Nature abhors a vacuum.
Nature abhors a vacuum. It’s a law of nature as natural as the sun shining and the rain pouring. So when there is a void, something will fill it.
The Free Dictionary defines this iodism as:
Any absence of a regular or expected person or thing will soon be filled by someone or something similar. Based on Aristotle’s observation that no true vacuums exist in nature (on Earth) because the difference in pressure results in an immediate force that acts to correct the equilibrium.
What does this have to do with money?
How should we apply the concept of “nature abhors a vacuum” to our personal finances?
Don’t Create a Vacuum
It’s overwhelming to start. Whether you are starting to save money, want to pay down debt, or attempting to handle your finances better, it can be tempting to jump headfirst and create a vacuum in your finances.
It’s tempting to start looking at your budget and just SLASH things from it. Cut everything out of the budget and go immediately bare-bones on everything.
Diving headfirst and committing totally to a new lifestyle usually doesn’t work. Becoming extreme right away works for a short amount of time and then fails spectacularly. This type of behavior is part of the reason why I don’t recommend No-Spend Days.
Creating a vacuum in your finances by cutting everything out will make you burn out extremely quickly. If you don’t burn out, then you will fill the void with other bad habits or bad actions by nature’s law.
Start with one thing. Not all the things. Don’t go all scorched earth on your new project. Instead, decide to cut or focus on one thing only.
For example, if you are cutting subscriptions, don’t cut all of them all at once. Instead, cut one entertainment subscription and then wait until you cut the next one. Get used to living without it before taking another step. Cutting all entertainment at once will probably backfire. We want to take action to create a lasting lifestyle and financial change. Otherwise, you will rack up the debt or use all your savings just as quickly as you managed to pay it off or save it up.
This is not a hard and fast rule. As with most things in personal finance and behavioral changes, you have to do what works for you and your circumstances. For example, if you have multiple subscriptions to something that you never use, then cancel them. You probably won’t notice. But don’t try to cut all your favorite things at once, even if you really can’t afford them.
This idea brings me to another piece of advice: add something back in.
What?!?! Yes, you heard me. It’s time to add something back into your life- but keep it free or frugal.
Nature abhors a vacuum.
So if you cut out Netflix, then now is the time to renew your library card and get out some movies or books! If you cut out eating out in restaurants, now is the time to institute a date night or a game night with friends and family. If you cut out the gym, now is the time to add a daily YouTube workout or a run outside. See the idea?
Cut one negative thing from your life but add one positive thing to replace the underlying need. For example, cut out buying lattes but make yourself delicious coffee at home.
Don’t Cut: Replace
The rule is: Don’t Cut. Replace.
Don’t just cut things out of your life- replace them with something else.
Don’t cut things- replace them with something free or frugal. Depriving yourself of something you enjoy is not the way to achieve happiness. Remember, the point is not the money. The point is LIFE. Why live life if you can’t enjoy it?
Now, of course, enjoying life does not mean spending money you don’t have. Instead, it means making targeted choices that preserve both happiness and money.
Replace money-sucking activities and items with free or frugal things that bring you joy.
Get entertainment- for free.
Hang out with friends- and do something fun and free.
Get exercise- in a cheaper or free setting.
Replace things in your life with better things. Remember, nature abhors a vacuum.