Learn to Draw the Line

One of the critical mindsets that one develops when making strides in their personal finances is the ability to draw the line and not go past it.  This ability to just say no is where your written plan/budget becomes real and is reflected by your personal behavior.  When you draw the line and stick to it you start to see real progress.

When you’re ‘sick and tired of being sick and tired’ is where it becomes most effective as you have combined your desire to change things financially and are ready to act.  I call that ‘flipping the switch’ as the light bulb has essentially gone off about what it takes to make changes.

When not in control of your money it is easy to say “we can go out today for lunch” or “let’s go to the movies” but sometimes you must say “no”.  Ideally, that “no” corresponds to a budget line item where you know you’ve spent up to the allowable amount but it could just relate to you general frame of mind where you decide you’ve had enough and are driven to make a change.  It is where you’ve decided that “one more time” is not acceptable and that you are drawing the line in the sand at that point.

So, where do you draw this supposed line?  The first place to draw the line is by committing to no longer build debt.  If you’ve done that then commit to pay down your debt.  It is easier to draw the line if you have something that you are working towards.  By having a primary goal such as debt payoff it gives you a reference point for which you can draw the line.  On a smaller scale, it could relate to a budget line item.  You can do whatever you want within the range you’ve decided to spend but once you hit that point you simply say “no” and leave it at that.  You don’t reason that it is OK to spend a little more because that is part of the old behavior.

We draw the line because we know that we will be better off in the long run.  If we stop living for today and starting living for a better tomorrow, that tomorrow will come and today will be a great day.  Imagine a day where you don’t have to worry about making your minimum payments, whether you could live off one salary or if you’ll have enough to retire.  These are all made possible by your ability to say no today.

So what have I given up recently that helps tomorrow?    Personally, some of my favorite bands such as Metallica and Slayer (seriously, I am a huge metal head) have come through town and I haven’t gone.  While I’ve seen them all multiple times I just have to say no sometimes despite having a great touring package.  There are multiple shows that I just am not going to this fall.  We made the decision for Erin to stay home and it has a direct benefit on our lives but sacrifices have been made.  The result, though, is one where we are happier and in control.  I still go to the occasional show but I jut can’t go to every (or even most) show(s).

You get to a place where you know you’re only making your situation better, and not progressively worse.  The peace of mind that comes from that (and hope) is empowering.  Every day you’re getting closer and closer to debt free, not further and further into an endless pile of debt.  Dave Ramsey has stated that when you finally create a budget you’ll feel like you got a raise.  I think these ideas are very much related.  When you get in control there’s no stopping progress, not to mention the sense of personal empowerment that comes with it.  It’s infectious!

So, with that, draw the line.  Decide to get rid of your debt.  Decide to stop eating out so much.  Decide to make the necessary sacrifices to get closer to what you really want.

6 thoughts to “Learn to Draw the Line”

  1. I found you through the “breaking Student Debt” podcast. What I love about your approach is that you are setting goals as a team. I think this helps with accountability but also can act to strengthen the bond between the two of you.

  2. Thanks so much for your comment Julie and for finding your way over here! Yeah, one of the big reasons why we’ve been successful is because we have been on the same page and worked as a team. We’ve been fortunate in that we got on the same page so quickly in a sense. That is one area that we’d like to write more about as doing this together has strengthened our marriage and I think in general we feel like we can handle any sort of financial challange that we might come across.

  3. “You get to a place where you know you’re only making your situation better, and not progressively worse. The peace of mind that comes from that (and hope) is empowering. ” Well said. That’s where we’re at now, and we’re finding that saying “no” is getting easier and easier.

    That said, saying “no” has also made us more aware of just how many enticements surround us and how many opportunities there are to spend money. Talk about a consumerist society. Stepping back from all of that *is* empowering.

    1. Thanks so much for the comment 76K! I hear you on the amount of enticements out there. I have heavily relied on listening to podcasts and reading blogs these last few years as well as generally immersing ourselves into this other mindset and I find that when I hang out with ‘normal’ people I am reminded of how different we have become.

      We are happier though but it sure it easy to start thinking about buying things as you mention or find temptation everywhere you look. I just have to remind myself that when I use to spend more money I wasn’t necessarily happier or happy with everything I bought. The best thing is to find value with every purchase and that is a healthy way to spend money without depriving yourself or being wreckless. We’ll never be perfect but we can get closer and that is OK.

      Good luck on your journey! We’ll be following along. Thanks for stopping by and hope to see you again.

  4. Much of this definitely rings true for me. There have been a few occasions where I have crossed a line I set for myself and I was not happy when it happens. Knowing I am taking actions that work towards the future actually allows me to enjoy the present more. Funnily enough there is a kind of synergy – living simply in the present and focusing on a more non-material life a) allows me to enjoy life itself, and many of the free things it offers which don’t revolve around money b) save for the future/rainy day c) not have conditioned ourselves to happiness dependent on consumption when said rainy day arrives. Saying ‘No’ is definitely a big part of that daily pattern! Thanks for sharing

    1. That is a great summary. There is this balance where you have happiness without stuff and then you have unhappiness with stuff. Somewhere in between is the line where if you stay on the positive side of it you do great but if you cross it enough it seems to hurt you double. The good part of crossing the line is that you know what it feels like to do so which heps you in the future. It is basically a point of reference.

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