attention and effort. For me this is not a matter of course.
GRS reader Tyler Karaszewski is also a abstainer. He once wrote: “So once I have a credit card debt, I don’t even have credit cards anymore, and why I buy a bottle of wine instead of six, and why hobbies tend to take over all of my months off of my free time until I move to another Change. “
If you identify yourself as a abstainer, I have some advice based on my own struggles in the past.
- If you are dealing with debt, destroy your credit cards. Don’t use them. Limit yourself to cash and debit cards.
- Avoid temptation. If you know that certain businesses and situations result in expenses, avoid those businesses and situations.
- Practice pre-commitment. Make it easy for yourself to do the right thing by automating good behavior. Set up automatic bill payment. Set up automatic contributions to your retirement account.
Since I am not a moderator, I cannot offer so many money tips. (Maybe the GRS readers interfere below?) Part of me also suspects that moderators like my girlfriend and ex-wife have less to struggle with money problems. But maybe I’m wrong.
One thing that moderators can work on is to remind yourself not to succumb to error forever.
The eternal fallacy is the false belief that your current circumstances are likely to remain the same forever (or for an extended period of time). For example, if you cut your discretionary expenses to get out of debt, remember that this situation is only temporary. You won’t live like a miser for the rest of your life. Once your debts are paid off, you can untie the purse threads.
Despite my 50-year history (almost 51-year history!) As a abstainer, I hope that maybe one day I will be able to learn moderation. I will continue trying.
I bought a bag of potato chips last week. Old J.D. would have used the bag up in a day or two. The present self has not done that. This bag of chips sat on the desk at home in front of my gaming computer. And there are still chips in there!
Plus me to have changed in some areas of my life.
Fifteen years ago I couldn’t have a credit card. It was a recipe for disaster. Today I have no problem using credit wisely. I made myself rules when I got back into the credit world and I did a good job by following them. Today I can go to a comic book store without spending anything. I can browse a bookstore without being tempted to buy anything.
I doubt I’ll ever swing from the tuner side of the spectrum to the moderator side. I will never be able to practice Moderation in all things, But with conscious effort and mindfulness I realized that it is possible to practice moderation something Things. That is good enough for me.
When I wrote this article, it occurred to me that I love clean slate because I’m a abstainer. As an “all or nothing type” a clean slate doesn’t make me anything, and that’s reassuring.
Author: J.D. Roth
In 2006, J.D. Get Rich Slowly to document his pursuit of debt relief. Over time, he learned to save and invest. Today he went into early retirement! He wants to help you master your money – and your life. No scams. No gimmicks. Only smart money advice to help you achieve your goals.
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