The Financial Benefits Of Artificially Limited Choices

Yesterday, I had the following conversations with Mr. FAF:

Me: We are going to have dinner with my friends on Friday night.

Mr. FAF: Ok. What time and where?

Me: I will check with them, but we can decide.

Mr. FAF: Ok.

Mr. FAF’s answer took me by surprise. I don’t know if he noticed, but I started the conversation by letting him know that I had made a plan for both of us, and that I expected him to come with me, to which he agreed.

Usually, the conversations would go something like this:

Me: Do you want to hang out with my friends this Friday?

Mr. FAF: You can go by yourself. I will stay at home with our son.

Me: Why don’t you want to come? It will be fun.

Mr. FAF: You can go. I’m busy.

In this conversation, I gave Mr. FAF a choice to say yes or no to the invitation, which he immediately declined.

Mr. FAF is a shy man and is not so enthusiastic about meeting new people.

Those are the friends I just made through a Meetup group event.

They invited Mr. FAF and me to dinner.

Mr. FAF had never met them and thus would have no desire to do so.

Related: How To Socialize Frugally Through Meetup Groups

Limited options

Mr. FAF’s reaction got me thinking about the benefits of limited options. Going out to meet other people is definitely good for him.

He can make more friends and improve his social skills, which I believe will be beneficial to his current job and future career.

When Mr. FAF has only one option of coming with me, he complied and started to plan ahead by asking about the time and location.

However, when given two choices, he would go with what he’s more comfortable with (staying at home), even when that choice does him no good.

In many cases, we don’t have a lot of options due to factors beyond our control.

For example, when Mr. FAF and I were poor students, we couldn’t afford expensive trips. Out best option back then was going on road trips or going somewhere for free (i.e. museums, state parks). When we make a low income, our options are limited.

In this post, I will talk about the financial benefits of the limitations we create for ourselves or for our loved ones because we know it works in our best interests.

1. Maxing out 401(k) accounts

Having followed personal finance, especially financial independence early retirement (FIRE) blogs, for a while, I have seen time and time again bloggers stressing the importance of contributing and even maxing out our 401(k).

However, it wasn’t until Mr. FAF started his new job that we began to consider this option. After being poor for years, we loved the idea of having more disposable income. We wouldn’t have to pinch pennies anymore.

We didn’t suffer lifestyle inflation. But the thought of being able to breathe without any financial worries was liberating. The disposable income was ours to spend, save, and invest.

After I saw how maxing out 401(k) can make Mr. FAF and me millionaires at 60 and 55 respectively, however, I tried to convince Mr. FAF that we should max out our retirement accounts.

Mr. FAF didn’t take the news so well. He liked to have more options with his new income. Mr. FAF didn’t make any extravagant purchases right off the bat. But he started sharing with me his dreams about buying a $500 entertainment device. Mr. FAF also wanted to save money for our trips to Asia and many other plans that involve money.

After a heated debate, Mr. FAF grudgingly agreed to max out his 401(k). His monthly paycheck would then go down by $1,000 each month, something he wasn’t happy about.

Mr. FAF wasn’t thinking about his retirement which seems to be 100 years from now. He was more interested in having more options with his money. I was the one who limited his choices by squaring away a fair amount for investment, something I’m sure he will thank me for in the future.

RelatedHow Hubby & I Discovered We Will Be Millionaires By Doing One Thing

2. Not eating out often

Mr. FAF and I love eating out. I like the idea of picking something from a menu, having someone make it, me eating it, and someone else cleaning up everything.

But such convenience comes at a cost. While it can cost us $40 to eat out somewhere, we can spend $80 groceries to feed our family of four for the whole week.

Realizing the big dent that eating out can make to our budget, Mr. FAF and I pack our lunch to work almost every day. We narrow down our eating options to eating at home, packing lunch to work, and eating out every once in a while.

I want to limit our restaurant budget to $0. But I have to admit that it’s not easy given that both of us like trying delicious Asian dishes we can’t make well at home. Also, sometimes we get just lazy and don’t want to roll into the kitchen.

Homemade food also gets boring after awhile because of our limited cooking skills. The bottom line is both of us love eating out.

However, we have to limit our eating out frequency to once or twice a week to not blow up our food budget. Our food options might be limited, but they are good for our long-term financial and physical health.

RelatedEating out v. Home-cooked Meals – The Dilemma

3. Weight loss

When I was overweight due to my pregnancy, I just ate anything I could lay my hands on. My thought at that time was: “I’m already overweight. Eating another piece of cake or another plate of meat and pasta won’t do anything to my body.”

However, seeing how much my body had ballooned and wanting to get my skinny self back, I went one a restricted diet. I cut out virtually all meat from my diet, ate more veggies and fruit, and reduced the portion of my meals.

I restricted my food options so much that sometimes I got tired of the whole process and just wanted to get out of it. Yet, I chose to stick with it.

After dropping 40 lbs, I can now eat pretty much anything I want in moderation. My body has adjusted to the new diet and will signal to me if I consume more food than needed.

4. Pay off debt

Debt is not anyone’s cup of tea. It’s a drain on our budget and a constant reminder that we don’t own 100% of the money that we have.

Some people choose to look the other way and ignore their debt. Some take a level-headed approach to paying off the debt gradually. Some get anxious and aggressive at getting rid of all the debts that they have.

For those who decide to pay off their consumer debt and mortgage, like us, they make conscious decisions to put away a certain amount of their budget to pay off all the balances that they have.

