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I was reading in the Book of Mormon yesterday. It was one of those busy days where I hadn’t been able to do my scripture study before the kids woke up and it didn’t look like I was going to get a chance. I said a silent prayer to help me find a scripture to help me through my day, and flipped open the book. It opened to 3 Nephi chapter 4. In this chapter the Nephites are being bothered (like robbed, murdered, that kind of bothered) by the Gadianton robbers. In the previous chapter (3 Nephi 3) the Nephites had assembled themselves all together into one place. The robbers began to come down out of the mountains to pillage the lands that the Nephites had left, in order to gather to one location. But, the robbers were disappointed, because the Nephites had “left their lands desolate, and had gathered their flocks, and their herds and all their substance, and they were in one body” (Chapter 4:3).
Now listen to verses 4 through 6 in chapter 4:
“4 Therefore, there was no chance for the robbers to plunder and to obtain food, save it were to come up in open battle against the Nephites; and the Nephites being in one body, and having so great a number, and having reserved for themselves provisions, and horses and cattle, and flocks of every kind, that they might subsist for the space of seven years, in the which time they did hope to destroy the robbers from off the face of the land; and thus the eighteenth year did pass away.
5 And it came to pass that in the nineteenth year Giddianhi found that it was expedient that he should go up to battle against the Nephites, for there was no way that they could subsist save it were to plunder and rob and murder.
6 And they durst not spread themselves upon the face of the land insomuch that they could raise grain, lest the Nephites should come upon them and slay them; therefore Giddianhi gave commandment unto his armies that in this year they should go up to battle against the Nephites.” (emphasis added).
In verse 16 we learn that the Giddianhi and the robbers thought that if they cut the Nephites off from any outside support, the Nephites would surrender. But, let’s read verses 18 through 22, about the Nephites’ preparation, and the robbers’ lack of.
“18 But behold, this was an advantage to the Nephites; for it was impossible for the robbers to lay siege sufficiently long to have any effect upon the Nephites, because of their much provision which they had laid up in store,
19 And because of the scantiness of provisions among the robbers; for behold, they had nothing save it were meat for their subsistence, which meat they did obtain in the wilderness;
20 And it came to pass that the wild game became scarce in the wilderness insomuch that the robbers were about to perish with hunger.
21 And the Nephites were continually marching out by day and by night, and falling upon their armies, and cutting them off by thousands and by tens of thousands.
22 And thus it became the desire of the people of Zemnarihah to withdraw from their design, because of the great destruction which came upon them by night and by day.” (https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/3-ne/4?lang=eng)
The robbers decided to march far away to the “furthermost parts of the land northward” to avoid the destruction that was falling upon them. But, the Nephites were able to cut them off in their desires and were able to defeat the robbers.
The Nephites had provisions and supplies to last them for up to seven years! In the chapter heading of chapter four, it estimates the time frame for all of this happening as four years or less. This preparation is what saved their lives and allowed them to conquer the Gadianton robbers and restore peace and safety.
We have heard so many times that “If we are prepared we shall not fear” (D&C 38:30). Are we prepared? Are we heeding the words of the prophets to be prepared? Go to LDS.org and search the terms ‘food storage’ or ‘prepare’ or ‘self reliance’ or ‘debt.’ These principles have been taught for a very long time. Much longer than I have been alive. And then, here we see this story in the Book of Mormon about being prepared. That was a really long time ago, about 19 A.D. in fact!
In 2005 President Hinckley spoke in Priesthood session and said:
“We can so live that we can call upon the Lord for His protection and guidance. This is a first priority. We cannot expect His help if we are unwilling to keep His commandments.
“We can heed warnings.
“We [the church] have built grain storage and storehouses and stocked them with the necessities of life in the event of a disaster. But the best storehouse is the family storeroom. In words of revelation the Lord has said, “Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing” (D&C 109:8).
“Our people for three-quarters of a century have been counseled and encouraged to make such preparation as will assure survival should a calamity come.
