Major League Baseball recently kicked off the 2023 season. As I was watching my local team, the San Diego Padres, with my husband, who was patiently explaining the rules of the game to me in between pitches and at-bats, it dawned on me just how much you can learn about personal finance from baseball.
Although not everyone trying to understand their finances is a baseball super fan, it can be helpful to relate financial literacy topics to things we do enjoy, like sports, so that the lessons resonate a bit more in our heads and hearts.
8 Money Lessons from Baseball
1. Three Strikes, You’re Out
In baseball, if you get three strikes, you’re out.
Missing a credit card payment is never a good idea, but it happens sometimes with all of the chaos life throws at us. This is usually why creditors will charge you a late fee if you make your payment within 30 days after your payment is due. But after you miss your payment for three months? Creditors are usually done giving you any more chances, and your debt is often turned over to a debt collector. In other words, after three months of no payment, you’re out as a customer.
A word of caution, some creditors will terminate your account around 30 days, while others will give you up to 150 days. The best practice is to pay on time every month and to set up automatic recurring payments for at least the minimum payment amount if you’re prone to missing payments. This is a strategy designed to keep you from striking out.
2. Baseball, like Paying Off Debt, is a Long Game
Unlike football, basketball, or soccer, where there is a timer counting down the seconds left of game time, how long a baseball game lasts depends on how the players are playing the game. If the pitcher is striking out every batter, the game can wrap up rather quickly. But if the batters are on a hot streak and are getting base hits and home runs, the game is going to run longer.
Same with a debt payoff journey. If you are strictly following your budget, it’s likely you’re going to knock out your debt sooner than later and wrap up your debt payoff journey in a shorter timespan compared to those who are looser with their budget and allowing themselves to indulge in some splurge items every month to treat yourself for having to deal with debt, to begin with.
3. Paying Attention to What Others Have Can Cost You
You may have budgeted for a hot dog and a cold beverage to enjoy during the baseball game. But when the person next to you comes back to their seat with mini donuts and nachos, the person in front of you orders a frozen lemonade, and you make eye contact with a concessions employee slinging churros, it’s easy to convince yourself that just this one time, it’s ok to go over budget.
But as anyone who has either drank too much at a baseball game or someone who has kids who can spot the cotton candy bags from a mile away knows firsthand, all of these extra snacks add up. And before you know it, you’re wondering how you spent so much money and went so much over your budget.
The lesson learned here is to avoid temptation by coming up with a plan ahead of time and sticking to it. If the nachos look too good to pass up, determine the cost and add it to your budget for the next baseball game you attend, and avoid eye contact with the concessions employees slinging the delicious treats in the same way you would hide ads or at least temporarily unfollow social media accounts that make you feel like you have to have x, y, and z, in order to be happy.
4. Baseball Season is Lengthy, Just Like Your Financial Journey
Every baseball team loses a game now and then because the baseball season is so long. So while you may get upset when your favorite team loses a game or two, it’s important to keep in mind that you don’t need a perfect record to make it to the World Series.
Your financial journey is similar. There will be times when you have more expenses, including unexpected expenses, that make it more difficult to save money or pay off credit card debt. So instead of beating yourself up and feeling like a failure, it’s important to keep the big picture in mind and not get overly emotional when you make a financial mistake or incur a financial setback on your debt payoff journey. Keep your eyes on the long-term financial goals, and in the end, you’ll win big and celebrate your debt-free championship.
5. Team-Branded Fashion Can Cost You
When going to any athletic event, fans typically wear their team’s colors to show their support. And there’s no easier way to show team pride than to rock a team-branded baseball jersey or t-shirt. If you plan ahead and are attending a local team’s game, you may have luck buying team-branded fashions at a reasonable price at a second-hand retailer or a more affordable retailer like Target. But just like it’s tempting to want to buy the snack that the person next to you has in the stadium that left you drooling, it can be tempting to buy new merchandise in the stadium, especially if you see something that is only available in the stadium, is limited edition, or there’s only one left in the color you love.
As hard as it may be to wait, it’s good to get in the financial habit of waiting to buy “want” items and not allowing ourselves to allows give in to impulse purchases. This not only allows you a chance to save up for the item, but you may find that same item for sale on your team’s website on sale. Or better yet, you may find something else you like even more and will be glad you waited so you could save and buy something that will last longer and you’ll enjoy more.
6. Mistakes Happen, But Limit Your Errors
No one’s perfect, neither in baseball nor when it comes to money. There are many things you can do wrong to send your financial planning off the rails. With baseball and with your money, it’s important to play smart because frequent errors can mean the difference between winning and losing. In baseball, players want to catch the ball and throw it accurately, as bad throws can cost you a run or two. Batters want to avoid swinging at bad pitches so they don’t strike out unnecessarily. And pitchers want to avoid walking in the winning run by throwing strikes instead of balls or even hitting the batter.
Your finances are similarly vulnerable to mistakes, which is why it’s important to establish a budget or a game plan, so that you don’t buy things you can’t afford, you’re not investing in things you don’t understand, and you’re not raiding your retirement funds without understanding the consequences.
7. Motivational Music is Key
Have you noticed that before every player steps up to home plate to bat, there’s a song that plays? The song is different for every batter, but the song usually repeats every time that particular player is up to bat. It’s called an at-bat song, and the thought behind the music is that when a player hears a song they like, it can calm them down, help them clear their mind, let go of some nerves, and focus on hitting the ball out of the ballpark.
On a debt payoff journey, listening to music can also motivate you to keep going during challenging money moments, calm you down, and focus on knocking your debt out of the park. Music can also be used to celebrate victories you experience on your debt-payoff journey.
8. Small Victories Are Just as Great as Large Ones
When your team hits a home run in baseball, it’s really exciting. But not every game is won because of home runs. In fact, most games are won because a team is hitting singles and doubles, which allows them to slowly and steadily get on base and knock in runs.
The same is true for your financial goals. It would be nice to knock out debt in one quick, swift payment, but that rarely happens. Most debt is paid off, and most savings accounts are established by slow and steady, regular payments.
What money lessons have you learned from baseball? Share with us in the comments below!