The other day, it occurred to me that within seven months, I’ll be out of consumer debt once and for all. Instead of being happy/ecstatic/relieved beyond all belief, I started to worry. What would I do? Would I go out more? Would my frugality die when this goal is reached?
Average Joe has said that getting out of debt isn’t a goal, or at least not a very good one. Sure, it’s motivating, and it is very easy to put off spending until after a goal has been reached.
So, then, what’s a girl to do?
Can I start paying retail again?
Step One: Replace That Goal, ASAP!
If you’re anything like me, there’s probably a reason for your frugality. A light at the end of the tunnel. So, day after day, you take a bus instead of a cab, you brown-bag your lunch, and you whittle away at the debt monster.
You’re trudging thorough that dark tunnel, and you think, just a few more steps, then I can see again. You head toward the light.
And that’s great.
But the tunnel is long, and though you can see the bright spot at the end, it’s hazy, and undefined. Your eyes grow accustomed to the dark, and you get used to trudging.
I can see the light, and the only way to keep myself on track is to lengthen the tunnel. After all, what’s another few months? I’ve lived frugally this long, and it doesn’t have to be temporary. I can keep buying second-hand clothes and limit my time in restaurants, it’s the new way of life!
Every time I hit a goal, I’ll keep moving the light, until my habits are second nature.
Step Two: Divert Money
In order to keep from looking at Mint and thinking, ”Oh, I have money left to spend this month,” it’s a good idea to start automating savings. Max out retirement savings – if you have a 401(k), max out your contributions. If not, then max out your IRA, or your Roth IRA, whichever you choose. Open a new account, perhaps at an online bank, and hide it from your Mint. That way, you won’t see it as money you can spend, and you’ll hit your goals faster.
Eventually, when I start making more money, I’ll be the boss. But for now, I think, I’m resigned to the fact that I still don’t have a great relationship with money. And until I do, I’m content to steal from my current self in order to pay my future self. It’s like giving future Kathleen a present. One I know she’ll like.
Do you need these tricks? When you hit a major saving goal, what did you do to keep yourself from binge spending? Does anyone else see parallels between food/alcohol/other strange dependent relationships and what I’ve laid out here?