If you go on too strict a diet, you can get sick of it, binge eat and gain all your weight back. Paying off debt and building wealth is a long-term change to your lifestyle that makes you healthy, not a crash diet that leaves you worse off than before you started.
I want to give you some tips on living a normal life while you are paying off debt and building wealth so you can stick with it as long as you need.
We all want to keep our sanity, right?
Find out your MUST haves
As you get started budgeting and plan, take some time and think about the things/events/actions that make you truly happy.
What are some things that you do regularly that you do out of habit, but don’t make you happy or sad. Here are some examples:
- Delicious coffee/fancy tea
- Dinner out with family
- Watching movies
- Time at the gym
- Happy hour with friends
- Lunch with co-workers
- Ben and Jerry’s ice cream
- Reading good books
- Ordering take out
- Nightly glass of wine
Attorney Laura Long says she enjoys watching HBO shows while nurse Laurie Bartosh says she’d rather keep her Camp Gladiator membership than cable or dinners out.
Shed what you can and make compromises
Get rid of the dead weight and get rid of what you can.
Go through your subscriptions, items in your home and activities you normally do.
Sell things you don’t need, cancel subscriptions you don’t use, and reevaluate the money you spend on certain activities.
Since you have to cut back somewhere, start places where you don’t care as much. Maybe you could care less about watching movies or HBO, but you love reading the newest fiction novels or a regular date night with your spouse. In this case, perhaps you watch movies from Red Box and cancel your cable and instead watch what is available on Netflix.
If you love reading, check out your local libraries. If you don’t want to go to the library, you can ask about borrowing books on your iPad or Kindle. Many local and state libraries have ways to download, read, and return books at no cost. Check out borrowing books from libraries on Amazon
If you love to eat out or order take-out, set a reasonable number of times you can do it a month.
This could set you up for failure because your lifestyle change was too dramatic. You can eat out once in a while and still pay down debt. Check out this article on how to save while eating out.
Simple things like ordering water, splitting a meal, or eating on Kids Eat Free night can save you more than you think.
Doing more with less
Here are a few suggestions for doing things you like for less:
- Invite friends over for a potluck dinner versus going out to eat
- Walk your dog at night instead of paying for doggie daycare
- Rent from Redbox for movies
- Cancel cable and watch on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime
- Search Pinterest for imitation take-out recipes
- Trade in your iPhone or Android for a simple phone with a reduced cell phone bill
- Exchange babysitting duties with family or friends to save on sitters
- Make birthday or Christmas presents or set a family spending limit
- Pack a lunch 3–4 days a week so you can still have that lunch with co-workers
- Eat at home as much as possible so you can afford a nice date night out
- Buy generic items at the store so you can save for quality meats or ice cream
- Rethink your family vacation into time together that costs less
- Go to the matinee movie versus the full priced one
- Buy fashion items you truly love and will stand the test of time over trendy, cheap items that will fall apart
- Run outside instead of paying to run on a treadmill
- Share a meal at a restaurant or order a la carte items
- Buy less expensive wines for regular drinking and save pricey bottles for special occasions. Watch for wines on special sales.
Remember that this is a new lifestyle
Like the person trying to become healthy versus someone who is following a super strict crash diet, keep in mind that some changes will last forever and that it is ok and healthy.
You were living above your means, and you want to build wealth so you have financial freedom. That might mean that you never again buy a new car every two years, or you no longer buy new shoes every month.
As you adjust to life on the budget remember that people and events are more fulfilling than an item on a shelf.
You might need to change the yearly trip from an all-inclusive place in Mexico you used to borrow for into a yearly beach trip where you drive the family and camp or rent a house.
You will still be building memories and spending time together, you just won’t be risking your financial future to do it.
The Work Will Payoff
As those who’ve lost a hundred pounds or paid off tens of thousands of dollars in debt can attest, the hard work will pay off. It can take a long time to lose a hundred pounds or pay off thousands in debt.
The hard work will pay off when you are living debt free and have a handle on your finances. When you get to this point, you will know the things that truly make you happy and spend on those things.
- You can return to your trip to Mexico, this time without debt.
- You can buy the newest, fanciest shoes because you have the funds, and it fits your budget.
- You might find that you don’t want to do the things that you used to do.
Maybe you will discover that sitting on the porch in the evening with your family is more enjoyable than those old, frequent dinners out. You might discover that your nightly dog walk is the favorite part of you day.
A new healthy attitude to money and spending will impact your life forever.
Keep up the good work if you’ve started and if not, take the first step to financial freedom today and learn how to get out of debt.