There's No Time Like Today To Become Frugal & Pay Off Debt

There's actually no time like today to start whatever you're considering, not just becoming frugal and paying off debt.  Starting new things and making changes can be very very hard, but I'm here to tell you my friend, now is the perfect time to do it.  Regardless of what craziness surrounds you right now, regardless of what your current financial situation is, and regardless of how many other excuses you could make, when it comes to cleaning up your financial situation and making sure the struggles to keep your head above water come to an end, you need to start today.

I understand the struggle - I've told myself many excuses too, and you know what?  The only thing I regret is not starting earlier.  I regret this about a few life decisions because there is nothing to gain by delaying decisions to change your life.  Remember that we can all write a new chapter of our lives at any time.  It's definitely not easy.  It also may not work out exactly as we'd hope.  But one thing is for sure, if you dedicate yourself to making specific changes, you will change your life.

Think of debt this way:  Debt = paying for the past rather than living in the present or preparing for the future.  This is ANY DEBT.  Car loans/leasing, credit cards, student loans, owing family members, mortgage, etc.

Freeing yourself of debt can allow you endless opportunities including, but not limited to the opportunity to work for yourself, the opportunity to retire, or even the opportunity to work part-time.  Heck, you can even stay in the exact same career you are currently in if you desire.  The point is, it allows you options.  Options to use your money for today and the future in ways that enrich your life and less stress when a financial hardship happens.

And the quickest way to get there is one little word: frugality.

My Journey To Frugality
I've struggled with adopting a frugal lifestyle.  As I've shared prior, I grew up with an unhealthy relationship with money, learning early on it was normal to spending an enormous amount of money to fill a void and to relieve stress.  It took awhile, but eventually I went from hating to deal with finances, seeing money as something that was used both to tear each other apart as well as to buy your way out of a problem, to having a wonderful appreciation and relationship with it.  Eventually I also understood about becoming a good steward of what we have.  I'm here to tell you, you can do this at any age.  It's never ever too late!

Saving for later and working within a budget were two things I'd never ever seen in my own family and had no idea how to even begin.  I was on the work-to-spend merry-go-round until I discovered the work-to-save version that was oh-so much healthier.  And of course more lucrative.  While it took years to fully break the cycle, I am grateful I was finally able to do so. Yes, I wish I'd figured it out earlier, and I wish I'd worked harder on it when I first discovered this new way of life.  But I didn't and I'm just grateful I made the changes when I did rather than pushing it off even longer.

And that's why there's no time like today to start.

On my own path, I thought I would adopt frugality just to get debt paid off and then I could return to "normal".  I had no idea how much my life would change.  What I didn't anticipate happening was that I learned a true appreciation and respect for money - one I'd never knew existed.  Mind you, I would have been adamant, prior to this journey, that I had a proper appreciation and respect for it.  Only once I was fully committed to the journey did I realize this was incorrect.  Not only did I benefit with a newfound appreciation and respect, but I was much more intentional and, over time, I enjoyed that aspect.

Part of what helped accomplish this was paying for cash.  I switched us to cash for all except monthly bills so we could really see and control what we were spending.  A positive side effect, if you will, was that it made us very intentional and we learned to think through every purchase prior to making it.  When you're parting with cash it's a whole different feeling then paying by credit or debit card.

I, in no way, am/was perfect. Initially I would do really well for awhile and then I would slip.  Instead of quitting I got back on that horse and continued down the frugality path.  Incorporating simple living into my life helped pull it all together for me because both frugality and simple living have a strong focus on learning to become content, which was the magical piece of the puzzle I'd been missing.  A change happened in my attitude whereas I realized just how much I had and how truly little I needed to live an amazing life.  Once I began learning to truly be content with who I was as well as what I had it was the a game changer I needed.  I learned the lesson of enoughness.

Because frugality runs concurrently with whatever is going on in your own life it's imperative you just start.  It is inevitable that life will happen - and expensive life situations will happen.  We've had many examples pop up on our journey which meant spending money on gifts, travel, repair, unexpected expenses, etc., but we've kept a (newly adopted) frugal mindset through all of the decision making and I am ecstatic at what we've been able to do.  Decisions and creative economical ways of dealing with the unexpected situations that I would have never had considered in the past allowing us to remain strong on our path.

Today we are putting all that effort into now paying off our mortgage.  We can see the end in sight which is exciting, but it's still a one-day-at-a-time journey.  Particularly because we are self-employed and our income fluctuates quite a bit.

Our 10-year old truck that we purchased with 70% cash and 30% a zero percent 2-year loan (paid in 1 year)

You Only Live Once, So Why Would I Want To Be Frugal?
Ummmm...because you only live once.  I hear this a lot as a reason why people don't want to be frugal.  Yes, we all only live once.  So what do you think your regrets will be at the end?  Will they be that you wished you'd had a new car every couple of years?  Maybe you will regret not having a larger home?  Or maybe you think you'll regret not having enough material things?

I highly doubt it.

I've had the absolute pleasure of spending time with some amazing people during their final days and not once have any of them regretted material things.  For the most part they've regretted not experiencing what they'd always dreamed of (travel, a career they were afraid to go after, etc), and not spending more time with those they love.

