It started as a simple walk in the park on a warm, sunny Las Vegas morning. I do it every day. All of a sudden I had a bug, which is rare in Vegas, tickled my nose and flew around my eyes. I just had a spasm-like reaction to it; trying to shoo the predator away, I had swatted my glasses and launched them 15 feet ahead of me on the concrete sidewalk. To a passerby, my convulsion must have looked like the reaction of someone walking through an unseen spider web. I laughed at myself.
My glasses bounced unbroken. Upon closer inspection, they were scratched. I took them to a repair store and was told that scratched, non-reflective lenses can’t be buffed out. They need to be replaced. Normally, I would have just ordered them. I didn’t.
When we are trying to make permanent changes in our life, we need to make decisions that reinforce our goal. You are either committed or you are not. It’s rarely easy, but it can be simple and powerful. If you are not already aware, I’m in the middle of taking a nine-week Financial Peace Course by Dave Ramsey. I’ve committed to playing full out, at least until the end of the course. It is the same thing we teach at our Champ Camps—”Be open to new ideas, and play full out while you are here.” I can’t teach it and not live it.
I cut up my credit card, roller-coaster balance that I’ve lived on for six years. Though intending to pay it off as soon as I could, I guess six years proved something needed to change. As an entrepreneur with a fluctuating income and not handling money properly, it could never happen, no matter what my income. I’ve fooled myself for many years thinking, “If I just earned more, that would solve my problems.” Wrong.
I cut up my credit card, forcing me to live off of cash and a debit card. Yikes. Paying myself through my company bi-weekly also means that I had to budget better for that two-week time frame. On my previous paycheck, I took out enough cash to cover my food and necessities for the two weeks and took the rest to pay my bills and pay down my credit card debt.
Ever try something new that you didn’t get right the first time? LOL. Yup, I made it successfully one week and two days, and it was a few hours before the second class. I decided to take inventory because I knew I was getting low. I opened my wallet and saw that I had $22 dollars left and four days to go until my next paycheck. Ouch. Commitment is not convenient.
What would you do? Where would your thoughts go? I’ve never had to worry about a situation like this because I’m pretty responsible, not frivolous, and don’t buy big purchases. I learned I still had a problem, or I wouldn’t have been so committed to changing. I didn’t want to live the way I had been any longer, and I hadn’t been committed to changing because things really weren’t that bad. Since I never committed, I never had to get creative. Creativity can be a powerful tool when activated. So, I committed and asked, “How can I do this?” How can I make it to the end of the week on $22 dollars?
That question got my brain searching for answers. I remembered I had a conversation with Cheyenna, my office manager, about a new health app she had downloaded. She said that they made it fun and turned “better health” into a game. Wow. Duh! I wrote a book Laugh & Get Rich about making business fun. When did I lose that attitude? Time to bring it back! Let’s make this a challenge. Let’s turn it into a game. And so it was. (Ladies, if you can turn things into a mission for your man, you’ll get what you want!) Game on!
Wondering how I would eat, I did what I often do—I looked up and asked for help. Thirty minutes later, Cheyenna walked though the door with groceries! I looked up again and said, “You are good.” LOL. Since my office is in my house, Cheyenna often eats here. Unbeknownst to me, she decided it was her turn to bring some food over for lunches that week. Wow.
What can I do? I am going to make this work. My thinking and decision-making got me into this; new thinking and better decision-making can get me out of this situation. What did this game teach me?
Take inventory. My next step was to take inventory and see what I had to work with. If you are like me, you have canned goods in the pantry that have been there for years, and food in your fridge that often goes bad and gets thrown out. This is money previously invested that is sitting unused. By the way, I have no idea when I ever bought split pea soup. Could you use some items up and have a smaller grocery bill this month?
I got in my car to go to class and noticed that my gas gauge was on empty. Rut roh! This alone would make this week more challenging. How will I get around? How can I make this happen? Well, for the first time since I was sixteen years old, I put $5 dollars in my gas tank—cash. Which now left me with $17 dollars. Then bam! My brain gave me another solution. I have a motorcycle that has a half-a-tank of gas in it. I can hope it doesn’t rain and use that! Woo hoo.
What matters. The cool thing about a limited budget is you learn quickly what really matters to you. As I drove home from class, I thought about my week and what I needed to “survive.” Coffee! Though I’m weaning myself to decaffeinated coffee (I’ve been having half-cafe coffee lately) and got rid of sugar, I still really enjoy sipping my coffee as I work at my desk. My daily Dunkin Donuts coffee would take my whole budget, so that was out if I was truly committed. I did have a can of Tim Horton’s coffee at home that was a gift from one of my speeches in Canada. I’ll use that. The one thing I do need is cream! A guy has his limits. I stopped at the grocery store on the way home and picked up a quart of half and half—$2.79. Wow! I had no idea how much cream was. Previously, I just got what I needed and never really worried about the prices. This game has brought me a new perspective (wallet & cream pic) already. Now I’m at $14 dollars and change. But, I have cream for the week. Woo hoo!
