6 money lessons you can learn from your pets

Valuable Life Lessons from Pets

Each morning, I am generally awoken in one of two ways: either Tivo, our three-year-old greyhound, places his wet nose directly in my face and snuffles with excitement, or our cat Lebowski (a.k.a. The Dude) lays himself across my neck and purrs jet-engine-decibel contentment straight into my ear.

I love my pets, and not just because they have made the alarm clock app on my phone completely superfluous. They great companions and friends, but they are also fonts of incredible money wisdom. (See also: 5 Surprising Ways Your Dog Can Save You Money)

Don't believe me? Consider the following.

1. Dogs Remind You to Enjoy the Little Things

If you want to make your dog happy, just grab his favorite ball and head outside. A little bit of rough-and-tumble play with Rover, or some scratches behind his ear are more than enough to send him over the moon. He knows that there's no need to commit to a huge, expensive indulgence to have fun, when walkies and a full bowl of kibble get his tail wagging.

And researchers have found that dogs are onto something. We derive more happiness from the small, regular pleasures in life than we do from the big, occasional indulgences. That's because of something known as hedonic adaptation, where we feel less pleasure from something we have become accustomed to. After a day at the beach, you will not be feeling as happy as you were when you got there, and by the end of your vacation, you will be completely accustomed to sand and surf, which means you'll take it for granted.

If you emulate your beloved pooch, however, and spend your money or time on smaller and more regular pleasures — such as weekly drinks out with friends, a monthly manicure, and daily walks with Rover — then you'll be much happier than if you deny the small indulgences in favor of big purchases.

2. Model Your Investments After Catnaps

Cats sleep between 12 and 16 hours a day, and will often only move in order to stay in the sunbeam they are napping in. But even with all of that shut-eye, cats are hardly "sleeping on the job." Even a snoozing feline will twitch his ears if you drop something — and he can spring into action almost instantaneously if he feels threatened while snoozing.

What Mittens is indirectly teaching you with this type of sleeping pattern is how to be a rational investor. Taking a long view and sitting tight on your investments through market ups and downs is by far the smartest way to grow your wealth. Most of us have a hard time doing what feels like nothing during market volatility. This is called the action bias, and it makes us feel as though doing anything, even if it is counterproductive, is preferable to sitting around doing nothing. But listening to the action bias is the reason why people sell when the market is at its lowest and buy when it's at its highest. They are afraid of doing nothing.

It's important to note that your cat doesn't just sleep the day away. He always keeps one ear cocked for signs of trouble. Doing nothing may be his default — as it should be with your investments — but he is ready to take action when it is necessary, and not a moment before.

3. Dogs Teach Us That Boredom Is Destructive

When we first got Tivo, one afternoon he managed to tear open our locked bread drawer by pulling hard enough on the handle to break the wooden face of the drawer. We quickly realized that our new family member didn't just share our affinity for bagels — he was also suffering from boredom. Thankfully, increasing our visits to the dog park, and investing in a better drawer lock, helped solve the problem.

But Tivo's drawer-breaking tendencies reminded me of the destructive power of boredom. Parents know that bored kids will always find something to do, and generally that something is destructive. Bored grownups, on the other hand, tend to spend money to relieve their ennui. How often have you found yourself browsing Amazon or going out to eat because you can't think of anything else to do?

For both dogs and people, the best boredom relief is often exercise. Heading out for a quick walk or even doing some jumping jacks when you are feeling bored can stimulate both your body and your mind, for free. Even better, it won't result in the better part of your kitchen being strewn through your living room.

4. Your Cat Doesn't Fear Failure, and Neither Should You

I have owned cats my entire life, and yet I never cease to be impressed by their ability to leap tall cabinets in a single bound. Cats do not weigh risks or do cost-benefit analysis when trying to navigate a tricky obstacle to the preferred spot on the highest piece of furniture. They simply leap without hesitation. Even if they do miss their target and fall, they simply get up, pretend that they meant to fall, and try again.

Of course, cats feel confident making acrobatic jumps because they are uniquely suited to landing on their feet. But human beings are similarly well-suited to adapting to new circumstances and handling the issues life throws at them. We may fear big changes, like leaving a job to become an entrepreneur, or going back to school to learn a new skill. But like the cat's landing reflexes, we have the ability to handle those big changes. We should look at failure like cats do — as a potential cost you can easily bounce back from.