“We can set aside some water, basic food, medicine, and clothing to keep us warm. We ought to have a little money laid aside in case of a rainy day.
“Now what I have said should not occasion a run on the grocery store or anything of that kind. I am saying nothing that has not been said for a very long time.
“Let us never lose sight of the dream of Pharaoh concerning the fat cattle and the lean, the full ears of corn, and the blasted ears; the meaning of which was interpreted by Joseph to indicate years of plenty and years of scarcity (see Gen. 41:1–36).” (If Ye Are Prepared, Ye Shall Not Fear,” October 2005 General Conference)
There’s much more that can be said about preparing. Being prepared is an essential part of your financial plan, and we will talk more about it in detail in upcoming posts and in my new financial freedom course (excited for that to be ready!).
But, here’s one resource worth looking at, to help you jump start your food storage. I
have been using Deals to Meals for years to help me keep my grocery budget low (we spend less than $600/month on groceries (this includes all toiletries, except diapers) for a family of 6! Deals to Meals has also helped me know how to keep my food storage growing (and practical!). Deals to Meals has compared purchasing and stocking up on food when it is at it’s rock bottom price, vs. coupon clipping, and the savings has been comparable, if not a bit lower than using coupons. Plus, you don’t have to spend all that time cutting and organizing coupons. Imagine if you used coupons WITH Deals to Meals. I haven’t done this, as I use my time differently (I tried the coupon thing and didn’t love it. But if you do, GREAT! See what would happen if you use them WITH the Deals to Meals rock bottom price alerts!) The best part is that Deals to Meals is less than $5/month, or you can sign up for six months or a year, making it even less per month! Definitely worth it! The website has a section about food storage, recipes that coincide with the best deals that week, and how to actually use your food storage. Check it out here: http://www.dealstomeals.com/hits/incoming/59b9b1df-8b64-40f2-bac1-255cac1f29ac
Start thinking about small changes you can make to be more prepared for whatever may come your way. Maybe use Deals to Meals for a month and try to cut your grocery bill by 10%, or stock up on ingredients for three of your family’s favorite recipes. Or set up automatic deposits from your paycheck into a savings account. Or, increase the amount you’re saving by 1%. Just something small to get started. Do something today. Because, if you are prepared you will not fear. And it just might save your life. Ask the Nephites.
I have a secret. I have tried to stay away from using too many personal details on this blog. Why? Mostly because I want my situation to ideal before I share it. But, guess what? It’s not. We’re still working on it. We still have debt. Not only that, but it is (gasp!) credit card debt. Ugh. I despise it! I want it to go away. And guess what? It is! Because…we have a plan! And we are working that plan. And we know what to do. And we are doing it.
We have $4,000 in credit card left to go. In January we had $8,500 plus an orthodontist debt we were making monthly payments on, totaling $1,300. We’ve come so far already! After we finish off the credit card debt we will tackle our auto loan and then our balances will be paid in full! I am sharing this because I want to say a word on commitment.
I have been reading about personal finance for years. I have been creating and balancing budgets (mine, and other people’s) for years. I have been preaching about the harm debt can do, especially credit card debt, for years. And yet, I was still using my credit card. And not being able to pay off the full balance each month. Mostly the reason was because we hadn’t developed a good system to save for periodic expenses. (More on how to do that in an upcoming post! Stay tuned.) So, when the car needed repairs who came to the rescue? Good old Discover card. When it was time to make the bi-annual insurance payment, who bailed us out? Yep, our frenemy the Discover card.