Essential change. The next morning I realized I had to make another change. Each day I drive to the park, walk, and then drive to Dunkin Donuts for my morning coffee. On heavy workdays, this may be the only time I get out of the house, so I don’t really think it is a bad habit; but this week, it won’t serve me. With only $5 dollars of gas in my car, I’d never make it through the week. It also made me think of the movie Mad Maxx. In a doomsday scenario, gas will become gold. The screenwriters were dead on. For the first time, I did my daily walk in my neighborhood. Hmmmm, I got another new perspective on my own neighborhood. Interesting.
Use inventory. Thanks to the groceries, I was good for food that day. Enjoyed a homemade fruit smoothie. Monday night I took my motorcycle to my church service and when I got back, I watched the ending of the Monday Night Football game. I had the munchies and decided to check out the pantry. I found microwave popcorn…perfect! I looked in the fridge…no beer. Not that I’m a big drinker, but a single beer goes good with popcorn and football. I looked around the kitchen. I saw that I had a full wine rack, in case I have guests. Well, it is there and already paid for. A glass of wine and popcorn it is!
I did start thinking of breakfast Friday morning at the Sunrise Café near my house. I could picture that sundried tomato breakfast wrap with Swiss cheese. Yum.
Let go. I also realized that a friend of mine was having a birthday before my next paycheck. To me, birthdays are not a big deal; but to some, they are. When it is important to someone you know, their birthday should be important to you. So, now I’m down to $14 dollars. I was thinking of flying there for the celebration, but that is hard to do on $14 dollars, even if I used frequent flier miles. A simple bag fee could have wiped me out. I asked, “Am I committed or not to changing my life?” Though there are important personal events in our lives, I needed to build up an account for situations like this. Lesson learned. Ouch. You can justify any expenditure for important personal events, but that is how I’ve often run my credit card back up. I’m committed…what can I do?
I went to the store for a card. Yikes! Have you seen the price of cards? When I realized the price of the cards and my current situation, I knew I had to be frugal. My first thought was to buy a card that makes music and plays a song. There were other more affordable cards, but I realized I didn’t want to look “cheap.” Danger Will Robinson! That’s my ego talking. I wanted to “look good.” How good am I looking carrying unnecessary debt? Just because the outside world doesn’t see it, doesn’t make it true. I found a funny, cute card for $2 dollars and change. I put some thought and creativity into a sentimental gift that my friend would appreciate—no extra charge, and it would make an emotional impact. What “looking good” can you let go of to make the changes you need to?
By Friday morning, using what I had, not driving my car, eating what was in the house, including three meals of peanut butter-and-banana sandwiches—a favorite—I survived. Not exactly sure what happened to a couple dollars, but I ended up with $10 dollars. One of the coolest happenings was Friday morning I still didn’t go to Dunkin Donuts for my coffee or the Sunrise Café for that breakfast wrap. I also still walked in my neighborhood. If I’m going to make it two weeks again on a budget, I needed to start off a little better for these next two weeks so I don’t have to eat peanut butter-and-banana sandwiches unless I want to!
Here is what I know…
Some of my new habits will stick.
Here is what I don’t know…
Which ones are which.
Here is what I do know…
The more committed I am, the more likely positive, permanent change will happen.
I’m amazed at the life I had growing up, knowing how little my parents earned. Though now I earn much more than them, they did a better job handling what they did have. I grew up hearing, “We can’t afford it.” I hated that phrase, but it shaped who I was. Though I earn a good living, I subconsciously was making sure I got rid of it. Now I look at expensive things and say to myself, “I can afford it, but right now it does not serve me to make that purchase.” I don’t remember exactly which financial guru taught me that, but I think I’ve heard it from more than one.
Last night in class, Dave Ramsey told a story of one of his students. He quoted his student who realized that he was spending too much eating out. “Now I know why I don’t have a 401K…I was eating it.” That cracked me up while hitting a nerve. That has been my challenge. I’ve been “self-embezzling” in a way, eating out all the time for years.
My scratched glasses sit by my sink so I have a reminder every day of the change I’m making. I want to have that safety account that I have for just these kinds of occasions. But instead of my old habit of just putting it on a credit card, I can take it from the account set aside for that. I’m wearing my second pair of glasses I bought six months ago on a credit card. I didn’t like them as much as my lighter frames, and they were new, yet I rarely wore them. Now, because I had them “in inventory,” I love them!
Our daily routines and thinking have to change in order to change. My perspective is already different. I had to commit to breaking old habits. The cool part about making it my mission is the game is on my terms, rather than life’s terms. I created the situation that I am in based on the influences I allowed into my life and the decisions I made. If you are not committed to keeping bad influences out, they will creep in.
It is your life. If there is something you want to change in your life, commit. Make it a mission. Turn it into a game. I was surprised how far I could stretch $22 dollars. I ended up doing it in $12 dollars, which makes me wonder how much I’ve wasted! I will not focus on that, but I will focus on what I want my future to be. What helped me the most? The discipline and the powerful questions, “What do I have? What can I do?”
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