Ostriches and Finances Don’t Mix


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An Ostrich is a large, flightless bird native to Africa which many people believe will bury it’s head in the sand when it senses danger. As the story goes, the ostrich thinks that it is completely safe if it cannot see the pending threat. It hopes that when it finally raises it’s head back above the ground, the threat will be gone, and everything would be ok.  Not very intelligent.

Yet in the past I’d insist upon doing the exact same thing with my finances. I wouldn’t pay attention to how much I was spending, completely ignoring financial danger.

I almost did it again this weekend.

Our family went on a mid-winter get away last week, and we made a conscious decision to utilize some discretionary funds that normally would have been spread across the first half of February during the trip. As a trade off, we would have to tighten the budgetary screws for the next few weeks. We wanted to have a great time on our trip, and didn’t have any plans for the next few weekends so we decided it was worth it. As this past weekend approached, we skipped our usual Thursday night budgeting discussion.

Truthfully, I avoided it.

Friday morning was the first of the month, which meant I needed to ensure that all the automatic payments went out as they should, and manual payments were performed. What also should have happened is the entering into the checkbook register our end of the month income, and the outgoing payments to determine the actual amount of funds we had available. It really should have been done a few days prior in preparation for that Thursday discussion that never happened.

Instead I just stared at my computer screen.

I didn’t want to see the smaller number that we would have available for the next two week cycle. I didn’t want to be reminded that there wouldn’t be the cushion available if we wanted to buy little extras while grocery shopping. I didn’t want to see the consequences of the decision we had made a week prior.

I wanted to stick my head in the sand, and just hope that everything would be OK.

But everything would NOT be OK. We’ve been down this road before. When I would eventually pull my head out of the ground, I’d most likely find us over budget and need to scramble to figure out how to “make things work” until the next payday.

So I took a deep breath, and reconciled the checking account.

During breakfast, Vonnie and I discussed our plans for the weekend, and she asked about our budget. I stated the numbers, and proposed some ideas for our spending plan. She was a little surprised and asked some questions. We sat down and retraced the spending of the previous weekend leading to where we were at now. We put together our spending plan, and I walked away from breakfast feeling very much relieved.

The funny thing is, that story about ostriches putting their head in the sand isn’t true. They’re actually very smart animals, and flatten their bodies and long necks against the ground when danger approaches as to make themselves less visible. They have keen eyesight and watch the approaching threat intensely until they figure out a plan of action.

Maybe being like an ostrich wouldn’t be so bad after all.

About Travis

24 Responses to “Ostriches and Finances Don’t Mix”

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  1. Good one Travis. I was an ostrich for many years. It took a while to realize that hiding was not making the treats go away.

    • Travis says:

      I assume you meant “threats,” Grayson – because who would want the “treats” to go away? LOL. In all seriousness though, it’s a tough cycle to break. The ability to be blissfully ignorant for awhile almost made the scrambling that had to come later worth it. Almost…….until you get that one taste of what it feels like to be unstressed about money all the time.

  2. Good post! It took me some time to learn that hiding really does nothing but make the issue worse. We still deal with it at times ourselves, but have learned to notice the warning signs so we can do our best to stay on course.

    • Travis says:

      Learning to recognize those warning signs and trigger behaviors is one way to over come the “Ostrich Effect.” I find that we just have to force ourselves to have consistent discussions….if we’re consistently talking about it, it’s not possible to stick our heads in the sand.

  3. Mackenzie says:

    This used to be me, honestly! It takes a long time to realize that financial issues don’t go away just because you ignore them. It’s a lesson I have to remind myself of, all the time.

    • Travis says:

      It’s amazing how many times you have to learn one lesson, isn’t it? Ugh, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve uttered the phrase “You think I would have learned by now!”

  4. Good job — you know, the recognition is often the hardest part.

    • Travis says:

      Truth, Kathleen! Vonnie and I work every day to keep our heads out of the sand……you ever find yourself wanting to put your head in the sand?

  5. Michelle says:

    I’m looking in the mirror right now! Thank you for the post.

  6. Laurie says:

    Great post, Travis! And timely. I’ve been desperately looking for some sand this week. Where month 1 was motivating, and our mountain seemed totally conquerable, in month 2 we are feeling like there’s no way we can climb this mountain. Is this normal??? Did you guys go through this?? I SO want to be an ostrich (the head in the sand kind)!

    • Travis says:

      Oh yes, Laurie, totally normal! Peaks and valleys are part of the journey – some days it seems like we’ve been at this FOREVER and we’ll never see the end. Other days March of 2014 seems just around the corner. Just push through those valleys – by making it through them you will gain momentum and confidence. Don’t give up, Laurie – you got this! If you ever want to exchange emails, feel free to shoot one my way, I can DM it to you on twitter if you want.

  7. Savvy Scot says:

    LOL! I also always wondered where the comment about ostriches putting their heads in the sand came from!!

    • Travis says:

      I *think* I read that they do stick their head in the sand when they’re looking for something, but it’s not to avoid danger. It’s amazing how widespread that story is, isn’t it?

  8. debtgirl says:

    I have been watching my checking account like a hawk, not an ostrich. Its cutting it close but if my mortgage payment goes thru tomorrow before my payroll deposit, I am screwed. I should be an ostrich and come up for air and hopefully it will all be okay.

    • Travis says:

      I’ve played that game before too, debtgirl. Hope everything works out for you….AND I hope a day is coming soon when you don’t have to play that game at all!

      • debtgirl says:

        Made it, but barely! I was sweating bullets last night. The mortgage check posted and then this morning the deposit posted, I don’t know how I didn’t overdraft! YIKES!

        • You might want to check with your bank on their policies. Maybe they have a “deposits get posted before debits if posted on the same day.” I dunno….but in any case I’m glad it worked out for you. I gotta tell you, debtgirl, I find following your journey fascinating. I wish it wasn’t stressful for you (oh boy do I know that feeling), but I’ve always wondered what the bankruptcy process entailed, so following your story is so interesting.

          Keep going, debtgirl…..I look forward to the day when you’re writing about how things are getting easier for you. 🙂

  9. Right on! For some reason our egos/minds have a very hard time facing facts that in some way will either make us look bad or deprive us of some joy. And you nailed the most effective antidote: bringing it out into the open, instead of trying to wrestle it down on your own.

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