Why cutting back gets really stupid, fast and what u should do instead!


There’s a problem with cutting back that people don’t want to acknowledge.

Cutting back causes you to hate money and probably yourself, after a while

Here’s what most people do when they are trying to save money.

Action Steps! :

  • Save $100 by running instead of going to the gym
  • Save $200 by replacing the meaning of the words Going out” to mean walking around the block 3 times before going home.
  • Save $100 by drinking some bland 3-in-1 crap instead of that soy mocha Frappuccino (*shudders)

Not too bad! You’ve saved $600 just by writing stuff on paper. On an average Singaporean’s median income of $3000, that’s 20% Now try thinking of it as something that you have to do for the rest of your natural life instead of something you need to do for just one month.

Or better yet, how about you cut another 20% of that? What else can you do? Become a recluse that stays at home all the time? Stop hanging out with your colleagues and only eat Cup Ramen for lunch? It gets stupid really fast and you’ll end up resenting money because all it seems to do is deprive you of the things you want. It’s like going on a diet. You stop eating all those fatty foods and hitting the gym 5 times a week for a month, realize you lost 3 kg and celebrate by eating everything you want in the next month.

Cutting back on the obvious stuff is pretty easy. But the problem with cutting back is there’s a limit to it without severely impacting your quality of life. And if you’re married, making those smaller, but much more difficult cuts is going to be extra difficult. My wife and I to a point where there just weren’t many more cuts to make, and those that could potentially be made were causing stress in our relationship. And it just isn’t worth it.

Caveat: I’m not saying don’t be smart about your spending. If I see another guy earning less than 50k a year buying a condo as his first property (especially with interest rates about to climb), I’m going to flip the table that I’m writing this article on, run out the door of this Starbucks and scream at the heavens while despairing at the stupidity of this world.

Earning more has no limit

Let’s examine another way of looking at things:

How about you find a side business that you like to do, work on it for 8 hours a week and earn that $400. Let’s break that down mathematically. Say you find a product that you can make $50 per sale.

$400 / $50 is 8 sales. That’s 2 sales a week.

If you’re putting in 8 hours a week, you’ve got 4 hours to find that sale and fulfill it. That’s plenty of time. The thing is: most people don’t even think about starting a side business. And of those who think about starting a side business, about 1 in 10,000 will actually move from thinking about it to actually doing something.

Diversifying your income is becoming more important

In my first job, one of my directors got retrenched for a mistake that a team that had just moved under his umbrella made. That’s the bad news. The good news was he had already bought several properties in Hong Kong, Indonesia and Thailand that was giving him recurring income. When I met him at the bar below our office a month later, he was dressed in shorts and designing a site to sell premium coffee makers.

For me, that was the dream! I definitely am not earning as much as a director, maybe give me 10 more years 🙂 But I sure as hell can diversify my income sources. Job security is a thing of the distant past and companies are always re-structuring having a side business is something you can fall back on when times are tough. It gives you options. Like an option to run your own business someday.

Or to experiment while keeping your day job, instead of quitting it and risking everything on the unknown.  That’s why you see people whining about finding that magical idea, but taking no concrete steps to find it.

Seems fine so far, so why don’t people make more money?

Everyone’s number 1 barrier seems to be finding the right idea. The pendulum swings from no ideas to too many ideas. (So no one has just the right number of ideas?).

A lot of people who say they don’t have any ideas are suffering from what I like to call the poor man lottery syndrome. They’re waiting for the idea that’s the going to be the next Facebook, Uber or AirBnB. And every single idea, they do some quick research, realize someone’s already done it and give up. Everyone wants to be the first person to do something for some weird reason. I would be super skeptical of an idea that no one seems to be doing.

Ideas are worthless. Money comes from ideas and action.

So let’s address the number 1 problem that’s plaguing people when it comes to starting their own business.

When people say they don’t have any ideas, what they’re actually saying is that they can’t think of something that people will pay for. People are ultra self-centered, so when they come up with ideas, they’re often thinking what they themselves would pay for. And since most of them are cheap, they think that nobody will pay for anything.

Just check out this Reddit thread about the expensive stuff people indulge in for their hobbies.

Some highlights:

  • $600 LED light for a salt water aquarium
  • $27,000 for a Magic: The Gathering card
  • $50,000 for a set of Sennheiser Orpheus headphones

So clearly, people do pay over the top for products that you and I wouldn’t even dream of buying.

Brainstorming to find the right idea

Here’s the part where you need to do a little work to find out what to sell. Do a little self-evaluation.

Strengths: What are the qualities that people notice most about you?

Problems: What are the products that you’ve over-come?

Interests: What do you do in your spare time?

Strengths Problems Interests
  • Finances
  • Fashionable
  • Handsome
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Trouble focusing
  • Weight loss
  • Online gaming
  • Gardening (Really, in Singapore?!)
  • Cycling
  • Parkor

For each of the problems, come up with as many products as you can think of that you use or would like to use. I’ll aim to get around 50 ideas; you could probably come up with more. You don’t just have to take ideas from your own life. If you know someone that does something really cool that you might like to try, write it down as well. Don’t censor yourself yet. It’s ok to have lots of ideas that you think are dumb at this point.

It’s actually the next part that’s the hardest which I’ll get into in another post: P

PS: If you want to learn more how start a business on the side

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  1. Nice post Aksel. I wrote something similar before.


    However, I think most people still would reap the most benefit from making less luxurious purchasing decisions and dialing back on their lifestyle expectations. Perhaps only those that have been consciously cutting down from luxury to normal and have nothing left to cut down on would benefit more by looking to increase earnings instead of dropping down from a normal to a bare bones budget lifestyle.

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