Remember when we looked at how frugality gives you options?  This is where those options are important.  When you are out of debt and not spending money willy-nilly on material things, you have options of how to spend both your time and money - you can travel more, spend more time with those you love, make a career change you've always wanted to do but were fearful of because of finances, etc.

Starting Your Own Frugal Journey
One common misconception is that if you're frugal, you can't spend money.  Yes, you get to spend money even if you're frugal!  If you're frugal you prioritize spending money on what means the most to you.  It means being conscious of your long-term aspirations and spending in alignment with that.  It means living an intentional life where you figure out what you want to do with your time here on earth and spending your precious time and money striving toward those goals and dreams.

You may have absolutely no aspirations to work for yourself running a small business and live on a homestead as we do, but I'm sure you want more out of life than being a mindless consumer, working to pay for material things that don't really enhance your life.  So start spending your time and money in alignment with whatever you've identified that you do want.

It's not an easy road, initially, and I'm here to assure you that it gets better.  Much better.  Once you begin putting it all together there's no turning back.  Learn to be content with who you are and what you have.  Identify what your dreams and goals are for this one life you've got, and start living with those things in mind.

It all comes down to a simple equation:
Spending less money = saving more money = less stress about money & more options = happier life.

Follow The Experts
We tried a few methods and finally had success with the one created by Dave Ramsey. (not an affiliate link - I just really believe in what he does)  Here's the thing:
  • follow the method exactly
  • don't try to throw in your own ideas or go in your own order
  • work in tandem with a spouse/partner, or, if you don't have someone you're doing this with, find a friend or family member to support you on your journey (not only for accountability but also for much needed support)
  • when Dave says "get rid of your credit cards", get rid of your credit cards.  You won't be able to keep them and resist using them.  It's like having candy in the house when you're trying to give up sugar.  Just get rid of them.
  • put your head down and, regardless of how much you owe and how overwhelming it seems, start with baby step 1 today. No excuses.
Budgets are a pain and change is difficult, but before you know it this new way of life will be exactly that.  A new way of life.  The struggle will get more and more insignificant and your happiness, sense of peace, and gratitude will continually grow.


Kathy said...

I struggled with money in the first 10 years of my working life however I only started out on $68 per week so there wasn't a lot of "living" money so I used credit cards for clothes and car repairs etc. We had an afternoon tv show that ran for 30 minutes which was about lifestyle etc and they had a couple from Perth who had developed a little "money system" in the form of a spirex book and an annual "bills" card. I think it cost $40 at the time and I bought it and it changed my money habits 1000%. It was so organized and a simple system and once I had this it was so easy to manage my money. I put a few of the girls at work onto it and they thought it was life changing too. You can't buy it anymore [apps took over paper based systems] however I do exactly the same thing in excel now and have been for over 20 years. I also believe "cash is king" and if you have your grocery money in cash in your wallet you will think twice about extra food purchases whereas using the savings card you don't visually see what is being spent even though I update my excel spreadsheet. Like you I wish I had learnt this sooner however I love managing my money and teaching my kids about money. I don't like that they advertise these "buy now pay later" for clothes etc as it just teaches the wrong are living today with money you haven't earned yet. I completely understand this has to be done with mortgage and car loans however just general purchases having money to buy the item first is the way to go. Also simple living brings such joy picking veggies from your garden or making home made coleslaw dressing. I've got some dough on the bench rising now to make foccacia. I was not taught about money, credit cards in school and I think kids need to be taught all of this in school which they are trying to implement into schools now however pay day loans with cute animals on tv do not help kids understand what they are about. The best time to start as you say is NOW.....yes we wished we could have started earlier however that time has passed and just start where you are. Great post.

Staci at Life At Cobble Hill Farm said...

Kathy - thank you for sharing such wonderful ideas. Cash is king indeed! I completely agree with cash at the grocery store, that really made a big impact on my life when I started doing that. The buy now, pay later for furniture, clothing, etc. is astonishing to me as well. I just don't get it either.

Kathy said...

The only "buy now furniture" I did years ago was a new washing machine and new fridge....I divided the total amount by 12 and paid that amount off in 12 months interest free. The system is not designed that way but I used it to my advantage as the repayments were about $40 a month and yet I paid $100 a month to have it paid off in the time frame.

daisy g said...

"Debt = paying for the past rather than living in the present"
This is brilliant! What a fabulous way of looking at it. Staying in debt keeps you tied to the past so that your future dreams are delayed and you cannot stay in the present.

I've had a post about this subject in my list, but haven't completed it. I think I'll post about it next week. It really is so important. And folks sharing the different ways they've come about it can be so helpful to others.
Thanks for the inspiration!

Staci at Life At Cobble Hill Farm said...

Kathy- good for you in using the buy now pay later to benefit yourself. It's hard for people to do which is what they count on. :)

Daisy - thank you for your kind comment. Debt definitely keeps you from moving forward, doesn't it? It feels like an anchor of sorts. Yes, you should definitely post what you've written about your own experience - I'm sure it will resonate with others and help some out.