In August, I began training for my new position as a financial coach (now we are called finance personal trainers), and began coaching in October. The more I counseled with my clients, the more I felt the credit card balance weigh me down. How could I tell my clients to stop accruing debt, when I was? So, in January I (finally!) said enough is enough! I was scared to stop having access to the credit cards, because of the ‘
what ifs.’ What if there was an emergency and we needed funds? What if my husband runs out of gas on the way home from work and we didn’t have money in the bank account for gas? What if registration for the kids’ swimming lessons comes before our next paycheck? (Ha-as if these things were truly emergencies!) But, I had been asking my clients to commit to the plan, and to stop accruing debt. So…..I needed to, also!! On January 28, I knelt down and prayed. I told Heavenly Father I was sorry for living beyond my means, and for not having enough faith to use my resources more wisely, and to place my needs and desires in his hands. I told Him I was sorry for not being grateful enough (because that’s what using debt is, isn’t it? Not being grateful for what we have, wanting more than we’ve been given?). I told him that I would not be using debt anymore. I asked for His help to be able to be more wise with our plan, and to be able to meet our needs as a family.
Then, I got on the computer and put a freeze on my Discover card. Meaning, I could not use it anymore! Then, I opened my budget and worked and re-worked the numbers to be sure that we were setting aside money for periodic expenses (insurance payments, Christmas, car repairs, medical bills).
And since January 28, we have not accrued more credit card debt! And it has been amazing to see the abundance that we have been blessed with because of it. By abundance I don’t necessarily mean money. Somehow, we have been able to meet all of our needs, and even our wants (like swimming lessons and going out to eat occasionally). We have been blessed with extra sources of income, and the ability to work hard to take advantage of these opportunities. We have been blessed with good health. We have not been to the doctor for illness all year! With four kids that is a BIG deal! I truly believe it is because of our new commitment to be wise, grateful, and stop using debt. Our cars have been working as they should. And, I can even feel the Spirit better in our home. The kids have become more involved as we have explained to them our commitment. We have our coloring charts (thanks to http://www.debtfreecharts.blogspot.com) that we get to color in during family council. They have been more acceptable when I have to tell them ‘no’ (which I do a lot more these days). They are learning about opportunity cost – if we buy that toy today, we won’t get to go the waterpark next week, or be able to buy our friend a gift for their birthday party tomorrow.
It sounds silly, but making the commitment to put away the card was harder than it should have been. But, the blessings have come because of the commitment. Our goal is to finish off the credit card by the end of this year (depending on a work bonus on top of our monthly payments, and fluctuating side income (donating plasma, doing transcription, and participating in a research study on multi vitamins, and how many hours he can get at his side job at Smith’s.))!
So, what is the secret to commitment? There is no secret. It’s more than a wish, a hope; it’s more than trying, or even wanting. It’s diving in with both feet.
We have been blessed because of our commitment. Everyday, in my prayers, I ask for help to be wise, and to be able to continue the uphill climb. But, our commitment is full. And the blessings are coming, because of that.
What commitment will you make today that you have been putting off, or afraid to make? What makes you afraid of the commitment? Take it to your Heavenly Father, ask Him for help to make the commitment. And then do it. We made the commitment before we had the plan. I wasn’t sure how it was going to work, but the plan developed after the commitment was made. Don’t wait until you think you are certain of how it will work or what the outcome may be. Ask for the faith to make the commitment. It reminds me of the scripture in Ether chapter 12, verse 6: “…wherefore dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.” (https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/ether/12.6?lang=eng)
First the trial of faith, and then the witness. Not the other way around.
You can do it! And it will surprise you all the blessings that come because you did.
This is why I do what I do.
Deborah’s story is inspirational:
I am excited for the self-reliance program the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has instituted! There are all kinds of help and information here, including building a business, budgeting, becoming spiritually self-reliant, time management, unemployment, and so much more! What an amazing resource for learning about self-reliance and temporal foundations with a gospel perspective.
Are you thinking about refinancing your student loans? What is your current interest rate on said student loans? Do you have more than one?
As we have started our become debt-free journey (we call it “Paid in Full” instead of focusing on the word debt, by the way), one of the first things we did was take a look at our interest rates, and see how low we could get them. Our credit card debt is at 0%, our auto loan is at 2.49% and our mortgage is at 3.75%. While 0% on a $0 balance is the ideal, until you get there lowering your interest rates will save you a ton of money in the long run, and make your payoff journey a bit shorter.
