Residual Self-Image and Personal Spending

Enter the Matrix

Last Friday, I decided it was time to introduce my oldest daughter to The Matrix. I'm happy to report (a) she liked it and (b) the film, which was released way back in 1999 (!), has held up pretty well. Yes, the computers and cell phones featured in the movie are dated, but the subjects of A.I., virtual reality, and control over the population are still relevant today.

Residual Self-Image

After Neo (Keanu Reeves) has been freed from The Matrix, brought into the real world and his physical body healed, his liberators have to show him what The Matrix is. In this scene, Neo is jacked into a computer program and his avatar's appearance, complete with hair, stylish '90s era clothing, and a distinct lack of creepy ports embedded in his body. In other words, very different from his real-world self.

It's no surprise that this change confuses Neo. Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) explains "your appearance now is what we call residual self-image. It is the mental projection of your digital self."

I find the concept of residual self-image applies to the real world. For example, I recently turned 43, but I don't feel all that different from when I was 30. More importantly, my residual self-image, my mental projection of myself, is that of a younger version of me.

I'm pretty sure this happens to most people. As long as we don't have any major health issues, we assume we still look like we did 5, 10, or even 15 years ago. That is, of course, until we look at pictures of ourselves from those periods and we are surprised at how young we look or how much weight we've gained (or lost, depending on the individual).

Residual Personal Spending

In my experience, a phenomenon similar to residual self-image occurs with our spending. For lack of a better name, I'll call this Residual Personal Spending, which is how you think you spend, not how you actually spend.

Here's how it works: We go about our daily routines, spending money as we always have. Sometimes this goes on for years.

One day, we decide to take the red pill. Either we begin tracking our spending on our own or we hire a financial planner who forces us to find out where our money is going.  Suddenly, we discover our residual personal spending is all wrong. We spend how much on dining out? We couldn't possibly spend that much on groceries!


Take the Red Pill

Do yourself a favor, and take the red pill - start tracking your spending. Technology makes this easy. You can use Mint to aggregate your bank and credit card transactions. Or, if you're like me and hate advertising, use an inexpensive service such as Tiller to aggregate your transactions in an easy-to-manage spreadsheet. Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with either of those services.

To paraphrase Morpheus: This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed, go about your day, continue to spend as you always have, and believe whatever you want to. You take the red pill, you begin tracking your spending, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes - how much you actually spend on dining out and groceries. Remember, all I'm offering is the truth. Nothing more.