What Type of Person Do You Want To Be?

what type of person do you want to beI learn a lot about people from watching them shovel snow.

I was thinking about this a couple of weeks ago as I was digging our cars out from under the second snowstorm to hit Boston in 3 days. I live in a city neighborhood with street parking and no designated spots, so the shoveling dynamic is really interesting.

By now I’ve had a lot of opportunity to watch my neighbors handle the snow (one of the “perks” of living in the Northeast), and I’ve come to recognize that there are essentially two types of people. I’m going to call them Person A and Person B.

We can learn a lot from studying these two types of people, and we can actually choose to act like one or the other as we live our own lives.

And that choice, which type of person we want to be, can make all the difference.

The story of Person A

Person A does just enough to get his car out of his space, and no more. I often see this person spinning his wheels, switching between drive and reverse, doing everything he can to get enough traction to spin out onto the street and avoid the physical labor of actually removing the snow that’s in his way.

This person saves himself some time and effort in the short term, but his actions have several long term consequences:

Consequence 1: There’s no assurance that there will be a place for him to park later on. Maybe the sun will come out and melt enough of the snow to clear up his spot, but he has no control over this. It’s just as possible that the snow he left will ice over and leave the spot unusable.

Consequence 2: Even if he can park in the same spot, it might be difficult. Maybe he has a tough time getting in. Maybe he then has a tough time getting out. Maybe the snow has iced over and damages his tires or the underside of his car.

Consequence 3: Maybe he can’t park in the same spot and needs to find another one. This might take extra time driving around, and it might also mean he has to park further away from his home.

Consequence 4: By leaving his spot uncleared, the entire neighborhood suffers. Not only are there now fewer spots on the street, making it more difficult for everyone else to park, but this person will potentially park in a spot that someone else cleared out. The entire neighborhood ends up paying for this one person’s lack of personal responsibility.

The story of Person B

Person B spends the extra time and effort to actually shovel out a spot. She not only makes sure that she can get her car out and onto the street, but removes all of the snow from around her car and leaves a nice clear spot.

This person sacrifices some time and effort in the short term, but her actions have several long term benefits:

Benefit 1: If she saves her spot, she’s guaranteed to have a place to park when she gets home later. She has taken the situation directly under her control rather than leaving her future to chance.

Benefit 2: Not only will she have a spot, but it will be easy to park in. And because it’s clear, she’s not risking any extra damage to her vehicle.

Benefit 3: The assurance of knowing she has a spot to park in that’s clear and close to home gives her one less thing to worry about the rest of the day. She can live her life with a little bit less stress.

Benefit 4: She has opened up space on the street that makes it a little bit easier for her entire neighborhood to park. She is also relieving the rest of the neighborhood of the need to support her in her quest for parking. By taking ownership of her own situation, she is lessening the burden on everyone else.

These same principles apply to our money

When it comes to our money, we have a choice. We can choose be like Person A or we can choose to be like Person B.

If we choose to be like Person A, we will spend our money without purpose. We will decide not to give any thought as to what we truly value or what our long term goals are. We will instead do whatever feels easiest or most enjoyable to us in the present moment.

The consequence of this type of behavior will likely be an unhappy life.

Without real thought given to what it is that we truly value, our quest for instant gratification will leave us feeling unfulfilled. Money is meaningless without purpose.

And without any effort to plan for the future, we will leave ourselves to the whims of the world around us. Maybe we luck out and end up fine. But we won’t have control over the outcome.

And maybe we end up having to rely on the kindness of others or the policies of our government to support us when we’re no longer able to support ourselves. We may have no other choice.

But we don’t have to take that route. We can instead choose to be like Person B.

We can consciously dream of our ideal life and purposefully direct our money to make it happen, giving our money a meaning that will make its use fulfilling.

We can put in the effort to plan for the future. We can give ourselves the peace of mind in knowing that we have built both the financial security to weather any storm AND the financial freedom to live as we dream.

We can take control of our situation and not leave our future up to chance.

This decision is not pre-ordained. It has not already been made. We have a choice. Right now and every single day. With every single action.

Which type of person do you want to be?

Photo courtesy of R.Kyle

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36 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • DC @ Young Adult Money December 30, 2013

    Person A, of course! They save themselves time by not clearing all the snow! Just kidding, of course 😛 Especially when it comes to snow, I like to have it all cleared. I do think that this shows some character and translates into other areas of my life. Great analogy to clearing snow, something many of us have spent a ton of time doing the past couple months.

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney December 30, 2013

      Haha, well there’s definitely a time and place for saving time. But with snow anyways I’m with you. I like to have it cleared. I want to spend the energy once to have it done well rather than let it be a lingering issue.

