What Daylight Savings Time and The Debt Repayment Cycle Have In Common

Was it tough to get up and go to work/school/other this morning? Was there as much pep in your step? For some of us at least, the morning was a little rough.

I don’t know how you feel about the Spring Forward of Daylight Savings Time (DST). I have to say I’m not a big fan of “losing” an hour, even if I "gain" an hour in the fall.

There are definitely a range of opinions and preferences out there. What we do seem know is that it’s:

  • Disruptive - we adapt our schedules to address the time change and children, family pets—and some adults (who will admit it)—take time to adapt.
  • Been linked to an increase in heart attacks and traffic accidents on the Monday following the change, likely due to stress on the body and an increased likelihood of sleepiness, though the there are still conflicting reports on these outcomes.
  • Been linked to a short-term loss in productivity and whether or not there are material energy savings seems to be debatable, at least in some regions.
  • Favoured by some who appreciate the extra hour of sunlight for various personal and business reasons.

UPDATE: Here's a rant on the issue from Stephen Colbert, which I hadn't seen when I first published this post. Priceless!

Why would I even be talking about DST? Because DST isn't that much different from a different type of win/lose cycle that's part of our lives: the debt/repayment cycle. In both cases, maybe we should just set it and forget it.

Say NO to Win/Lose Cycles

The trouble with DST is that pretty much everyone is OK with the Fall Back in autumn, when we all “gain” an hour. We enjoy this benefit long after we’ve experienced the pain of adjusting to "losing" an hour in our already jam-packed schedules. We also anticipate that Spring Forward won’t be that bad, given that our memories of how it felt are nearly a year old when it comes around again.

Does this reward/punishment cycle sound familiar? It’s not that different than buying something on credit. We appreciate the honeymoon period of having the product or service without paying for it and then experience the debt hangover when we need to fork over the cash to pay for what we “bought”.

In a way, we experience an emotional version of DST every time:

  • We deal with credit card debt
  • The first payment of a new monthly debt obligation (mortgage, car payment, student loan, lease-to-buy/rent-to-buy, line of credit) is due
  • A “Do Not Pay for __ months/years” offer expires

Just like DST taps into our energy/sleep reserve, these repayment obligations dip into our disposable income in ways that make us regret the reality of the situation we find ourselves in and ask: 

  • Could I have planned better? 
  • Did I have to be so impulsive?
  • How did I think I could manage these payments?
  • Did I really need to do/buy/have this?
  • Could I have waited to buy it outright?
  • Why don’t I have savings to address unexpected expenses?

Often, these thoughts cause types of physical and emotional discomfort similar to how we feel as we adjust to DST (fatigue, stress, confusion, frustration, disappointment). And, for many of us, they happen more often than DST!

How can we avoid this self-inflicted reality?

Just as some would suggest that we can have our cake and eat it too by simply moving the clocks ahead and be done with the DST-inflicted fall buzz and subsequent spring hangover, we can also address our “buy with credit” and subsequent painful “pay it back” cycle.

We can do this by minimizing its presence inand impact onour lives by reducing the frequency with which we use credit and/or by reducing the size of the debt we take on in the first place by asking these simple questions:

  • Do I need to have it? Why? (Need vs Want)
  • Are there substitutes that provide the same benefits?
  • Is waiting an option so that I can save up for it and pay or it outright?
  • Can I buy a more economical model?
  • Can I negotiate a better price by paying up front?
  • Can I buy used?

Many of us may be suffering from a DST hangover today, but it doesn’t mean we have to suffer the self-inflicted variety that accompanies debt obligations.

So, how are you feeling today?

Image credit/copyright: Idea go/freedigitalphotos.net