In the world of personal finance, commitment is not something you can do once and be done. You can’t stand up and promise to live within your means and then never think about again. There are forces, very strong dark forces working against your plan to live intentionally.
If you do not control the influence the media has on you, you will be bombarded by images and narrative that screams you must buy more stuff; you deserve finer things; NOW is all that matters. In addition to the advertising media, you are also subject to the opinions of others. Living on less than you make is not normal; you will find that most of your friends and neighbors will not understand or appreciate what you are trying to do. You may also be faced with family members that try to insist you buy a better car, take better vacations, and invest with them in the next great thing. What is a newbie frugal person to do?
Often! In the beginning, you may need to re-commit hourly. Small actions help solidify that commitment.
Two things that helped me were my watch and my shirts. When we committed to get of debt, we knew we wanted to make our home mortgage part of the commitment. That meant we were facing a $220,000 mountain. There was no one big thing we did to eliminate that debt. We cut expense and lifestyle , in every way we could find. Some of the cuts we made had a significant impact on our debt. Others may not have affected our debt in a big way but they did force us to re-commit. Often!
Ironing my own work shirts saved me maybe $10 a week in real money but I’m sure the re-commitment it forced, multiplied those saving by a bunch. I spent an hour most every Sunday ironing my shirts for the upcoming workweek for those two years. During that hour, I was forced to face the fact that I needed to do things I might not want to do in order to achieve our goal. What do you think were the chances of me ironing those shirts for $10 on Sunday just to go out to lunch on Monday and give it all back? I can tell you pretty close to none. By the time that determination was slacking, it was Sunday again and time for a refresher course.
I wear an Eddie Bauer watch that I brought for $99 about 12 years ago. Near the start of our debt free journey the band broke. I could not find an off the shelf band to fit. Jim (no Mr. Fix-it) managed to put it back together. It broke again, and again out came the pliers. After many episodes like this, Jim took it to a cheap jeweler, $5 fixed it for a while longer but the bracelet still came undone easily.
Here I was making really good money, wearing crisply pressed shirts, suits and heels and this battered old watch. Sometimes that stupid bracelet would open and there would go that watch skipping across the floor. That would make me think of a cool Tag Heuer and how good it would look and how much I deserved one and how everyone making that kind of money wears a good watch. And then, I would remember most of those people were broke!
We did eventually find a good jeweler who fixed that watch right and I still wear it. Every time I look at it I’m reminded it’s not the outward signs of wealth that matter, it’s the peace and security you can have by living intentionally.