Get Ahead By Deleting Social Media

About a year ago, I rejoined Facebook after years away from the social media site.

I had a good reason to do so, or so I thought. I was living in South Korea, and Facebook was the easiest way for my family and friends to stay in contact with me. They seemed to enjoy my status updates from exotic locations, and I was always fielding questions about what the culture or the climate was like. It worked out well.

But now that I’m back in Canada, I fail to see the point of it. Facebook has evolved from a space where you can keep up with your long lost friends to a place where we carefully craft an alternate reality that conveniently excludes anything the least bit negative. We present the best version of ourselves to the people we’re supposed let see our warts.

On the surface, this doesn’t look so bad. We all should realize this is the reality we’re seeing every time we scroll through our newsfeed. But our lizard brains aren’t that smart. What we see is photo after photo of people getting engaged, married, or going on exotic vacations. Particularly after a rough day, we scroll through that and think we deserve the same things too. Jealousy sets in, and we all know what happens next.

Just delete it

Although I wasn’t a Facebook user back in 2012-13, I still had a Twitter feed stuffed with personal finance and travel bloggers who threw off the shackles of a regular life as often as they could. These people lived a life of constant travel that looked very appealing to me, a small-town guy with a very regular job.

So I decided to start living a life less ordinary. I convinced my then-girlfriend to get a job teaching English in South Korea. We spent a year having an adventure which ended up costing not a whole lot more than what many people spend on their annual two week vacation.

The more I look back on it, the more I’m convinced it was pure luck that we were able to pull off such a feat. I managed to get a location-independent job just a few months before we left, something I’m still not sure how I pulled off. And she didn’t have much trouble finding a decent job either.

The point is this. Without that luck, we could have very easily fell into a situation where we wanted to do these things without having steady income lined up. That would have been a very expensive way to experience the world.

I’m not saying I regret my experience, because I don’t. It was great. But at the same time, I’ve unfollowed just about all of the travel junkies on Twitter and replaced them with investing geeks. I still think about travel, but I have very little desire to go anywhere for longer than a week at a time.

Learn to want less

I’m the first to admit this is very difficult. Let’s face it; the average person in North America has life pretty sweet. Sure, poverty exists, but there’s a legitimate argument to be made that living in poverty in North America is better than living a middle class lifestyle in other parts of the world. When you have the basics taken care of, it’s only natural to shift your fantasies towards the exotic.

I’m also a believer that if you’re not working towards something, you might as well be dead. Drifting through life motionless isn’t ideal for anybody. Working towards extended travel is a whole lot better than working towards nothing at all.

Ever since I got back from my big adventure, I deal with wanting a little differently than I did before. When I decide I “need” something, I let the feeling fester, usually for weeks, sometimes even months. I make an active effort to think about all the good things I have going on currently in my life. Essentially, I try to desire things as much as I can using the logic part of my brain.

And most importantly, I stopped mindlessly reading Facebook. That, combined with handcrafting my Twitter feed, is saving me money each year. I’m no longer envious of my high school friend’s trip to Hawaii because I don’t even know he went. Once you realize how much sway those status updates can have, it’s a powerful feeling knowing they no longer affect you.

I deleted the Facebook app from my phone, only keeping the Messenger app. That way I can stay in contact with people without getting jealous of their perfect lives. It’s working well for me, and I know it’s saving me money. Maybe it’s time you did the same.

Following These 5 Financial Myths Will Cost You

You know when you were little and your mother made you wear a coat even though it was only slightly cool? Remember how that was supposed to stop you from getting a cold?

Your mother’s heart was in the right place, but there’s little evidence that getting cold makes anyone more likely to catch a cold or flu. The whole myth probably started when people noticed that we are much more likely to end up sick during winter. There’s a number of reasons why this is true, including spending more time indoors, because our immune systems aren’t quite as effective in the cold, and because cold and flu viruses like cooler weather.

Falling for something like that isn’t such a big deal when all you’re doing is putting on a jacket when you probably should be wearing one anyway. It’s when you start falling for myths that end up costing you money is when the big problems start.

Here are five financial myths that are making your wallet lighter.

Oil changes

Although it’s not nearly as prevalent as it used to be — thanks to new cars that tell you when to get your oil changed — there are still thousands of people out there who blindly believe that nice sticker in the window that suggests they get their oil changed every 3,000 miles (or 5,000 kilometers for the Canadians in the house).

Modern engines are much more efficient than the last generation of gas guzzlers. Depending on your car, you can easily get away with going 7,000 miles without changing the oil. That adds up to twice as many oil changes in a car’s life. At $40-$50 per shot, this is not an insignificant cost.

Buying the best

Often, I’ve seen the argument that buying the best model of something is the most cost effective over the long run, since it’ll end up lasting longer.

Reality is far more complicated. Beats headphones are $200 for a cheap pair, which should indicate they’re pretty good quality. But according to many experts in the field, it’s easy to get $50 headphones that sound better. Many humans can’t even hear well enough to tell the difference between good and great headphones anyway.

Headphones are just one example. There are dozens more. Price and quality aren’t necessarily a direct relationship. Too many people believe they are.

Keeping a balance helps your credit

The inner workings of credit are a secret to everyone except a select few employees at the Equifax Corporation. Apart from following a few basic rules, we’re all basically guessing at how much we affect our credit.

I’ve seen advice telling people not to pay off installment loans because having an active and up-to-date loan helps out your credit score. That might be true, but what a silly thing to do. It’s essentially the equivalent of paying to have slightly better credit.

Unless the loan is at 0%, just pay down the debt. Don’t worry, your credit will still survive.

You need life insurance

Most adults should have some sort of life insurance, especially if they have dependents.

But at the same time, taking the advice of a life insurance agent to determine how much insurance you need is dangerous. To an insurance agent, every potential problem needs to be insured. These people even recommend getting insurance now not because you need it, but because you might not be able to in the future. Essentially, that’s just buying insurance on the ability to get insurance. What a waste.

Getting life insurance is fine, assuming you need it. If not, hold off. The chances of you qualifying now and then not qualifying five years from now are slim.

Buy what you know

One of the most common pieces of advice for rookie investors is to buy stock in companies they use regularly. Thus, portfolios are stuffed with names like Coca-Cola, Microsoft, and Loblaws.

There are a number of issues with this advice. Your portfolio will likely be overweight with consumer stocks. And it likely won’t have much growth, since big companies can no longer count on double-digit revenue increases.

It also doesn’t consider valuation. A great company can still be a crummy investment if you buy it when it’s overvalued.