When part of our money is put towards debt, our disposable income also decreases and leaves us with less freedom to purchase the things we like. However, the limitations we create for ourselves in order to get rid of debt will liberate us in the future.

We limit our options now to get rid of debt but will have even more choices when that debt is paid off.

Related: 5 Similarities Between Debt Payoff and Weight Loss

5. Marriage

We all know and can agree on the importance of staying faithful to our spouse. However, life is not a fairy tale, and not all couples can live happily ever after.

Extramarital affairs is a leading cause of divorces. Yes, people cheat. And they do that for various reasons whether it’s seeking new thrills, being dissatisfied with their spouse, losing the sparks in the marriage, or simply not wanting to stay committed to a person anymore.

Many people let loose and widen their options by seeking adventures outside of their marriage. Some end up finding their true love. And some have to pay the high price of losing their family and having their finances ruined due to legal fees, child support, and emotional distress.

When we stay within the boundaries of a marriage (i.e. being faithful to our spouse), life can seem to get boring at some points. However, by limiting our choice to staying with one person and building a family with them, we can predict a more stable financial outlook.

I understand that not all of us are lucky in finding our true love the first time we get married. But when we do find the right person, seeking more options to meet our short-term needs might lead to disastrous financial and emotional outcomes that we currently can’t expect.

Related: How Frugality Brought Us Together As A Couple

Conclusion

I once found myself so trapped at home with housework and our baby that it made me feel depressed about life. From a free person, I went to being a mother and a wife who always stays at home and takes care of household chores when I’m not working.

In a way, I felt guilty to even complain about it since I had longed for our family reunion for years. However, thanks to the feedback from the readers, I had an honest conversation with Mr. FAF. He has since taken on more duties around the house and given me more free time to hang out with friends on the weekends.

We still stay as a family, and I’m still married. However, Mr. FAF and I found have ways to create more breathing room in our relationship in order to be happier as a couple.

There are many things in life that we can choose to limit our choices for such as a diet or an investment. However, we can always find room for more freedom with the options that we have.

For me, having limited options is only bad if it tends to lead to negative outcomes. When we conforms to the rules that we set for ourselves either temporarily or permanently, we will find ourselves to have even more options in the future.

Related:

How Frugality Helps Me Work Better At My Job

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12 thoughts on “The Financial Benefits Of Artificially Limited Choices”

  • Great points here Mrs. FAF. It is definitely easy to get overwhelmed when there are too many options. And if you limit yourself to the point where there are few options but they are all good ones, there is no losing. I especially liked ” limitations we create for ourselves in order to get rid of debt will liberate us in the future.” Yes! That’s what we are all striving for right? Freedom of time and choices.

    • Thank you for your great comment! I think limiting our options to those that are most beneficial to us also helps simplify our lives and reduce stress too 😀

  • Ms. FAF, I also create limitations for myself to pay off debt faster. Every month, one of the first things I budget for is a huge payment for my personal debt. After that and some necessary expenses, there is very little room for everything else which is okay by me because I know that it’s just temporary. Once that debt is paid off and gone forever, we will have total freedom on that money to spend or invest as we like.

    On another note, I used to not know how to cook, but then I found Helen’s Recipes on YouTube (she cooks Vietnamese food) and discovered that cooking can be easy and doesn’t require as much skills as you think. You just have to follow the instructions on the video and you will have yourself a delicious home made meal. 😊

    • I follow Helen’s Recipes too! He’s also so friendly and fun. I follow her recipes as well. One time I made salt and pepper shrimp. But Mr. FAF said it still tasted and smelled a bit off. :'(

  • “Mr. FAF is a shy man and is not so enthusiastic about meeting new people.”
    You just described my husband too. It use to drive me crazy but if he doesn’t want to meet people, he doesn’t have to.

    For number 4, when you said debt do you mean mortgage debt? I don’t think you guys have any real consumer debt right?

    • Just mortgage. We have never had any real consumer debt since we usually pay off the CC balance at the end of the month 😉

  • I think it is easy to get overwhelmed with options. I was scared of managing my own investments for years until I just summarily narrowed down the options to more manageable choices.

    When you have no choice, you actually stress less!

    • Great point! I like that my 403b investment is pretty simple. The portfolio is decided by the employer, so there’s not much I can do about it. But if I want to invest in more stocks, I might have to take the time to learn more about it >_<

  • Having too many options can be unbearable because their are so many you can pick from, it can figuratively make your head explode. That’s why having limited options especially financial ones are better in a way that you don’t have overthink about it. And if those limited options are great, even better.

  • The paradox of choice.

    Placing artificial restraints allow us to fully consider which choices are truly important to us. It also has the added benefit of curbing runaway impulses. 😉

    Secondly, big kudos to Mr. FAF for going outside his comfort zone! Little by little it’ll get easier. Make sure you let him know how appreciated it is, it can be hard for some. 😊

  • I struggle with wanting to try new restaurants or meals all the time. I love food and I like to try different dishes all the time. It hurts our bills though, and I need to cut back. The other option is to try new recipes that I can make at home. I’ve also had to deal with getting an upset stomach after eating out- so I’m pretty much forced to find recipes to make instead of getting them at a restaurant.

  • More choices sounds good, but it’s really a trap. When there are too many choices, people compare too much and they’re never happy. I think having a few choices is the best compromise. Artificially limiting the choices is good too.

    Nice move with Mr. FAF at the top. If you really want him to go, you should assert yourself. That’s what Mrs. RB40 does sometime when she wants me to go to a play with her. Usually, I’m ambivalent because I’m cheap, but I will go for her.

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