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The Most Important Tool in Becoming Debt Free

As my husband and I were discussing our finances this evening, our conversation veered, as it often does, into questions about where we’ve been so we can better determine where we are going. We found ourselves on the subject of discussing what, exactly, was the most important thing  in our journey to becoming debt free. He said something that surprised me but that I found rather profound: “It is more of an attitude than a technique.” I looked at him and waited for him to go on as he was sorting laundry from his most recent trip out of town for work. He said, “the thing is, it’s so easy to talk yourself from a want to a need.” I smiled at him. He did not easily jump on board with our debt free journey. For a long time he humored me but didn’t really embrace that where we were going was not only important but achievable. Over time, as he has seen our debt decrease and our choices in life expand he has become even more enthusiastic about getting debt free than I am. My husband, who once coveted a Breitling watch to the tune of several thousand dollars, is now incredibly excited about a re-issue Army watch instead. For less than $100 (but isn’t sure if he really needs it since he has one that tells time fine now, though it is heavily worn and falling apart and has been to the repair shop countless times in the last two years). He even sold several things he loved in order to upgrade his bike recently. It didn’t cost us a dime. He used what we like to call “found money” in the objects he already owned that he was willing to part with in order to have his better bike. He rides joyfully and often and it is a serious hobby for him so I’m proud of him for doing it this way. His attitude has most definitely changed over the course of the last many years that we’ve gone on this journey to debt free. We both backslide on occasion, but I realize tonight how right he is. It’s easy to talk yourself from a want to a need. We still struggle with this, but a whole lot less often than we used to. There are long lists of items that can be cut from a budget but the reality is that the most important tool is this: It’s more of an attitude than a technique. When you embrace the attitude, the techniques will follow more naturally.

An old favorite picture of mine: Thoughtful by the sea.


Are You Living Your Financial Life on Autopilot?

Are you living on autopilot?

I read a quote recently that really got my attention:

“Part of me wonders if our stories aren’t being stolen by the easy life.” – Donald Miller

It got me thinking. I’m a girl who uses technology when it’s truly making my life better-not necessarily just easier. I’ve come to the conclusion that easier can sometimes be overrated. Sometimes easier can draw down our base of knowledge and ability. It can even lull our sense of personal accountability. Sometimes easier-or convenience-takes away our need to think and that’s not always a good thing.

When you stop thinking about something, especially an important thing like your personal finances, it can lead to some not so great results. I ran out of check registers a while back (you know-those little ledgers that you use to balance a checkbook) and dropped by my credit union to ask for some extras. The teller looked at me and nearly laughed. She said “Sure!!! Have as many as you need! It’s too bad more people don’t use ’em!” I told her I was a bit of a nerd with our finances (as in Nerd vs Free Spirit ala Dave Ramsey) and that I felt the need to know where every penny was. She went on to tell me that she was pretty sure that most people didn’t bother to do that anymore, shaking her head sadly. I remember being surprised by this. I later mentioned the conversation to a friend who uses tech pretty heavily for bills and finances and she said-I don’t balance to the penny either. I said you don’t know how much is actually in your balance? She said “nope.” I said “Huh.”

In the last couple of years we’ve seen so many struggle in our current economy. I’ve read article after article and seen newscast after newscast about how to cut the household budget and which particular items to stop spending on. I’ve read about all the “things” to fix or cut out. I have not seen enough about the what else might be causing some of these problems in the first place. So I have some advice to consider:

Un-automate your life and stop living on autopilot.

I’m not saying to stop using technology if it’s working for you to make life easier and better. But if it’s just making life more convenient in a way that keeps you from thinking about your finances, your expenditures, what you are using, buying or doing right now and about whether it’s a good fit for your life-then it’s time to consider getting off of autopilot. Living on autopilot can leave you moving comfortably along assuming things are just fine and that the coast is clear when sometimes it’s not. It can cause you to fall asleep at the wheel of your financial life. It can rob you of your sense of how to solve challenges as they pop up. It can cause you to notice problems only when alarm bells and red warning lights are going off in the cockpit of your financial life which means something is dramatically wrong. Right NOW. Autopilot behavior and over-automating finances can cause important missed opportunities to make sure you are staying on track and avoid the alarm bells and red flashing warning lights that can cause panic and emergency mode. Living on autopilot is a lot like making the choice to not continue to make important choices as they come up. It’s making the choice to coast along. Whether we like it or not, life moves and changes, often at a more rapid pace than can be comfortable. It’s easy to want convenience. But when life is on autopilot we might just be missing the chance to make the effective changes to correct our course when it needs correcting. So if you’ve been living on autopilot and have an overly automated financial life, maybe it’s time to review whether it’s actually easier and better. If it’s not, consider un-automating some of your life and turning off the autopilot.

Are you on autopilot? Do you feel it’s an easier and better thing for your life? Has convenience caused you to not see where changes need to made? I’d love to see your comments on whether your easier is also your better!

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