So, many personal finance bloggers take up challenges (I did it myself with the March Grocery Challenge). 30 days of no spending, 30 days of restricted grocery shopping, no entertainment, no eating out. On the surface it seems like a good way to save some cash – and it may be.
Dave Ramsey talks about being “gazelle intense” – staying totally focused while paying down debt. Again, this makes sense – the more focused you are, the sooner you are out of debt. Making sacrifices for a short period of time gets you to your goal faster.
I’m trying to find balance (thus my blog name…). I like the idea of gazelle intensity – but when I’m the only one wholly on board, it becomes too hard to maintain. A 30 day challenge? Well, it’s a great idea if you’re giving up disposable, unnecessary items for 30 days (meals out, movies, etc.). What I found was, when I restricted our grocery shopping for 30 days all I did was push the same expenditures 30 days into the future. Now, if I were a daily coffee drinker, or went to the movies 3-4 times a week (or month), I could save some real money giving up those things for 30 days. But giving up things we “need” to buy anyway? Didn’t have a big impact.
So, I realize I seem to be rambling, but I actually do have a point. Being gazelle intense, and finding things to cut back on have to be somewhat sustainable. I mean, yes, you can work two jobs for a while to pay off debt – but it is very difficult to work two jobs forever. Bruce & I are planning on taking on a roommate – but for a period of 2-3 years. Giving up entertainment spending for 30 days? Definitely realistic. Giving it up for 6+ months? You have to be totally committed to your goal, and even then your goal needs an end date, because we all need to have a little fun money in the budget.
So I’ve been looking at our budget, tweaking and adjusting, and trying to find ways to pay our debt off faster. It’s not easy. It shouldn’t be. And simply because of the sheer amount of debt we have, it seems like it will take forever. But I can project progress. Small steps. A balanced approach. Sticking with it will be the real challenge. And this challenge will take a lot more than 30 days.