I recently found an online personal finance company that offers great rates and services. You can consolidate student loans, take out a personal loan to consolidate debt, and they even have mortgages.
Better yet, you can also choose to invest with SoFi.
If I had student loans, I would be refinancing them with SoFi! (P.S. If you do refinance with SoFi by July 7, they will give you a $200 bonus!)
Give them a look, let me know what you think:
Note: If you do consolidate debt into a personal loan, cut up those credit cards so that you don’t continue to use them and acquire more debt!
*This post contains affiliate links.
Lower the perceived cost of the plan, increase the perceived value
What is perceived cost and perceived value? Investopedia says this, “Perceived value is the worth that a product or service has in the mind of the consumer. For the most part, consumers are unaware of the true cost of production for the products they buy; instead, they simply have an internal feeling for how much certain products are worth to them.” (http://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/perceived-value.asp)
The key word is ‘perceived.’ The dictionary says that perceive means:“to recognize, discern, envision, or understand.”
An example of perception is a clean car. Ever notice that after you go through a car wash, your car just seems to drive better? I know after I get my car washed and I vacuum the interior, suddenly my car seems like it drives much better, and it’s value seems to have jumped a few thousand dollars. Did anything about the car change (except for the fact that it has less dust on it)? No. But my perception of the car changed.
Budgets often fail because of our mind set when creating them and attempting to follow them. The perceived cost (emotional, self-discipline, going without, etc.) of following a budget is much higher than the perceived benefit or value. For years, until recently actually, my budget would make me anxious and feel restricting. I felt like my budget prevented me from doing what I wanted. That’s when debt entered. If a desired spending option wasn’t in the budget, I would use the credit card. That way I could get what I wanted, but my bank account still had money in it to pay the bills, utilities, etc. I kept convincing myself that I was following a budget, because I wasn’t spending the money in the bank account. Deep down, I felt defeat every time I used the credit card, but I could justify it because each purchase was ‘necessary’ and I was gaining cash back bonus points on my credit card, which I could apply towards the credit card balance. With this mind set, the ‘cost of the plan’ or the ‘pain’ that a budget caused was too high.
However, once I had finally realized that this was not the way I wanted the rest of my life to go I began to change my thinking. A few things caused my thinking to shift. One of these was the crazy amounts of second and third jobs both my husband and I were working. After his regular job my husband would go to the local grocery store and stock shelves until 2:00 in the morning. I would get up very early some mornings and donate plasma. I also picked up a couple transcription jobs and a small babysitting gig. I realized that if I didn’t stop using my credit cards and other debt, we would be on this cycle forever – working a six different jobs just to pay all the bills and the debt.
Another reason for my shift in perception was my children. Two of my children were diagnosed with ADHD last year. In addition, one received a diagnoses of general anxiety and the other of mild ODD (oppositional defiance disorder). Because of this, I had been looking into interventions to help them learn coping skills and improve their focus as well as provide peace for their emotions. One thing that helped them very much was therapeutic horseback riding. It had amazing benefits and results! But, it is not a low-cost activity. I realized that I could not afford to keep taking my girls to this activity, based on our debt load and payments. This really hit me hard.
So, I decided enough was enough! I vowed to live according to my budget, to live within my means. I put a freeze on all of my credit cards, so that I could no longer use them. In addition, I took my commitment to my Heavenly Father. I told him I would no longer live above the means that he had provided for us. I asked for his help to be able to continue in my commitment.
All these things changed my thought on the perceived ‘cost’ or ‘pain’ a budget caused. I now saw it for what it was – rules to live within so that I could become free and have peace. Rules that would help me to be able to, eventually, achieve the things I want, and provide opportunities for my children. Now the perceived cost of a budget was no longer high and unbearable. It was, instead, a symbol of my commitment to myself, my family and to my Heavenly Father that I was grateful for all of my abundance and that I would be a better steward of the things I had been given, including my time and my finances.