  • John S @ Frugal Rules December 30, 2013

    Great correlation Matt and could not agree more. Isn’t it funny how you can see things like this in something so “simple” as shoveling snow. While I understand, on one level, the temptation person A finds in doing the minimum amount needed it is incredibly short sighted. I love to save time where I can, but if it’s all for naught in the long run then you’re simply wasting time and your effort.

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney December 30, 2013

      Exactly. As I just responded to DC, saving time is great as long as it isn’t putting you in a tough spot later on. It’s too much sacrificing of later for now that gets us into trouble.

  • Brian @ Luke1428 December 30, 2013

    Great thoughts Matt! Boy…I sure don’t miss shoveling snow! I like your Benefit #4 for person B. What I see there is that it’s all about helping others. We could all choose to do a little bit more of that…in real life situations like shoveling snow and in the giving of our money to worthy causes.

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney December 30, 2013

      I like your connection to charitable giving. That’s not really a connection I had made but I think there’s a fit there, especially if you take the time to help other people clear their own spaces. That does happen from time to time and it always makes me smile.

  • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer December 30, 2013

    Matt, LOVE this. We, for many years, did not “purposefully direct our money” and lived under our circumstances instead of conquering them. Now that we’ve chosen to become Person A, life has so much more peace, direction and happiness.

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney December 30, 2013

      It really is so much happier when you decide to take control, isn’t it? We can spend so much time worrying about the time and effort it would require when we could relieve all of that worry by just getting on with it. I’m glad you guys have been able to recognize that for your own situation and really take ownership of your life.

  • Done by Forty December 30, 2013

    Person A, so I can go out and make more money while those suckers are shoveling snow!

    Seriously, great post and a good metaphor. In a lot of areas, I do act like Person A. But I’m trying, Ringo, I’m trying REAL HARD, to be Person B. 🙂

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney December 30, 2013

      Hahahaha!!! Maybe the best comment ever just for the awesome reference. 3 thumbs up!!!

      Even when you joke you make a reasonable point. For some people putting the effort into this particular task really may not be worth it. Maybe they get more purpose out of their lives by leaving the snow alone and spending more time on other things. That’s certainly a possibility and not something I can fairly judge on the surface.

  • Kali @ Common Sense Millennial December 30, 2013

    Love the analogy – I sure hope I can be a Person B now and in the long run! Although if becoming an expert snow shoveler is required, I’ll have to move a little further north to get some practice.. I’ve never shoveled show mostly because Georgia doesn’t have any, but I can do yard work all day in the heat of summer without complaint. Does that count? 😉

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney December 30, 2013

      Haha, of course yard work counts! The actually snow shoveling isn’t all that important, though you’re welcome to get some practice with my car whenever you’d like!

  • Tonya December 30, 2013

    I like how the smart one in this scenario is a she. 🙂 Well played! I think I sometimes go back and forth between both people. Sometimes I’m more careful and take my time, and sometimes I’m in a rush and don’t think about things too much, but i try to get back to person B as quick as possible. BTW, doesn’t the city shovel? Is there and option C? 🙂

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney December 30, 2013

      Haha, thanks! Don’t think that wasn’t intentional. And no, the city doesn’t shovel. They do plow, which is incredibly helpful, but it also ends up burying your car in even more snow. You’re on your own there.

      But in all seriousness I think the reality is that we’re all really Person C with a little bit of the qualities of both people. The real trick is understanding what’s important enough to us to put the effort in to be like Person B. We can’t be like that with everything, but we can be like that with the things that matter.

  • Mrs PoP @ PlantingOurPennies December 30, 2013

    We don’t have snow, but we certainly have both types of people around here. Mostly I think the difference is between doing jut what you need for right now in comparison to doing enough that your efforts over the log haul will be reduced. I run into both types at work and I can tell you I hate working with person A.

  • Richie @ Practical Cents December 30, 2013

    Great analogy Matt! Many people take the easier route and don’t take the time to plan their actions in life. As a result, many things are left to chance and can potentially become a crises down the road. If we have the opportunity to direct the sails of our life boat, we should definitely seize control and steer our life boat with a clear direction. Nobody wants to end up ‘lost at sea.’

  • MyMoneyDesign December 30, 2013

    What a great and timely metaphor! I’ve often thought similar things when it comes to landscaping. Some people do a lot with their trees and grass to make it look nice. Some people don’t do anything and leave it all a big mess. Some people mow their lawn twice a day because they have to be perfect. Some people wait so long to mow the yard that the city has to come and do it for them. A lot of hidden messages about the way people are come out when you pay attention ….

  • Jefferson December 30, 2013

    Nice analogy, Matt.. I try to be a kind person. And that means braving the snow and getting it all off my car. I don’t want the guy behind me on the highway to get hit by a big windshield full of snow.

