“Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff…And It’s All Small Stuff” was a book written in 1996 by Richard Carlson, Ph.D which became sort of a phenomenon. It was written about how people allow little things to cause stress and take joy out of their lives, and some other mumbo jumbo psychological double-speak. Sure, that’s all fine and dandy in theory: ignore the small things, concentrate on things that make you happy, and you’ll be stress free and floating on clouds all of the time. There’s one big problem with the whole premise of the book, it’s title, and the movement that came with it…if you ignore the small stuff, it usually becomes a monster before you know it. This is particularly true in the world of personal finance.
Don’t believe me? Think it’s a good idea to not sweat the little things? Let’s look at how thinking like this can affect you in a variety of ways:
Let’s say you don’t sweat the small stuff. As you go about your merry little way, you get a bill from your credit card company. You made a purchase of $2.00 in gas just to have some activity on the card so it won’t be terminated and have any impact on your credit report. It’s only $2.00, so you toss it aside and forget about it. A few months later you get a letter from a collection agency, but you don’t owe anyone anything, or so you think. You read the letter and think to yourself, “Oh yeah, that $2.00 bill I got. I thought I paid it.” It was so small that you not only didn’t sweat it, but you completely forgot about it and now have a nice big problem on your hands: a black mark on your credit report, and a hit to your credit scores.
All of that because of something so small that it wasn’t worth sweating. Never mind the fact that it was also so small that it would have only taken all of about 3 minutes to pay the bill, and never have to think about it again.
Let’s say you don’t sweat the small stuff. You go out and shop, dine out, leave lights on when you’re not around, you know little things that don’t require sweating. As time goes on you start to notice that you are coming up short when it is time to pay the bills. Oh well, it’s only a few dollars here and there, not such a big deal. Any normal person would raise the question of why there is a shortfall, but not you, because you don’t sweat the small stuff so you let it slide. As the weeks roll on by, the deficit keeps getting greater and greater and by now, it’s too late; the bills are past dues, and what you can afford to pay is barely the minimums on any revolving debt. Next stop, bankruptcy!
Simply taking a few minutes to draw up even the crudest of budgets would have exposed the problem, and action could have been taken to correct it or at least to plan a correction. All it takes is a minuscule things so small that it isn’t even worth sweating to snowball into a giant problem for you.
Let’s say you don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s winter and you live up north; one day you start sniffling. No problem, it’s natural for that time of the year in that particular location. After a few days, you start coughing, nothing terrible but coughing nonetheless. Springtime comes around, and you still have that nagging little cough that isn’t so terrible, but just won’t go away. Anyone with any sense would have gone to the doctor already, but not you, nooooo you don’t sweat the small stuff so a little cough isn’t going to worry you. A few more days go by, and you start to have trouble breathing normally and your chest feels heavy. Then one day later, you don’t wake up. The grim reaper has come-a-calling.
You know, it’s too bad because a simple regimen of rest, fluids and Tylenol could have cleared u the pneumonia that killed you. But that would only have been diagnosed if you had gone to the doctor when it was still early, but you didn’t think it was worth the bother, and now, it really doesn’t matter to you because you’re dead!
Yes, these examples are super-simplistic and yes, even a little outlandish, but you know what? Stuff like this does happen more often than people realize. The point isn’t to tell a believable story, but to make you all open your eyes to the fact that often times it is the little things in life that end up creating the most stress and the biggest problems. No matter what some book may talk about or some random dude may preach, the facts are the facts:
If you choose not to sweat the small stuff, don’t be shocked when it turns into the big, ugly, troublesome stuff down the road!