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My son absolutely loves animals. He could spend all day watching the birds, squirrels, and rabbits who live right outside of our home. His favorite shows are Mutt & Stuff (a dog show) and Zoofari (show about zoo animals). We spend a good hour every evening watching Nick Jr.
So you can imagine how excited my son gets when my wife takes him to the local farm. Now that the weather is warmer, she takes him to Frying Pan Park, which has elements (farm equipment, buildings, etc.) dating back to the 1920s-1950s. The neat part is that it is a fully operating farm. Every time that we tell him we are going, he squeals with delight. He especially loves when there are baby animals. Recently, a litter of newborn baby piglets were born, and my son is obsessed with them.
Last week as we were at the park, I started to think about all the life lessons that can be learned by interacting with the staff and animals. Of course, this being a money blog, I thought I’d share some of the financial lessons that I’ve observed along the way.
Hard Work on the Farm
We always look forward to going to the farm. The animals are usually out basking in the sun, playing in the mud or grazing on their endless supply of grass. However, it’s the staff who make farm-life look seamless. What we don’t see is the amount of work that goes on to get the animals acclimated to their habitat, how they must regularly monitor the animals’ health, and even the mundane tasks of keeping the areas clean (i.e. picking up poop). We expect everything to be taken care of. Sometimes, we fail to remember the countless hours of work that go into the preparation each time we visit.
What does this have to do with finances?
How often do we look at someone else’s life and want it? Their life may look glamorous or just easier than ours. The truth is that a lot of enviable people put in a lot of hard work to be in the position that they are in today. We didn’t see the struggles that helped set up their success today. We only see their “perfect” life today and desire it immediately.
The truth is that I use to feel that way too. When I graduated from college, I wanted the same lifestyle that my parents had. I thought I could skip over all of their struggles along the way and fast forward to the good stuff. But, the difficult times are what make us savor where we are today.
Start Thinking like a Farmer
Have you ever noticed on a farm that nothing goes to waste? Farmers tend to fix or repurpose broken items. Old wood can be used to create feeding troughs. Animal manure is useful for fertilizing plants. Farmers are some of the most creative and frugal humans on earth.
I try to do a good job being resourceful. Youtube has been a great tool in guiding me through product assembly or as I try to fix broken things around the house. I figure I can’t cause too much damage (hopefully), so there’s no harm in trying to fix it. What I don’t always do though is try to think outside the box to see how I can repurpose an item. Usually, I throw it out after it breaks, if it’s not fixable.
While I think I’m frugal, I need to start thinking more like a farmer.
We Are All Different like the Animals
If you ask a monkey how to survive, he will tell you that you need long limbs and a strong grip to survive.
For a lion to survive, he will tell you that you need sharp claws and be able to run fast.
If you ask an elephant how to survive, he will tell you that you need to be big and strong and move together in a pack.
So, which is the right answer?
The right answer is all of the above. Each animal is different and utilizes their strengths for different purposes to thrive in their respective environments.
Isn’t it interesting that these animals can survive and even flourish in the same environment? Birds may use tree limbs for protection from the elements, while monkeys may use the limbs to move freely from tree to tree, while elephants may use the tree limb’s leaves to receive shade.
They each have a specific but very different use for the same tree. Nevertheless, they all maximize their benefit for the thing that they need the most in that moment. Likewise, when we spend money, we utilize it in the way that we determine is best for us at the time.
While some of us may choose to pay off debt, others may choose to invest in the stock market. Some may solely invest in real estate, while finally, some may allocate our funds towards starting small businesses. What’s right for one person may be totally wrong for someone else.
Just like animals, each one of us humans are built differently. This points to my favorite saying: personal finance is personal for a reason.