It’s Really Very Simple…Really

Spending within your means is really very simple (and yet so dang hard to do.)  There is nothing complicated about getting and keeping your financial house in order.  It’s straightforward, simple and doesn’t contain a convoluted formula.

Spend less than you take in!

Yep, that’s it, people!

I’m done with this post!

Mike:  No you’re not…

Dang!

If it’s so simple to figure out what to do why are so many people in so much financial trouble?  How could I be frugal all through my twenties and yet within a few years find myself so deep in debt?  I think part of it was that I felt that once I had established myself as an adult I had outgrown the need to be frugal.  That was something you did getting your household started.  Spending and consuming can also be an emotional response.  I think the impulse to overspend must be similar to overeating.  The diet industry is making a fortune on new-fangled ‘solutions’ when we all know if you don’t want to be overweight you must take in the same or fewer calories than you burn daily.  No magic bullet there.

The world I live in doesn’t always support spending (or eating) within my means but that’s also just an excuse.  I started to incur debt with a loan to carry my new blooming design business.   My business never bloomed enough to pay it back.  When I shut the doors a few years later I was $20,000 in debt.  I didn’t learn much from that experience because after about a year I started another business.  It was risky one too- flipping houses.  After all was said and done we were over $70,000 in debt.  Remember 2002-2005’s no interest for 90 days credit cards?  Yeah, we used those to finance our business.   We acted like we were making money rather than loosing it because we thought we were going to make a profit in a future that never came.  (Damn you fickle future! *shakes fist in air*) We didn’t live extravagantly but we lived beyond our means.   Mike and I would talk about what we were going to do to cover the bills- our solution was to make more money.  Even as our salaries were rising paying off the debt seemed like a huge mountain that we could only tackle a little bit at a time.  Our decisions were emotional and not based in facts.  We could cut back on our spending but we were convinced our lives would suck if we did.

Finally, in 2009 instigator Mike (sick of the consumer treadmill) convinced me that we could cut back on our spending radically and make our debt disappear in a year or so.  I tentatively agreed to try his little experiment.  As we cut back I started talking about our finances to friends and found out many were living within their means they just didn’t advertise it.  The more open I was about what we were trying to achieve the more it came up in conversations.  Most people were supportive but I had a few voice concerns that we were taking it too far.  Spending less than I was making was taking it too far… funny huh?

Mike and I had to get to the underlying causes that made us spend, spend, spend.  Once I realized that having new stuff only felt good for a minute I focused on how good it felt to have the credit cards paid off.  At first it was like running a marathon that I had not trained for but after a few months it turned into a new habit.  I could walk through Target and not want to buy anything (My gold standard for conquering my spending impulses.)  After that I started looking at forums like the Compact.  Re-using things until they died really is something I believed in but had not practiced for a while.  Less shopping meant I had more time to work on my art, hang out with my kids and read.

No magic bullet, not so simple but not the hardest thing you’ll ever do….maybe 😉

Last week my friend Cynthia shared her story on appreciating what she already has.  Do you have a story to share on how you’ve changed your spending habits?  If so email it to us- We’d love to share your story with the readers!

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