5. Emulate Your Dog by Thoroughly Investigating Opportunities

When you introduce your dog to a new person, their first instinct is to take a good whiff of the stranger before deciding if he's a friend or a foe. Dogs also thoroughly investigate every fire hydrant and patch of yellow snow on their walks to make sure they are au courant with the neighborhood doggy business.

This kind of investigation is an important aspect of protecting your finances. Dogs are known for being easily excitable, and yet they take a moment to make sure they know everything they can about a person or fellow animal's scent before making a decision. Human beings, who are supposedly more rational, will often jump into the "sure thing" investment because they are so excited about the prospect of big money. Only when they discover that there are no tin mines in Bolivia and that they were taken in by a con man, do they remember that they should have investigated the investment thoroughly before writing a check.

6. Cats Know How to Ask for What They Want

Although cats have a reputation for being aloof and dignified, they are also perfectly happy letting the humans in their lives know when they want something — as anyone who has spent a day letting a cat in and then back out and then back in again, can attest.

Human beings have trouble being both dignified and willing to ask for help. We tend to think of dignity as somehow being above asking others for help. But our cats show us that there is nothing undignified in recognizing when you need help getting what you want. Getting help from others is often necessary to meet your career and financial goals. You would hate to miss opportunities just because you were afraid to ask for help.

Four-Footed Friends and Finance

Tivo and The Dude may not have a thriving stock portfolio or even a simple budget. But my dog and cat both show me on a daily basis that they may know a thing or two about money anyway.

What money lessons have you learned from your pets? Share with us in the comments!

Related: 15 things you should stop wasting your money on

15 things you can stop wasting your money on
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6 money lessons you can learn from your pets

1. Cable TV

With the advent of Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and Apple TV, there's hardly a reason to splurge on a fancy DVR system or even basic cable — so long as you're willing to be patient.

Most shows are added at least 24-hours after airing and some networks won't give them up until eight days.

See some great alternatives to cable TV here.

Via Business Insider

Photo Credit: Getty

2. Bank fees

Banks love to slap you with fees at the drop of a hat, but that doesn't mean you've got to put up with it.

"Consider going with a credit union, which are better than banks in many ways, to avoid some of these fees," says Andrew Schrage, founder of MoneyCrashers.com.

"If you travel abroad often, make sure you use credit cards without foreign transaction fees, otherwise you'll be paying an extra 3% to 5% on all your purchases."

Via Business Insider

Photo Credit: Getty

3. Extended warranties

Retailers push hard to sell you extended warranties — and conveniently pump up their sales figures at the same time.

Don't do it, Schrage warns.

"The only instance I'd recommend a warranty is in the case of a laptop. Otherwise, the warranties themselves can often cost as much as simply buying a used or new replacement for your item, or repairing it," he adds.

Via Business Insider

Photo Credit: Getty

4. The roof over your head

If you're blowing most of your income on a loft in Midtown, you're making a big mistake, says Jeremy Gregg, executive director of the PLAN Fund.

His organization provides loans to low-income entrepreneurs, who Gregg says he often sees spend more than half their income on rent and utilities.

The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development recommends spending less than one-third of your income on housing.

Via Business Insider

Photo Credit: Getty

5. Unnecessary smartphone data

"Many of us (including me) pick a cell phone plan, then never check to see if it's the right one for us based on our usage," writes author of "I Will Teach You To Be Rich," Ramit Sethi. "Because the average cell phone bill is about $50, that's $600 per year of money you can optimize."

When buying a new cell phone, Sethi likes to pay a little bit more upfront by choosing the unlimited data and text messaging plan. He then sets a three-month check-in on his calendar, and analyzes his spending patterns after a few months to see where he can cut back.

You can use this method for any usage-based services, he says.

Via Business Insider

Photo Credit: Getty

6. Online shipping

Nearly all retailers offer some sort of option that gets your purchases to your doorstep without additional fees.

Zappos and L.L. Bean are among the rarest breed of businesses offering free shipping on every single purchase, but most companies will demand a minimum purchase.

To help track down deals on shipping, use Freeshipping.org. The site stores information on expiration dates, tells you much to spend to qualify, and lets you search by store name or product.

Otherwise, check out CouponSherpa or Retailmenot, which offer discount codes for free shipping.

