Monday, May 25, 2009

It is All A Matter of Knowledge

One of my responsibilities at my day job is testing our company website for customer usability. In other words, I go through the site and make sure that things happen approximately the way they are supposed to happen and that the tools and help text makes sense to the average user. I am not, however, a programmer. You have seen the extent of my programming capability here; I can make things bold, add a link or a page break, but that's about it. So, I take any changes I want made to the site to our programmers, and I have noticed a funny thing happens when I do -

Inevitably when I think something is going to be really complicated, it turns out to be incredibly easy. I approach the tech team with trepidation and they respond with a happy "Sure! No problem!" Of course, the opposite is true as well. I see something that I think will just take a quick fix and the whole tech team groans and tells me what I want is impossible and/or it will take an enormous amount of time and resources to make it happen.

The same thing seems to be true of my home...

At the back of my house is a spot where there used to be a window. Some past homeowner took that window out and added a closet to that corner. They replaced the window with plywood. My ex replaced the plywood with some outdoor paneling, which looked slightly better, but still wasn't perfect. The other night I got to talking about it with my painter. He said he'd be happy to remove the paneling and the old window frame, put in new studs and cover the area with siding so it looked seamless to the rest of the house. When he quoted me the cost, however, I just about fell over. It didn't look like that big of job to me - it was only a window, for heaven's sake, but not only would there be a lot of labor involved, but that cedar siding at $1.00 a foot wasn't helping any either. We decided to just paint the paneling and go back to the window another summer.

While we were chatting about home improvement projects, I mentioned to him that at some point before I relist the house, I was going to need to have a bathroom remodeled. As we were chatting about it, we went in and took a look at the room in question. It looks like a huge job - with tons of tile that has to be pulled off and replaced. He looked it over and said "No sweat - I could finish this two days." Once again, I was floored.

The funny thing is that personal finance can be the same way. When I first decided to tackle getting nine hundred dollars a month it seemed like an impossible task. Now, it isn't so bad. The difference is experience. It comes down to learning and understanding what is really involved. Some goals are difficult and require practice and learning, others take a lot less work than we might expect. Buying stocks seems easy, but it is a quick way to lose your shirt if you aren't paying attention. Building a budget seems like a lot of work, until you've done it. That's why I like personal finance blogs - I get to learn the ins and outs a bit before I jump in with both feet!



Photo of actual home improvement work happening on my house by: Me!

4 comments:

lowincomelady said...

Hi Dawn, I really love your blog, you are one of my favourites, I always click on yours first in Google Reader to see what you have written...

Knowledge is a wonderful thing, knowing you can do something is a lot better than the fear when you don't know something can or can't be done...

Dawn said...

Lowincomelady - Why thank you so much for the kind words!! I really appreciate that!!

I agree - without knowledge, fear can take over, which leads to the "head in the sand" syndrome. Even a little knowledge can help overcome that.

Kristy @ Master Your Card said...

Personal finance is definitely one of those things that, until you're in it, feels completely overwhelming. I like to think of it in terms of making anything you do more manageable. Inevitably, anytime we consistently look at the macro view of something, it is daunting. By breaking it into manageable chunks, we give ourselves the time and the room to understand various aspects of what we're trying to accomplish and to work on them. Take getting out of debt for instance. On a whole, look at the total amount of debt you have can be overwhelming. But, once you break down how you want to pay it back and then focus on one at a time, it FEELS a little less consuming.

Great post!

Dawn said...

Kristy - I agree completely! I think that is true for any kind of overwhelming task - especially one that seems complicated. Breaking it down a little at a time is the way to go, as is finding knowledgeable people or books on the subject and getting educated. Sometimes things like personal finance seems particularly scary because the words are unfamiliar. I know I feel that way about stocks. I don't understand half the terms! If I ever wanted to get into it, I would need to start by just learning the language.