I received two particularly interesting types of responses to last week's controversial post Extreme Savings, and I wanted to share both with readers. See what you think, and please share your thoughts and reactions in the comments.
Response 1: "My reason for not saving money isn't an excuse, it's a real reason!"
I'm simplifying a bit, but several reader responses essentially took this form. And hey, that's okay: at the end of the day, it's your money, they're your reasons, and it's your right to do what you want with both.
But excuses sometimes masquerade as reasons. And our egos deceive us into confusing which is which. Why? Because it's awful to discover we've been giving our power away to a "reason" that never deserved our power in the first place. And worse, if we figure out that our "reason" was never a real reason, then it means we should have been taking action all along.
Many people lack the ego strength to face this degree of brutal self-examination. And that's why when a reader gets defensive (or even lashes out) when the subject of excuse-making comes up, it suggests this reader is indeed confusing a reason with an excuse. Deep down he may even know it.
Again, sometimes excuses really feel like reasons. And they stop us from taking action. All I want is for readers to think it over sincerely: are your reasons really real? Can you examine your reasons objectively? Or when your reasons are challenged, do you become defensive and slip into ego-protection mode? To me, this gives tremendous insight into how willing (or unwilling) we are to take action on the key challenges we face.
Response 2: "You are rude and insensitive towards low-income readers."
First, some background for newer readers: Casual Kitchen regularly gets hit with the complaint that it's insensitive to poor people, or insensitive to those facing some sort of disadvantage. Normally, I get this complaint script in a cooking-related context, where it goes something like this:
Look CK, just because it's easy for YOU to have all these ideas on how to cook healthy food for less doesn't mean these ideas are easy for everybody. There are people who have no stove to cook on, and who don't live near grocery stores, and who have no time to cook. Assuming this is so easy is simply being insensitive to those who don't share your advantages.
The problem is, there are three gaping logic holes in this "reason":
1) If I shared only hard-to-follow ideas, no one would follow them.
2) I don't write CK for hypothetical people with insurmountable disadvantages who are projections in readers' minds. I write for actual readers who can choose to take action or not.
3) It's actually far more insensitive to presume people with disadvantages can't do things too. Many of my readers have overcome significant disadvantages, both economic and otherwise, on their road to eating healthy and inexpensive food. Likewise, I have no doubt readers facing financial disadvantages can make use of Extreme Savings. To think otherwise is deeply condescending.
By the way, years ago, when I received my first "you're insensitive to the poor!" criticism, I actually felt like a jerk for giving away free advice on how to save money eating healthy food.
Okay. Back to last week's post. Was what I wrote truly insensitive to low-income readers? At least one reader believed so, saying "as a student who visits your site for advice on living cheaply because I already live on $12,000 a year I find the insistence that people who don't save are 'making excuses' rudely presented."
Now, to me, living on $12,000 a year qualifies as a real reason, although only this reader can know for sure. But I do feel like I should respond to the suggestion that last week's post was insensitive to low-income readers. Here, then, are a few important things to consider:
First, things can change: If you earn a low income now, it doesn't mean you'll always earn a low income. Once again, to think otherwise would be deeply condescending! Thus, some of the ideas in Extreme Savings may be extremely difficult to execute today, but they may be extraordinarily useful later on.
Therefore, a low-income reader has four options: 1) use the advice now, 2) don't use it now, 3) use the advice in the future when it's more suitable, or 4) don't use it in the future.
But there's one option I will never permit readers to choose, no matter what their socioeconomic level: I can't do this because of [insert lame excuse here].
Finally, a thought at the very heart of what Casual Kitchen is all about. Should I withhold insights that are clearly useful to many readers, on the off chance that a small percentage of other readers might interpret them as insensitive? Or, more bluntly put, would the world be better off had I never written Extreme Savings, or if I had written it with a more spineless and conciliatory tone?
My (admittedly self-serving) view: No, no ... and no. Look, thousands of people have already read this post, in part because of the specific voice and rhetorical tone I used. With any luck, tens of thousands more will read it in the coming months and years.
To me, it's worth writing it even if just one reader takes action--and if a few other readers sincerely evaluate their "reasons" for not taking action. Either way, I'm helping someone put themselves on the road towards greater financial independence.
One last word: I'm grateful for everyone's thoughts and insights--even from those readers who got angry at what I wrote. If there's one thing I can always count on here at Casual Kitchen, it's that my readers make me think.
Readers, what are your thoughts?
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