3 Habits Every Soon-to-be-Successful Debtor Needs to Cultivate

Getting out of debt is primarily a matter of changing your habits.   We’ve all heard people swear by skipping your morning cup of coffee to get rich, but that’s just a small habit.   Much more important are the big habits, the lifestyle habits.  Here are 5 habits to cultivate for financial success.

Frugality

“Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship”– Benjamin Franklin

As Chris Farrel wrote in “The New Frugality“, being frugal is not about being cheap, but finding the best value for your money.  When my wife and I had our second baby, we couldn’t justify spending $170 on a breast pump, so we bought the $30 model.   It was quite a bit slower than the expensive model, and was only a “single action”, but for $140 of savings, it seemed worth the trade.   Six weeks later, it burned out so we bought a new one, still afraid to justify $170 on quality.   This thing took at least 45 minutes to do its job.  When it burned out 6 weeks later, we decided to go with the high-end model.   This beauty had dual pumps, “baby-mouth simulation” and it was fast.  The time was cut from a minimum of 45 minutes to a maximum of 15.   That’s 3 hours of life reclaimed each day fro $140. Six months of breastfeeding for each of two kids means my wife regained 45 days of her life in exchange for that small amount of money.   At the rate of 6 weeks per burnout, we would have gone through 8 cheap pumps, costing $240.   The high-end unit was still going strong when we weaned baby #3.  Buying quality saved us both time and money. I wish we would have gone with the good one from the start.  Sometimes, the expensive option is also the cheap option.

Maturity

A very sad, sad panda :(
Image via Wikipedia

“Maturity is achieved when a person postpones immediate pleasures for long-term values.” -Joshua Loth Liebman

Being a mature, rational adult is hard.   It means accepting delayed gratification over the more enjoyable instant variety. We save for retirement instead of charging a vacation.  It takes a lot of restraint to put off buying the latest toys, clothes, gadgets,  cars or whatever else is currently turning your crank until you actually have the money to actually afford it.   It means planning your future instead of looking like a surprised bunny caught in a spotlight every time your property taxes come due.   (Who knew that the year changed every year?  Do they really expect annual payments annually?  Geez!  There’s so much to learn!)   It means thinking about your purchases and buying what you actually need, actually want, and will actually use instead of resorting to retail therapy whenever you feel like a sad panda.    The only benefit to mature, rational management of your finances is that, given time, you will have the security of knowing that, no matter what happens, you will be okay.   That’s a huge benefit.

Pleasure

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“Do not bite at the bait of pleasure, till you know there is no hook beneath it.” – Thomas Jefferson

If it hurts, you won’t do it.   You have to learn to take pleasure from from things that won’t make you broke and you have to learn not to hate putting off the things you can’t afford.    Take pleasure in the little things.  Enjoy the time with your family.  Presence means so much more than presents. So many people never learn how to enjoy themselves.  Take the time to experience life and enjoy doing it.

Update:  This post has been included in the Carnival of Debt Reduction.

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  • 3 comments

    Comments

    1. I found that saving money was much easier when we prioritized what we really wanted from life.

      There were a few physical items on the list (big, nice tv and a great bed), but the rest was life experiences and the freedom to choose what to do with our days. By prioritizing, we realized we wanted to retire early and have certain hobbies in the meantime (Curling, board gaming, blogging, etc).

      It’s easier to say no to the newest gadgets when a nice vacation or a Curling weekend trumps it in your mind. 🙂

    2. That’s a great point. “Do I want the new blueray player, or a nicer hotel when we go on vacation?”

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