Did you get a chance to read yesterday’s post – about prioritizing expenses when you spend more than you make? The truth is that prioritizing is really just a fancy word for “learning to saying no”. Two short little letters; long on meaning.
Even when you know that you need to make changes, it can be very difficult to figure out what has to go. When Frankie and I first decided to get out of debt (eight years ago this month!!!), I honestly couldn’t figure out where we had gone wrong.
It wasn’t like we had been doing anything “extravagant”. So how could we have been spending $1,000 a month more than we were making?
Cable? That can’t be our problem, I thought – everyone has cable, so we must be able to afford it too.
Going out to eat? It’s not like we do it every night, I rationalized. Two or three times a month isn’t that big of a deal.
Kids after-school activities? It’s just one or two lessons a week – that can’t be our problem. Can it?
Gifts for all the birthday parties my boys were invited to. I mean, what? Are they supposed to show up empty-handed?
Clothing and shoes? Well, that can’t be it. My kids are growing like weeds. It’s not like I can send them to school in too-small pants!
Tuition? Non-negotiable. Next.
Our grocery bill? No way. That’s not the issue. I mean, it’s food. We have to eat.
What I eventually realized is that, yes, it was the cable.
And the restaurants. And the after-school activities, birthday presents, clothing, shoes, tuition and even the grocery bill. Along with every other thing we were doing and spending our money on.
All of it was a problem. Not our spending per se, but our entrenched thinking that “this can’t be the problem”. Or worse, that “this is non-negotiable”.
Living below your means doesn’t happen with $10 here and $20 there. Everything needs to be re-evaluated with an eye toward whether it makes sense in your overall financial picture.
What are the “sacred cows” holding you back from living on a budget? You may still decide that they are worth keeping in the budget, but at what price? I strongly encourage you to identify them and have the conversation.