To save money in the long-term, choose reasonable tactics that you can maintain. Trent Hamm explains that the most successful money management tactics are those that are repeatable.
John Nordell / The Christian Science Monitor / File
I remember that feeling all too well.
I’d scrimp and save for a whole month so that I could make an extra payment on a debt. I’d fire off a check for $1,000 more than the minimum payment and I’d feel good about it.
Then I’d look at the remaining balance… and I’d feel disheartened. All that effort, and there’s still a long way to go.
The thing to remember about big life changes is that you don’t measure the success by what happens in the first month or even the first few months. You measure success over a long period of time.
One month of better behavior just isn’t enough. One extra payment just isn’t enough.
The changes you make need to be repeatable. They need to be a new way of living for you, not just something you’re doing right now to get this uncomfortable bill out of the way. If you don’t address it in that way, that nasty bill is going to be right back in your face before long.
That’s why the real path to success – for me, anyway – was all about trying lots and lots of new things and, frankly, discarding most of them.
For every five frugal tactics I’ve tried over the years, I’ve tossed four of them aside. Those tactics didn’t fit into my life. They brought me genuine unhappiness or discomfort in some way. They left me feeling bad or cheap. They left me without things that I really wanted in my life.
When I faced the kinds of changes that I didn’t like on the whole, I discarded them. I looked for new angles, new strategies, new tactics.
I kept trying. I still do. I look for ways to permanently change my behavior that resulted in less spending (or more income) that don’t encroach on my life in any negative way.
Skipping a treat once just isn’t enough. You need to figure out if this treat is something you need in your life permanently. If it is, then figure out a way to make it cheaper. If it isn’t, then eliminate it from your routine and make it a rare splurge.
Making an extra payment once just isn’t enough. You may be saving some interest in the long term, but that interest is going to keep hitting you and hitting you and hitting you. A focus on eliminating your debts needs to be a permanent thing, not a summer fad.
Making a meal at home once just isn’t enough. You might have saved $20 on dinner, but if you make up for it by going out twice in a row, you’re not really saving much. It’s the routine of meals at home that saves a lot of money, and teaching yourself that routine makes an enormous difference.
Making one Youtube video or one blog post just isn’t enough. You might earn a buck or two from that one-shot deal, but it takes a lot of content to consistently put money in your pocket.
One little change just isn’t enough.