Via Business Insider

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

7. Cheap art

Environmental designer Pablo Solomon says picking up knockoff prints and other art is a great way to blow cash for no good reason.

"Nothing sends me through the roof like the art sold on cruise ships and at resorts," Solomon says. "(They're) basically glorified posters being sold as originals."

The best way to score deals on art is to track up and comers, he says. You can nab their art early on and laugh your way to the bank after they've made it big.

Via Business Insider

Photo Credit: Getty

8. Fast food

You're only hurting yourself (and your wallet) if you're feeding yourself out of the bodega around the corner from your home or office.

"I am shocked at how many people live paycheck-to-paycheck and yet routinely spend $10 per day on fast food and convenience store food," Gregg says.

If you're looking for an alternative to brown-bagging it, check out how to shop for the healthiest foods at the grocery store for the least amount of money, and start preparing your own food.

Via Business Insider

Photo Credit: Getty

9. Piecemeal insurance

Buying overpriced insurance for things like accidental death and diseases is an easy way to blow your funds.

"Instead of buying piecemeal insurance policies, get good term life insurance and disability insurance," says Sally Herigstad, a certified public accountant and Creditcard.com columnist.

Take a look at the types of insurance you should buy at every age.

Via Business Insider

Photo Credit: Getty

10. Lousy gifts

Personal finance expert Dani Johnson suggests you think twice before rushing out to buy Dad another tie this Christmas.

"You should make a pact with your friends and family to give back instead," Johnson says. "Pool a percentage of money you were going to spend on gifts and give a secret blessing to somebody who is truly in need."

If you want to buy a great gift without completely breaking the bank, check out these holiday gift ideas for under $50.

Via Business Insider

Photo Credit: Getty

11. Weight loss traps

Weight loss pills and supplements marketed as miracles for overweight couch potatoes are most likely traps.

"Not only are there enough pills and potions that you could start a new one each week, but the negative effects on your health outweighs the money you will waste," says nutritionist Rania Batayneh.

"This is a billion dollar industry and the truth is that a lean body does not come in a pill," Batayneh says.

Via Business Insider

Photo Credit: Getty

12. Lottery tickets

"Sure, you can (buy a lottery ticket) every once in a while just for fun, but never make a lottery purchase with any real expectation of winning," Schrage warns.

"The odds are significantly stacked against you, and why waste your hard-earned money on lottery tickets when you could be saving for retirement or treating yourself to a nice meal?"

Via Business Insider

Photo Credit: Getty

13. Brand new cars

"People get bored with cars quickly. They always want a new car and so they're always dealing with a car payment," says certified financial planner Michael Egan. "But it's a hugely depreciating asset. You don't want to be putting a lot of money into something that's going to be worth nothing after a certain number of years."

Look for used car options, which could save you a substantial amount of money. Check out Kelley Blue Book to get an idea of how much you should pay for a used car.

Another option is leasing a car. You can determine whether or not this is a good option for you by following this flow chart.

Via Business Insider

Photo Credit: Getty

14. Subscriptions

Subscriptions — to magazines, newspapers, and the gym — can add up, and oftentimes, we don't use them as much as we had originally planned.

Sethi recommends implementing what he calls the 'à la carte' method, which takes advantage of psychology to cut our costs.

"Cancel all the discretionary subscriptions you can: your magazines, TiVo, cable — even your gym," Sethi explains in "I Will Teach You To Be Rich." "Then, buy what you need à la carte. Instead of paying for a ton of channels you never watch on cable, buy only the episodes you watch for $1.99 each off iTunes. Buy a day pass for the gym each time you go."

It works for three reasons, Sethi writes: You're likely overpaying already, you're forced to be conscious about your spending, and you value what you pay for.

Via Business Insider

Photo Credit: Getty

15. A morning latte

Author of "The Automatic Millionaire," David Bach, coined the term, "The Latte Factor," which basically says that if you ditch your $4 latte every morning, you'd have quite a bit of money to contribute towards savings — about $30 a week, or $120 a month). Over the course of a few decades, that money could grow substantially.

Rather, invest in a nice coffee maker, even if the price tag is a bit steep. Oftentimes, spending more on high quality items can help you save in the long run.

It can seem counterintuitive to make purchases to save, but that's what some of the most successful money-savers do. They're not just buying things, they're investing in things — tools and services — that will eventually save them money over time.

Via Business Insider

Photo Credit: Getty


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