Would you, could you, ride a bus?

Sometime ago I met with a single mom who could not make ends meet. Every month she was late paying several bills. This cost her a lot of money in late fees and even caused the water and electric to be turned off on several occasions.

When we reviewed her bills, the payment for the nearly new small SUV jumped out as an expense she just could not afford. We spoke of alternatives. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: Let’s talk about selling the SUV and buying a beater with cash.

Her: But the SUV is upside down and I have no cash to pay it off or buy a beater. Besides my kids play soccer and I need an SUV. I’ve owned old unreliable cars my whole life. I deserve a dependable car.

Me: You could sell the SUV by financing the difference and then ride the bus until you pay off the gap loan and save up enough to buy a beater.

Her: Ride the Bus? I would NEVER ride the BUS.

Me: Never, really why?

Her: Have you seen the people that ride the bus?  I would get lice. There’s not a stop near my work. It would take forever to get the kids in the evening.

Now the fact is, I HAVE ridden the bus. Public transportation in our city isn’t great, we have no subways, no trains and somewhat limited bus service but the buses we have are clean and punctual and without a doubt lice-free.

Before we jump to finding fault and passing judgment on our single mom, let’s make sure that we don’t have a problem “riding the bus”.

Maybe it’s the idea of a second job that you dismiss without consideration. Or perhaps it’s moving closer to work or getting a roommate.

The truth is most of us have some picture in our head of what our life is supposed to be like and it is a challenge to keep an open mind about alternatives. This vision often fails to align with the reality of our situation. If we really want our financial position to change, we must make some big changes in our behavior. If we keep doing what we’ve been doing we can’t be surprised that we keep getting what we’ve been getting-right?

Changing that mind’s eye view is not that hard. You can get past the “what will my friends think” and the “I deserve” mindset to shop at Wal-Mart or the consignment store. You can drive an older paid for car or ride a bike and you can live in a smaller house. The question is not can you do these things, but will you?

What waits for you on the other side of that behavior change? What will a debt-free, living-within-your-means life look like for you and your family? How will you feel when the car breaks down and you can simply write a check to have it repaired? How will it feel to have the freedom to choose your work?

Although it takes time, you can align your vision with your current reality and your future dreams. The more you practice being open to new ideas the easier it gets.

  • Start every day with a decision to be open to change.
  • Be curious about how other people win.
  • Explore the possibilities.

And then choose. Start small, practice everyday and you just might find yourself “riding the bus”.