12/24/2013 11:23 am ET Updated Feb 23, 2014

Flipping the Bird: A Simple Way to Achieve Financial Goals

No, I'm not talking about the slang phrase popularized by Maverick in the movie Top Gun when asked by Charlie where he saw a MiG 28 do a 4g negative dive. I'm actually referring to a T-shirt I recently bought for $10 that has the phrase "Flip the bird" at the top and underneath has an image of a penguin standing on its head. I love this shirt because it's somewhat edgy. When people see that phrase, they immediately think about something vulgar, but when taken literally, the phrase is harmless. It means take a bird and turn it on its head... There's nothing vulgar about that!

This post is about altering perspectives on what has been ingrained in our minds by our culture and our society. It's about taking the idea that things "are what they are" and throwing it out the window, because that certainly isn't always true. Yes, a rock is a rock, but the way we spend our money isn't simply the way we have to spend our money.

I'll give you what society might consider an extreme example. My sister and her family don't have cable. Yes, you read that correctly... the only thing that appears on the flat screen on her wall are movies (more accurately, princess movies for my nieces Ava and Kiana). Some might claim treason when hearing such a thing, but it really isn't that bad. In fact, I followed suit not too long after. The funny thing is that I don't even think of watching TV when I get home anymore. Granted, I'm rarely at home wanting to kill time, but the point is that cable has become one of life's necessities. But does it need to be? Only you can answer that for yourself.

So let's tie this back into personal finance. Say you're thinking about saving for your child's education, or buying a second home in 15 years. How would not paying for cable, and therefore, saving an extra $100 a month help you reach that goal? Here's how...

Let's assume you can earn 5 percent on any money invested over a 15-year period. (Disclaimer: This is just an assumption based on historical rates of return. There is no guarantee that you can get this type of return.) If you invest $100 per month for 15 years and compound that 5 percent on a monthly basis (about 0.42 percent per month), you will have $26,729 by the end of year 15. Even if you cut the cable bill by $50 and saved that, you'd have $13,364.

Are you ready for the one that will blow your mind? Let's say your cable bill is more like $150 because you get every channel ever known to man (or woman). Saving $150 per month using the above assumptions could provide you with $40,093 after 15 years! All that for not watching a square box on your wall!

Let me clarify one thing: Cable is simply the example I'm using here. The great thing about this idea is that this $100 can come from anywhere: eating out one less time per month, conserving heat in the winter, using your company's healthcare spending account for medical bills, refinancing your mortgage, picking up a part time job... and the list goes on.

The next time you find yourself routinely spending money on something, think about this blog. Take a moment to "flip the bird" and see if there is another way of getting what you want. Perspective is a funny thing... and I invite you to alter it from time to time.