How can you change your perception about your budget? Some people find it helpful to call their budget a ‘spending plan.’ It sounds less restricting and more fun. I, however, saw through this and knew it was still the same thing. Nothing was as powerful to me as finding my ‘Why.’ Once I found my why, then suddenly my budget was my tool to help me to get to my goal based on my ‘Why,’ instead of a barrier or restriction. Watch for my next post when we learn about finding our ‘Why.’
Why do you think it’s hard to follow a budget?
Have you been able to successfully follow a budget in the past, or do you do so now?
Do you know how to create a budget that will work for you?
I have taken a break from the blog, in order to train and begin my job as a Financial Coach for Mvelopes. I love it!! It’s amazing to talk to people who have a desire to improve their financial situation and be able to teach, encourage and help them!
Now that I have developed my new coaching schedule, I am back to working on some new blog posts, so stay tuned.
While you’re waiting, here is an excellent talk from General Conference about personal finance. It’s called “Greed, Selfishness and Overindulgence” by Joe J. Christensen. Some favorite quotes from this talk:
“If we are to be self-reliant and in a position to share, obviously we must acquire some resources. If we live within our means and avoid debt, resources can be accumulated. There are those with average incomes who, over a lifetime, do amass some means, and there are those who receive large salaries who do not. What is the difference? It is simply spending less than they receive, saving along the way, and taking advantage of the power of compound interest.
Financial consultants indicate that “most people have it all wrong about wealth. … Wealth is not the same as income. If you make a good income each year and spend it all, you are not getting wealthier. You are just living high. Wealth is what you accumulate, not what you spend.”
“Our resources are a stewardship, not our possessions. I am confident that we will literally be called upon to make an accounting before God concerning how we have used them to bless lives and build the kingdom.”
Check out the full talk:
And, for extra credit, here is one by Elder Perry about Self-Reliance:
Is money temporal or spiritual?
D&C 29: 34-35 “Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal; neither any man, nor the children of men; neither Adam, your father, whom I created.
- Behold, I gave unto him that he should be an agent unto himself; and I gave unto him commandment, but no temporal commandment gave I unto him, for my commandments are spiritual; they are not natural or temporal, neither carnal nor sensual.”
President Uchtdorf has told us “Like two sides of a coin, the temporal and spiritual are inseparable….The temporal is intertwined with the spiritual. God has given us this mortal experience and the temporal challenges that attend it as a laboratory where we can grow into the beings Heavenly Father wants us to become.” (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2011/10/providing-in-the-lords-way?lang=eng)
This is one reason why I feel it is so important to be educated in the matters of personal finance. The money that is provided to us, for us to use to care for our families and serve others is not a temporal-only law. It is a spiritual law of stewardship. Money simply represents the ability to develop self-control, wisdom, obedience, sacrifice, hard work and love and charity. We know that money is not evil in and of itself. It is, rather, the love of money that is the root of the evil. (see 1 Timothy 6:10)
1 Nephi 14:7 “ For the time cometh, saith the Lamb of God, that I will work a great and a marvelous work among the children of men; a work which shall be everlasting, either on the one hand or on the other—either to the convincing of them unto peace and life eternal, or unto the deliverance of them to the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds unto their being brought down into captivity, and also into destruction, both temporally and spiritually, according to the captivity of the devil, of which I have spoken.”
When I think of the devil bringing us down to destruction I think of it in a spiritual sense – that we will be bound by sin, and not be able to live with our Father in Heaven. However, this verse describes the destruction as both temporal and spiritual. What would temporal destruction look like?
Here is the definition of temporal, according to Dictionary.com:
-Of, or relating to time
-Pertaining to or concerned with the present life or this world; worldly:
-Secular, lay, or civil, as opposed to ecclesiastical.
Temporal matters are things of this world. What would it mean to be destroyed temporally? I am sure it means lots of things, but I can’t help to also relate it to our possessions and wealth. What, besides our mortal bodies, could be more ‘worldly’ than these things? When I think of temporal destruction I think of idol worship – worshipping our possessions, coveting bigger and better and more, becoming enslaved in the chains of debt that we can’t seem to break free of.
