In our last article we mentioned a controversial method to working through your budget, through paying down your debt and working towards not only debt freedom but essentially any financial goal you are trying to accomplish. But why is our approach so controversial? Because one prominent mind-set out there is the all-or-nothing approach. Its the method that as of tomorrow, you have spent your last dollar on a candy bar. As of tomorrow you will not go out to eat again. As of tomorrow you will not go on a family vacation for 5-10 years. Its applying that crash-diet mentality applied to your finances. You are not going to do anything you are doing today. And if you do, then you’ve immediately failed.
The approach we found that worked for us is one of a completely different mindset. As opposed to the crash-diet mindset (I really need to stop writing these right before lunch :)), we are working slowly towards a healthy diet – or in other words your finances as something you can see yourself as living the rest of your life. This new diet concept really isn’t a diet at all, but adopting a healthier approach to how you manage your finances while you take those savings and invest them in your debt or savings – no matter your financial goal. We will be sharing more in each week, but really its going to come down to implementing small change that will result in a total transformation in your financial mindset. And you’ll see that these incremental changes throughout the process will bring you closer to your goals.
Now we know that some of you might be wondering just how that is going to make any kind of substantial change? How can that type of approach to your finances end up changing your finances overnight? Well, we need to answer the second question first. You aren’t going to change your financial situation overnight. Just how long did it take you go get into it in the first place? Why would you expect to see an immediate change overnight when it took you years to get into it? But before we cause you to despair, remember we also paid over over $100K in just over seven years. So to answer the question how our incremental and small changes will end up with substantial change we’ll just use ourselves as an example. After 3.5 years of trying that crash-diet budget, that all-or-nothing approach resulting in paying off only $15K, when we implemented the small/incremental changes over a period of time we did see substantial change (the remaining 3.5 years we paid off off that final $85K)!
And the secret we’re trying not to reveal too soon is that your initially small, incremental changes won’t necessarily stay that way. We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves, but as you start applying these changes you’ll actually find yourself getting better at it as time goes on. What starts off small, with just a bit of work starts to encourage you. You start to see the changes and you want more. And because you’re starting to get a feel for how your family can work together you can then accomplish even more! Yes, it is much like a snowball where you start small and the momentum will cause that small, almost seemingly insignificant start to change your finances dramatically!
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We will be laying more ground rules next week, but we want to remind you of three assumptions your family is going to need to accept. We know from personal experience that some of these just might be hard to swallow. But we want to lay the foundation so you are ready to hear the plan we used ourselves and understand why this works.
Realize you are in this for the long haul
One of the major problems we haven’t identified in the crash-diet approach is what happens after you meet your goal. For example, say your family is in the minority of those that can eat that mac ‘n cheese day in and day out for weeks, months and years to achieve your goal – and you’ve done it! Sure, you recognize that you don’t want to go through that again. But what do you do now? Do you start adopting some of your old spending habits (you’ve met your goal of course) you had prior to starting your crash-diet? Do you notice that other than possibly being more content with less (that’s a truly amazing step), you really haven’t established any spending habits that are lasting?
Our goal of introducing our approach is to help you make those small changes up-front, to adopt a more frugal lifestyle and even an entrepreneurial spirit into your family that is long-lasting. As you adopt changes that naturally help you spend less (hint: there’s some extra cash to throw at your debt/savings) while finding yourself eating and living healthier you’ll become excited that you are making long-lasting lifestyle changes for your family. As you find yourself even finding additional opportunities to bring in some extra income, you’ll see your family learning more about their talents and gifts that they can develop and possibly even turn them into a permanent means of bringing in income.
But what we want to impress upon you is that the changes you are making probably won’t get you out of debt overnight nor fill up that savings overnight either. We know we’ve mentioned this a few times already, but we remember just how frustrated we became when we saw a balance come down slowly and that we had months to go before paying off the next debt. Be patient. It can come and will come with endurance, keeping the goal in front of you and being intentional.
Realize this is a learning process
Maybe its just my personality, but this is one place I struggle with in the extreme. When I start a task I want to know the best way from the start how to accomplish it. I struggle with learning something from the very first and then later to state, “I wish I knew then what I know now.” But unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. Sure, our goal is to give you the resources and process we used (and learned painfully) in paying off our debt. But even with that you know that if you read every post, every book on the subject and even had the best mentor, you’re still going to learn throughout the whole process and wish you knew then what you know now.
If you are already up to this, then please skip to the next point. But we encourage you to not give up because you don’t have all the answers now. We encourage you to not think you can start because you don’t know how you’re going to deal with something coming down the pike. And realize this is how our lives work. Even when Solomon talks to his son in the book of Proverbs he tells hims to seek after wisdom and understanding – not assuming that he already has it nor that it would make sense for him to have it from day one.
Realize things are not going to go to plan
Are you the type of person that just knows you need the perfect plan from day one and if you don’t make every detail and follow it to a “t” that you just won’t be able to make this plan work? Let’s be honest. We both know that even those perfectly detailed plans will have gotchas in them, those unexpected surprises that come up. Have you been planning to pay off your vehicle in three months? Well, don’t be surprised when that same car just happens to need a repair the week before you pay it off (or rather, the week you were planning to pay it off).
We are trying to recommend the James 4:15 model: “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” You cannot predict the future – there is only One that can. But you can be a diligent steward of those gifts you have been given and work diligently with those God-given gifts towards your goals. Do you agree that you cannot predict the future? Do you agree that even if you made the best plan available to reach your goals that unfortunately you can’t plan for every contingency? (I know, there are some of you thinking the answer is yes :))
Please remember that as you are in this for the long-term, as you continue to learn what works best for your family that you need to accept those unforeseen, upcoming circumstances that will throw your plan off. But this is where our incremental plan (based off the actuals from the prior month) will be so beautiful. You see, its because we’re in this for the long-term that we can accept that, be patient and work towards that healthier approach to your finances.
A few final words…
Its true this concept isn’t going to be the popular answer out there. We get that. The get-rich-quick scheme, that fad diet that will answer all your problems – all of these will be the fad. We all want an answer to our long-term problems right now. But we hope you see some of the reasons why making these long-lasting changes will ultimately give you the better solution.
Next week we’ll be setting down some more ground rules as we prepare to share with you this plan we are speaking about. And we pray that if nothing else, it will get you to think about the long-term. If you are using that crash-diet approach (and its successful for you), just what are you going to do once you reach your goal? We are so excited to be this close to sharing our process – and we hope you’re excited too!