    You need to look at the bigger picture and sometimes put up with a little bit of unpleasantness for the greater good.

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney December 30, 2013

      A great point! Those people with snow all over the top of the car always annoy the crap out of me. That can be really dangerous!

  • Shannon Ryan December 30, 2013

    While it’s been a long time since I’ve had to shovel snow (I lived in DC for a few years), I do remember Person A and Person B. And it’s a great analogy to how people use their money too. One thing I always hear from people is they lack the time to get their finances in order. Drives me nuts! Yes, it does take a bit of time to get organized, figure out goals, make plans and take action but it’s so worth it! And in the end, those who can’t spare the time now – will pay in both time and money later.

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney December 30, 2013

      Oh man, the time excuse will get us every time. I still struggle with that excuse in other areas of my life and it’s a definite killer. The reality is that the time will only ever be there if we decide to make it be there. It never just magically appears. So something is either important to us or it’s not, and if it is then we simply have to make the time.

  • Jacob @ iHeartBudgets December 30, 2013

    I think I’ve shoveled snow once (from Seattle). It was a blast and I cleared the whole driveway because it was a rare event.

    In the past, I was obviously Person A, just going with my current whims with no regard to future consequence, and with no financial compass guiding me.

    I am now HEAVILY weighted toward person B. I am goals oriented, to the point where my (very kind) wife pulls me back down to earth to realize I can have goals AND enjoy what’s in front of me.

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney December 30, 2013

      I’m actually the same in that I have to remind myself from time to time that not everything has to be about the future and sometimes it’s okay to just enjoy the present. It’s not always easy to find that perfect balance.

  • Elroy December 30, 2013

    Person C – The guy with the garage and heated driveway 🙂

    Certainly taking control of our money & life is certainly an easier path to travel.

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney December 30, 2013

      Haha, smart man! Maybe someday I can reach that level of royalty.

      • Elroy December 30, 2013

        Maybe I will too! I was shoveling my very long driveway the other day when I kept looking with admiration and jealousy at my neighbor’s heated driveway.

  • Andrew December 30, 2013

    Ahh yes the snow shoveling dynamic…I’ve been spoiled the last few years now that I live in an apartment with an indoor parking spot.Before that though, I definitely try to clear out the spot pretty well so I can get the car out, but when there is a lot of snow, it doesn’t seem to matter. Once the plows come, the parking spot will need to be shoveled to get in again. I agree with Jefferson about clearing the windshields…I don’t know how people can be so lazy as to not clear that off. They can barely see and it is dangerous…plus illegal in some places. Anyway, when it comes to finances, I’m no doubt type B.

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney December 31, 2013

      My usual strategy is to wait for the plow to come through first before going out to shovel. I like to avoid having to redo work as much as possible, though sometimes it’s unavoidable.

  • Pauline @RFIndependence January 1, 2014

    I am kind of an A trying to be a B. Minimum effort doesn’t pay over the long term. HNY!

  • Lisa vs. the Loans January 2, 2014

    I definitely go back and forth between being person A and person B. Sometimes, I just want to reach my goal, but other times I have got to see the future benefits of doing things slowly and right.

  • cashRebel January 6, 2014

    Matt, you bring up an interesting question, especially because we’ve been dealing with this issue in Chicago for the past few days. In my neighborhood, unless you call dibs and put a lawn chair on your spot, there’s exactly zero chance that your spot will be there when you get back. And because I view putting a lawn chair in your spot as super unproductive, I think it’s the worst of the three options.
    If I lived in a closer knit community I might be inclined to be person B, but it’s tough to always do that when no one else reciprocates. Also, I don’t have a shovel… so I need to fix that, haha.

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney January 6, 2014

      I’ve been in the type of neighborhood you describe as well when I used to live right by Fenway Park. That was really dog-eat-dog. I still shoveled out though, mostly because I feel strangely principled about this issue. But I can definitely understand not being as willing to make the effort when someone will immediately swoop in and take the space as soon as you’re gone.

  • Wow, I’ve never paid attention to how people clear snow, but this is an interesting analogy. Doing things right the first time is really the only way to go about it. If you don’t, you are stuck doing them more than once!

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney January 8, 2014

      I like John Wooden’s quote: “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have the time to do it over?”

  • brokeGIRLrich January 8, 2014

    Very nice comparison – maybe I’ll glare at the snow a little less angrily now and look for some of the lessons in it instead. And try to be like more like Person B (although I’m sure in NYC some jerk of a type of A person would steal Person B’s nice clear spot)!

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney January 8, 2014

      Haha, yeah I’ve lived in parts of the city where there really was no reward for actually clearing a spot. That can be pretty frustrating. It’s nice to be in a neighborhood now where there’s a little more respect.

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