I often get into conversations with other LDS women about how tough it is to make ends meet sometimes (or all the time!). The conversation usually turns to the conflict of employment – whether we should be working, and providing income, which usually requires finding child care for our children. Sometimes it seems almost impossible, these days, to get by on only one income. I personally see it as one of the ‘signs of the times’ that we are required now to have a dual-income home where both the mother and father and work, just to be able to provide necessities and some niceties for our families. Our culture and even economy has become such that having only one income-earner in the home is increasingly insufficient. (Please understand that I am not saying that women should not be working, and that mothers should not have jobs. This is such a personal, and individual choice and I don’t begin to claim that one choice is right for everyone. My point is that the option is becoming rare, should a man or woman WANT to stay home, while the other spouse works and that the decision is often a forced decision that both HAVE to work, regardless of their preference). Could this be a form of temporal bondage and destruction, taking away the ability to choose to have a one-income family and have one parent home with the children?
Becoming more knowledgeable about personal finance (how to budget, living frugally, simplifying, paying tithing, having correct insurance, paying off and avoiding debt, etc.) will help us avoid the destruction that can happen so quickly when we are not good stewards of our resources. This also adds a new level understanding to our Heavenly Father’s law of tithing. (Future post on tithing, up and coming!)
By separating the seemingly temporal from the spiritual we can easily justify our actions and make choices that may not align with our beliefs. By understanding the spiritual connection to our temporal abundance, we will be better able to act with integrity with the things we have been given, and be better stewards over our blessings and resources.
My three year old saw a picture of a woman in one of my hair style magazines that I was looking through (to find a cute style for my upcoming hair cut appointment). One of the young women in the magazine looked a lot like her preschool teacher. She excitedly exclaimed that she found her preschool teacher in my magazine! The lady in the magazine, I am guessing was in her early 20’s, and my daughter’s preschool teacher is, I’m guessing, in her early 40’s. I took a picture of the picture in my magazine and sent it to the preschool teacher and let her know that my daughter said it was her. The preschool teacher was so thrilled. She said “These littles think you’re beautiful no matter what! Made my day.”
That made me think about how much I love my mom. I don’t love her more if she’s thin, or less if she’s put on weight. I don’t admire her less if she doesn’t have make up on. I don’t think she is even more incredible if she has cute shoes. I love my mom because she is my mom. I don’t care or notice what she’s wearing, or how cute her hair is that day. I already know that she is amazing and incredible and I love her.
This train of thought brought me to today. This morning, I walked into the room where my 8-month-old was playing. She looked up and saw me and the biggest smile spread across her face. The kind of smile that makes her eyes twinkle and her nose scrunch up. She loves me. She loves me if I’m in my work out clothes, crazy hair, and red-faced and sweaty-stinky from a work out. She loves me in the middle of the night when I check on her, with groggy eyes and hair sticking out everywhere. She loves me when I’m all dressed up for church. She loves me when we are hanging out in our pajamas. She doesn’t care. She loves me because I am me.
My fourth baby was born when I was 34. I noticed a huge difference in my recovery this time around than when my first was born when I was 26. Things happened a bit slower, including the weight loss, and getting back to ‘normal.’ In fact, I’m not quite there yet, despite my best efforts over the last 8 months. When I start to get down on myself, and compare myself to others and wish I was thinner, prettier, more athletic, had more stylish hair or clothes, etc., etc., I remember that cute baby face smiling at me when I walk into the room. I remember how excited she gets when I pick her up – her legs kick and she wiggles, and snuggles into my neck. I remember all the cute letters my kids write for me about how much they love me because I ‘make good dinners’ or I ‘help them clean their rooms’ or I ‘play games’ with them. They don’t say they love me because I’m pretty. They don’t say I’m the best mom because I know how to do awesome eye makeup. They tell me they love me because I’m ‘the best mom ever.’ They love me because I love them.
