Yesterday, as I was going through my store of toiletries to find a replacement for our shampoo, I noticed how many different brands I have of products in my stockpile. It made me think back to my posts about couponing and how I encouraged readers to let go of their brand loyalties in order to get the best deals.
The truth is, it took me a long time to get in that mindset. In fact, it took me a lot of work to really get into the state of mind that considers fiscal responsibility in every purchase.
When I was little, I didn’t really care about brands. But as I got older, I got pickier. By the time I graduated from high school, I used all Lancome make up, only Crest toothpaste, Biolage shampoo and conditioners, Secret deodorant, etc. The list goes on. I was set in my ways. And some of those ways were expensive.
I was never that picky about clothing brands, other than where I bought my unmentionables. But other stuff? Oh yeah.
I was also used to eating what I wanted when I wanted. If my family was in the mood for Mexican food? We got it. Chinese? We got it. Chic-Fil-A? One of us would pick it up. That was just convenient, and if you could all agree on it, why not?
So when I got married, and I was no longer on my daddy’s dime…It was a rude awakening into what it meant to be fiscally responsible as an adult. Ya know, on a couple of 22 and 23-year-old’s newlywed salaries. Not on my parent’s income where my being responsible meant not using their credit card to buy clothes unless I could pay them back for it when I got home.
I will just go ahead and give MAJOR credit to Tom. It was stressful being the one who “got it” off the bat of how to budget while I was still learning the ropes. I had never budgeted before. I had never in my life been responsible for so much as paying for gas or even a cell phone bill. Suddenly I was a grown up, and all my preconceived notions of how to shop and live fell flat in the reality of a budgeted lifestyle.
Now don’t get me wrong. I LOVED being a newlywed. I loved having our apartment, getting our dogs, the simple pleasure of just going for a walk together, the pride of making it on our own, and most of all being married to my best friend.
It’s embarrassing, but the hardest thing for me was not being able to eat out when I wanted to. I love food. Probably too much. It is still hard for me to pass by a place on the road when I am craving nothing more than a meal from that restaurant. But back then? I was kind of a brat about it. It was so not what I was used to doing.
“It’s just ONE meal from Chic-Fil-A! What’s the big deal?” I would complain to Tom. And he would explain what I already knew- we were saving for a house, it wasn’t in the budget to eat out more than once a week, it wasn’t necessary, we had food at home, etc.
Poor Tom. That had to be miserable.
I also learned that my make-up was way out of range of our budget. So were various other products I bought. And groceries we were both used to having.
Through trying out various products, I found what things I could substitute with other brands, and what things I really couldn’t get the same quality, taste, etc. from unless I went with the real thing.
So what really changed that financial mindset for me? A few things.
1. I just had to do it. I had never really had to give up something I’d loved before, except when I was studying abroad, and that was temporary. It takes time to adjust to a different point of view, and with time, I got used to it.
2. Our church. North Point talks about things that a lot of churches don’t touch…like money. Did you have any idea how often the bible covers money and possessions? A lot.
That’s because we are VERY attached to those things. And so we don’t like people telling us what to do with them or how to see them. But that’s exactly why Jesus needed to address it…and why the church should as well. It put a few things in perspective for me. Tom and I really enjoyed a series they did called Balanced.
3. Buying a house. Tom and I saved, saved, saved for our down payment, and we bought our house right before our first anniversary. It gave us such a sense of pride and accomplishment. We did this. Together. And it was worth it all. All the skimping, saving, turing down fun nights out to movies and dinners and drinks. Even giving up certain brands and- yes- eating out when I wanted to eat out. It was so gratifying. And I knew I could keep doing it.
4. Dave Ramsey. We read Total Money Makeover, and it SO put me and Tom on the same page. But more than that, if gave us a plan. It’s one thing to aimlessly save. It’s another thing to know exactly why we are saving, where that money should go, and how it will work for us in the end.
Since then, we have tried to learn all we can about being smart with our money. We save, invest, and even have learned about life insurance policies that pay for themselves and act like retirement funds for you over time. Say What!? Did you even know they could do that? We didn’t.
AND I coupon. That came in the last year and a half or so. It takes time, and it takes some work, but doing that means we have more money to put into other things, be that savings, giving, or some other part of our monthly budget.
We also enjoy our money. That’s to say, what is life if you don’t do anything fun? So every now and then, we pick something to save for, and then we spend that saved money on it. A new piece of furniture, a vacation, a nice night out, etc. And when the money is spent, there is no regret. Because that money was earmarked for fun, and we didn’t go into debt doing it.
I’m all about financial freedom. We still eat in more than anything, shop “off” brands, rarely go out for movies, and avoid debt like the plague. But those sacrifices are small compared to what we get in return. Because of financial stability, Tom was able to start his own business last year at 25, and I am going to be able to be a stay-at-home mom at 26. That is HUGE for us.
But I wasn’t always like this. So if you are struggling to make wise decisions with your finances, don’t give up. You CAN do it. I know, because I’ve been there. And it’s worth every coupon-clipping, fast-food-fasting moment.