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4 Things Fahrenheit 451 taught me about Personal Finance

I just finished reading Ray Bradbury’s best known work Fahrenheit 451. I was supposed to have read it in middle school, but never quite got around to it (sorry, Ms. Kolstad).

Fahrenheit 451After reading the book and researching various statements that Bradbury himself made about it, I realized that there are several points that coincide with personal finance.

1. The effects of entertainment

First, Bradbury has stated that the purpose of Fahrenheit 451 was to examine the effect of television and mass media on the general population. Basically, he asserts that in lieu of reading, the population became uncontrollably obsessed with being entertained.

I believe that we often make the same mistake with our finances. How often do we forego saving money to be entertained? To purchase a larger TV? To have 500 channels? To have a bigger, badder stereo system? To eat out because we don’t feel like making dinner? To go to the movies when we could just put on a DVD we already own?

2. Choosing slavery

Second, the people in Fahrenheit 451 choose to become fat, dumb, and happy. The government didn’t mandate it. The book burnings started within the populous. They had they power to start down a road of destruction and ultimately, had the power to walk away as Guy Montag, the protagonist, did.

Similarly, our financial difficulties are often a result of our own actions or inactions. There are certainly circumstances beyond our control, but I believe too many people believe themselves to be that exception. Living without an emergency fund, for example, is the equivalent of choosing to burn.

3. Knowledge allows you to break the norm

Third, the thing that caused Guy and others to question their current condition and to challenge the norm was the acquisition of knowledge.

If you ever hope to defeat anything in life, especially debt and an average lifestyle, then you must obtain the knowledge and know how which propels you away from the norm. You must read books, blogs, and articles. Socialize with smart individuals you can help explain unfamiliar financial concepts and practices. Learn!

4. Have and use a support network

Lastly, and this may like a bit of a stretch, but to save knowledge (and by extension mankind) from being snuffed out of existence, a network of individuals memorized bits and pieces of books and collectively formed a library. In other words, they created a support group that became essential to the very existence of society (the book ends in war).

Being frugal and money smart all of the time is hard business. Even those you have been at it a long time have temptations and weaknesses. Therefore, create a support group. Your network may be online through blogs, Facebook, or Twitter. Or maybe it’s close friends and families. Either way, share your goals and how you are working to achieve them. Having someone ask how you are doing can be just enough motivator to make a good decision today.

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  • I loved reading this book as a kid. (I read it in middle school, when I was supposed to.) I will proably have to reread it to get an adult's perspective.

    I also enjoyed a short story from Bradbury called The Pedestrian.

  • I've never read The Pedestrian though I think Something Wicked This Way Comes by Bradbury is probably one of my favorite books. It's a fantastic analysis of good and evil.