I also think of my friends. The dear, good friends who have loved me through so much, who love me because they know who I am deep down. The friends that I can have over even when my house looks like a tornado has come through, I haven’t washed my hair, I have circles under my eyes, and the kids are grumpy. These friends know who I am and they love me. We always laugh together, reminisce and leave feeling uplifted and loved.
I think of my husband who has seen me at my very worst, and my very best. He loves me when I’m grumpy, he loves me when I’m nice. He notices when I make the effort to look nice, but will still be seen with my in public when I’m not looking so nice. He loves me because he serves me and he knows who I am on the inside, not the outside.
When the world starts to get to me, and I begin to think I am not enough, and that I don’t measure up, I remember the people who love ME. My parents, my children, my husband, my dear friends. And I remember the people that I love. Those are the people I want to impress. Not impress them with beauty or style or perfection, but with kindness, and love and fun and smiles. It’s easy to get down sometimes, especially when we compare (must stop doing that!), but when I think about who and what matters most, suddenly all of the vain ideas coming from the outside seem silly and unimportant. Because they are. We are children of God, and He loves us above all.
Another story came to mind that a friend told me recently. My friend was at the playground at the same time as another mother. This mother was quite plain, her clothing was not stylish, and her hair was pulled back into a quick ponytail. But the feeling she left after their conversation was beautiful. My friend walked away feeling uplifted and happy. She said that the woman became truly beautiful, because of the way she made my friend feel. That is true beauty.
I want to be beautiful like that.
Change is hard. Changing our habits is even harder. Change takes effort, energy (both mental and physical) and often requires a lot of courage. I believe that making financial changes may be some of the hardest changes to make (similar to changing our eating or exercise habits!)
Henry Cloud said “We change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing.” I repeat this quote to myself daily, sometimes several times a day as I remember why I am making the changes. In my previous post I talked about pain – enduring small pain now to avoid greater pain in the future. This often involves change.
Things needed to change
My change happened when the pain of staying the same was much more than the pain of changing. We were in over our heads. We had credit card debt, student loan debt, car loan debt, a mortgage, and just couldn’t pay everyone what they demanded. Our grocery budget was tight, there was no money left to spare. I will always remember the day: I had just done a load of laundry and was hanging my bath towel back in the bathroom after being washed. I looked at the towel. It was once a white towel. Now it was off-colored and stained and the edges were worn. And I could not afford to go and buy myself a new towel! I had two little girls to feed and started to panic. I couldn’t even buy myself a new bath towel. We were one paycheck away from disaster if a lay off happened, or a disability, or even a repair as minor as a broken dishwasher or flat tire on the car. I vowed then and there to change! I wanted to be in a better situation for myself, but even more so, for my children.
This is when the pain of staying the same overwhelmed me and I longed for change. I don’t believe change will happen until we become “sick and tired of being sick and tired” (phrase borrowed from financial guru, Dave Ramsey). It has to be an intrinsic desire for change. No one can make us change. Not real, lasting, life-altering change. This has to come from the inside, from a purpose and a reason and a drive to make the change(s). We’ve all heard the quote “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” (attributed to a few different people).
I knew that if we kept doing what we were doing, we weren’t going to get where we wanted to be. That was the day I decided to change.
After feeling the strong desire to change, how do we do it? Jacob Lund Fisker, in his book ‘Early Retirement Extreme’ says it most perfectly: “Dissatisfaction may be high and the vision of an alternative may be high as well, but without a plan, this can only lead to frustration. There must be a strategy or at least a plan, and it must be practical. To get things done, it’s much better to have a plan than to have passion, at least insofar as you act on it.”
He tells us that those wanting to change have four variables to consider:
- Dissatisfaction with your present situation.
- Strengthen your vision of your future situation.
- Build a plan to get from the present to the future.
- Lower the perceived cost of the plan.
