The path of least resistance looks easy on the surface.
Taking the path of least resistance is often easy. For many, that’s how they prefer to live life as it often feels good in the moment to get exactly what you want when you want it. But at what physical, emotional, and financial price are we willing to pay to take the path of least resistance?
The path of least resistance often looks easy on the surface. Take furniture shopping for example (a pain point for many).
You walk into a well-lit store with hundreds of options to choose from. A kind sales person immediately greets you and asks what you’re interested in purchasing. Of course, they have exactly what you’re looking to buy! It comes in five colors and you can customize it to your liking. Do they ship directly to your home? Absolutely! Was it in stock? Surprisingly, yes! They accept cash, check, credit cards or you could finance it. This is a big purchase, so you choose to finance it. You walk out of the furniture store thinking you’ve made a great purchase and it was much easier than you thought it would be to find the perfect piece for your home.
The furniture you chose arrives at your home, it gets installed, and looks beautiful. But don’t touch it! We just spent a fortune on it. You now spend time and effort keeping your new perfect-for-you furniture clean and in mint condition because it was expensive. Because it was so expensive, you decided to finance at an interest rate you didn’t care about at the time of the purchase, but now the bill has come and yikes! – it’s a little higher than you thought. This easy option is starting to look a little harder than you thought.
There is truth in this story. The part about needing new furniture and being shown exactly what we want? That was us, except our story turns out to be different.
We found a gorgeous solid wood table with four matching chairs with a price tag of nearly $5,000. Yes, just a table and four chairs! But it was exactly what we thought we wanted – solid wood that would last a lifetime. The price tag hurt my frugal soul, but at that moment, I absolutely thought it was the best choice for us.
The day after we purchased the table, I had a sense of deep regret. That dining table that we would have to work for a whole month to afford didn’t fit our season of life. We have a young son who loves to smash toy cars and paint masterpieces. With a table like that, I would have guarded it, cleaned it, and taken care of it like it was my job. I didn’t want to put that much time, effort, and energy into doing so.. I wanted to enjoy this messy season of life we are in and that “easy” choice would have prohibited me from doing so.
What did we do? We marched down to the Salvation Army and found a solid wood, made in America table with four chairs for $140. Immediately our expensive furniture store purchase was canceled and we rejoiced at our frugal, secondhand find. Did we need to find a friend with a truck to help deliver it? Yes. Did it need a good scrub? Also very much yes. But will I waste my time worrying away about keeping it clean or not getting paint on it? Nope! The path we took to find a table secondhand that better fit with our season of life was not an “easy” option, but it was the best option for our family.
The price we pay for “easy”.
There are plenty of easy decisions we make in life. Like deciding to drink the recommended amount of water we need on a daily basis (a personal struggle). That’s an easy choice for me because I value my health. However, when we spend a large portion of our day being bombarded with advertisements and “influencers” on social media, it is easy to make decisions that aren’t really in our best interests.
Easy decisions on the path of least resistance often take a toll on us physically and mentally. You purchase an item and it arrives at your doorstep. You’re excited and unpack it, but it doesn’t live up to your expectations after a few uses. You now have to make more decisions on an item that upfront, looked like an easy path to take. Trash, donate, pass to a friend, shove in your clutter closet? Any option you choose will take additional mental and physical energy to complete. Even if you decide to keep the item because you spent your hard earned money on it – you still have to store, clean, and maintain whatever it is because it is still in your home.
The financial impact of decisions made on the path of least resistance is often marked by regret. You regret that you gave into targeting marketing (no shame, they’re very good at their job), regret you put the purchase on your credit card or dipped into your savings, or that it is now past the return window and there’s no getting your money back. Could you sell it? Sure. That takes time, energy, and patience. If it’s causing you mental and emotional stress, let it go immediately. That money is already gone. Nothing is more valuable than your mental health.
The opposite of easy decisions aren’t necessarily hard ones.
There is nothing wrong in making an easy decision if it is in your best interests. Set yourself up for success by establishing priorities and forming new habits. Establishing these will help make those decisions that seem hard now a whole lot easier in the future. Trying new things (goal setting, establishing habits, slowing down) can be challenging. Remember that this is for you and you deserve to be in control of the decisions you make.
Set priorities and goals.
Establishing priorities and goals gives yourself permission to say “no” to things. Like buying a new wardrobe or new gadget-y thing from an ad – does this enhance one of your priorities or does it hinder it?
As a family, set priorities. Your top priorities could look like:
spending time together everyday
eating dinner as a family
taking time to rest
Your goals could look like:
saving money for a trip or home renovations
keeping your home clutter free
reading a certain number of books each month.
With priorities and goals in mind, it becomes a lot easier to say “yes” to things that aren’t on the path of least resistance because you’ve said “no” to all the other “easy” things that would have gotten in the way or consumed your time, energy, and finances.
Remind yourself of these priorities and goals by putting them in an easy-to-see place, like a fridge, calendar, inside your planner, or as the background on your phone. This way, when you feel an impulse purchase coming on, you can easily say “no thanks”.
Form new habits.
Creating new habits is easier said than done. However, when that habit sticks, magic happens. Habits that can help you establish a path of your own could include:
budgeting every week/month
creating a list of things you’d like to buy and then waiting 72 hours before making a purchase
asking yourself “is this really for me? Or am I doing this to please/to benefit/to look good for someone else?”
looking toward the future if you had that item in your life (storing, using, maintaining, disposing)
Instead of shopping or scrolling, check your feelings and finding something different to do that will make you feel good for longer
When you have habits that promote feeling good and making better decisions for yourself, you find opportunities to do things that seem hard at first. This could be anything! Finding secondhand items you need instead of buying new seems hard at first. But when you have your first small success stacked on top of your goals, priorities, and habits – magic happens! You can do something that was hard at first but now is easy for you.
Choosing the path of least resistance is often an easy choice. However, those easy made-for-you options that we are confronted with everyday through advertising and social media don’t necessarily have your best interests in mind. You won’t hurt their feelings by passing on an offer if it takes a toll on you physically, mentally, or financially. Make your own easy choices by putting in a little work up front and setting priorities, goals, and establishing habits. Create your own path to the life you envision for yourself, unaffected by what others tell you your life should look like. It’s your life to enjoy.
Amanda Brownlow is the blogger behind Hello Brownlow, a website dedicated to sharing how their family has been able to save money and live a more frugal, minimalist lifestyle – all by being content with less.