5 money lessons from adorable puppies


Thursday is National Puppy Day! And, at least according to my beagle (photo below), it's the best day of the year, with extra treats and snuggles.

Truth be told, I've learned a lot from having puppies: Like what a Tempurpedic mattress looks like when a teething dog tears all the foam out — and that dried worms are actually a really awesome snack. Well, I haven't tried that one personally. But the lessons abound.

In all seriousness, owning a dog teaches you a lot about responsibility, and even playful puppy antics can serve as a reminder of how humans are part of the animal kingdom, too. Maybe we aren't tearing up mattresses, but we make similarly emotional (and destructive) choices in our own lives — especially when it comes to our finances. Not convinced?

Read on. Here are five lessons us humans can learn from our canine friends.

1. Remember hunger can cloud your judgement

There's nothing naughtier than a hungry puppy. Common sense goes out the window when a puppy is presented with food, thanks to that primal urge to chow down. 

Humans have primal urges too, and hunger can cloud our judgement just like it can a dog's. The only difference is, we have credit cards and control of the fridge — and can act on our urges

Going shopping when you're hungry, even if it's not for food, and even if it's online, is shown to make you spend more money — almost as bad of an idea as leaving a dog alone with the Thanksgiving turkey. Sure, short-term joy may result, but the long-term consequences won't be pretty. One study showed people spend 60% more when shopping at a department store when hungry.  

Why? When we're hungry, we're acquisitional. We want to acquire something, and will settle for whatever is on sale even if it can't be food. 

So, instead of hitting the mall or jumping onto Amazon on an empty stomach, have a snack first. Just be aware that your dog may want to share with you. 

2. Know surprises are inevitable

Dogs roll with the punches when it comes to the unexpected. That can be harder for humans — particularly if your surprise is a big, expensive bill.

The best way to be prepared for surprises is to have three to six months of expenses set aside in an emergency fund. Start small and build up to it, just as a puppy slowly learns about the world around him.

If you set up automatic monthly transfers of whatever you can afford to a savings account now, eventually you'll have an emergency fund that ensures you won't be thrown off course, no matter what life throws at you. 

3. Look for creative ways to solve problems

No life is problem-free, not even the life of a dog. When a pup is faced with an obstacle, he or she may get creative about finding a solution or workaround. 

Your problems — like not having enough cash to save for emergencies, or not having your dream job, or not being quite sure what kind of retirement accounts to open up — can be a little bit more difficult to resolve than getting a stick over a bridge. 

Still, you can tackle challenges in positive ways by stepping back and thinking through options to find a different approach. Repurpose items instead of buying new ones, look at your budget with fresh eyes to find new places to cut expenses, or brainstorm innovative ways to earn extra cash on the side. 

And, don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Having a mentor at work or talking with a financial planner can be a great way to accomplish tasks that seemed insurmountable on your own. 

4. Be persistent when you set a goal

When a dog wants something, that pup is not going to take its eyes off the prize. Don't believe me? Go get a nice juicy piece of steak and eat it in front of a dog. You can apply this singular focus and unwavering dedication to accomplishing financial goals you set for yourself. 

Want to pay down debt or save $1,000 for a vacation? Don't waiver in your commitment to getting it done. Watch every penny you spend like a dog watches every bite and send extra cash to your savings or debt. Push through obstacles to get the job done. 

If you're as persistent and focused when it comes to building up savings and paying off debt as my dog Molly is about watching for squirrels outside my window (she's going on hour three of window observation today), you'll accomplish your goals in no time. 

5. Take pleasure in the little things

If you ask a dog whether he'd rather have $1 million or a walk on a sunny day, your dog would choose the walk every time. Of course, his human's answer might be different, though.

Dogs know to appreciate the little things in life. The sun on your face, a snuggle with someone you love or a good run. They know a good time doesn't have to cost a thing and the best stuff tends to be free

Take a cue from a pooch on this day that celebrates puppies. Instead of hitting the mall, going out for expensive drinks at the bar or shopping online alone at home, go for a walk or enjoy simply hanging out with people you love.

Need more concrete advice — backed up by science? Here's Mic's guide to "buying" the most happiness with what money you have.

Your wallet will thank you — and so will your dog, if you take him along.  

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