In the next few posts we will talk about number 1 – Dissatisfaction with your present situation. We will learn about the time value of money, compound interest, what your debt is really costing you, as well as what the cost of delaying savings is.
Think about your financial situation. Are you happy with where you are? Do you have a plan to improve your situation? Do you know what your situation is? (if not, read my post about calculating your net worth first). How would you like your financial situation to be? What do you want to change? What are your beliefs about your ability to change?
Read Sister Wendy Watson Nelson’s Devotional address about change, which goes far beyond finances: https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/wendy-l-watson_change-always-possibility/
Should we avoid pain?
It was time for my baby’s six month check up appointment and routine vaccinations. Two of my older girls got to come along to the appointment as well. When it was time for shots, my older girls became concerned and asked me why the baby had to get shots. They love their baby sister and get upset if she ever cries or is in pain. They didn’t want her to get hurt by the shots. I explained to them that the vaccines will help prevent some very serious diseases that can be very painful, and very scary and life threatening. A little bit of pain now to prevent a lot of pain later.
This made me think about personal finance. We need to be willing to go through a little bit of pain now, to avoid big pain later. For example, living on a tighter budget, avoiding debt, driving the old car another year or two, doing a staycation instead of going to Hawaii, resisting the urge to pull that credit card out or apply for that loan, or spending the money that is supposed to go to savings. These choices we make now will prevent a future of more painful consequences like being overextended, house poor, foreclosure or even bankruptcy, or having no buffer or emergency fund or savings when an emergency occurs. By being a bit uncomfortable now, we will reap the rewards in the future. That may be the distant future, or maybe a future that isn’t so far.
Small discomfort now vs. big discomfort later
Being able to learn self-discipline, when it comes to personal finance, is a valuable skill to learn early in life. I like to give my kids an allowance, to allow them to make money choices when they are young, when the consequences are small. Then, when the big choices come, and the big temptations are available, hopefully they can remember lessons learned in their past, and make better decisions.
One example of this scenario is student loans. Student loans are very easy to get, very easy to justify (it’s for education and education is a good thing!), quickly add up and then become difficult to pay off. What took a few months or short years to acquire can take a lifetime to pay off. However, choosing the smaller discomfort now of working while attending school, applying for grants and scholarships, attending a less expensive school or community college, will help you avoid the much greater discomfort later of paying back those large student loans, laden with interest!
Naturally, we move away from things that are uncomfortable and gravitate to things that seem desirable. No doubt that is one of the reasons why credit cards have become so popular. It is uncomfortable to say no to something that we really want. It is pleasurable to indulge right now and not have to wait for the things you think you want. However, avoiding the small prick of pain now (waiting until you have the money to pay for the purchase), can set you up for much greater future pain (large credit card balance and payments, and enormous amounts of interest, for example).
Love yourself enough to allow discomfort
As I tried to explain to my kids, the shots do hurt right now, but that they will spare their baby sister much more pain later, they began to understand. And, because I love her, I will allow her to go through this small pain now, to be sure that her future is much less painful.
I realized that I need to love my future self enough to endure some small ‘pain’ now which will help me avoid much greater pain in the future.
It’s better to want than to owe!
There is a phrase I like to tell myself every time there is something that I want, but can’t pay for (and I’m tempted to pull the credit card out). It comes from a blog post by Natalie Bacon, on her blog, The Finance Girl. She said “It’s better to want than to owe.” (Her great blog post can be found here: http://www.thefinancegirl.com/how-to-create-financial-margin/)
Indeed! I have been on both sides of the want or owe coin. It really is better to want than to owe. Wanting is much less painful than owing!
Take a look at your financial habits. Is there anything you are doing now that is helping you avoid ‘pain’ or discomfort now, but that will cause future discomfort? What can you do to change these habits? Pick ONE to work on. Decide how you can change the behavior now to have a better outcome in the future. (For example, pack a lunch to work one extra day a week, and put the money you would have spent on lunch into a savings account, or towards a debt, instead).