Money-Saving Stamina

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money in wallet

Six years ago, when we were deep in consumer debt, we decided that we were going to get serious about getting rid of that debt. We made that our main goal (after marriage and family). We would do whatever it took to get our financial house in order.

Dave Ramsey calls this “Gazelle Intense”. We were so set on the goal that we would not be deterred.

Fast forward to the day when we paid off the last debt to American Distress. THAT was a freeing moment. But, it was also a scary one.

I’ve heard stories about how inmates released from prison have a hard time acclimating to the outside world. Some are scared to leave what they’ve known as normal for so long.

While I don’t know that experience first hand, I can imagine that feeling. Being debt-free is amazing and freeing, but it’s also a little scary. 

What do we do now?

Most folks would say, “Celebrate.” And we did. We found that we were able to enjoy things more after we paid off our last debt. Not necessarily enjoy more things, but enjoy things more. The simple things, like dinner out, had more value since they were paid for!

Eventually,  we worked to fund a long-term emergency fund and begin to save for retirement. We should do more, like get serious about college funds and saving for a house, but I’ll confess, sometimes it’s hard to have the stamina just to do what we do.

Sometimes I really want to throw caution to the wind and splurge on something. Sometimes, I fall back into old habits.Thankfully, my splurges don’t get too far past the grocery store and when they do they’re something minor. But, still…. It’s hard to keep up the money-saving stamina.

I don’t have any suggestions to offer on the topic. At least not today. It’s been a hard week. I’m tired, and my body is aching. I’m trying to stay away from the google.

But, I’d love to dialogue about this with you.

  • Do you find it hard to stick to your financial goals?
  • If so, what do you do to get back in line?
  • If not, what’s your secret to staying on track?

FrugalFridayThis is Frugal Friday. In an effort to make these weekly financial discussions more interactive, I’m no longer posting a link-up. Feel free to leave a link in the comments. But better yet, chat with us on today’s topic.

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    1. We rent in San Diego. We’ve owned homes in every other place we’ve lived (Kansas and Central Coast of CA). We own a rental property in Missouri that I would be happy to sell you. 😉

      With the economy still a bit unstable and my husband working for the state, we’ve decided that having a large emergency fund is better for us than plunking that same money into a down payment on a house. California real estate is a gamble still, and we don’t want to be stuck upside-down on a house and then find ourselves needing to move for work.

  1. At this stage, I think you need to focus on stewardhsip. God has given you what he has given you, and you have a wide array of choices as to how to use it. You must enjoy it and be grateful for it, share it, and use it wisely. It’s no longer about saving and being frugal but about how you can best use all you’ve been given.

    And this applies not only to money, but also to time and energy.

    I just read an old (almost 400 years old!) book about the challenges of living in prosperity. That’s what life after debt is, essentially. It’s a wise and thought-provoking book. I’m almost ready to post a review of it, and when I do, I’ll put the link in the comments here so you can see if it might help you figure things out.


  2. We are also Dave Ramsey people. We half-heartedly did the plan about 7 years ago, and we also eliminated all debt except our mortgage. It brought us more financial peace than ever before, but we did not fully commit to the program until this January when we completed Financial Peace University. We have found that the monthly budget made specifically for each month agreed to by both spouses in a “budget committee meeting” where very dollar coming in is assigned a category is making a huge difference. We are also using more cash and using a software called YNAB (You Need A Budget). It is easy to fall off the wagon when you lose visibility of where your money goes.

  3. Well, we’ve paid off all non-mortgage debt – but I have already refi-d our mortgage down to a 15 year [with less interest] and pay ahead on it – it doesn’t stress me out

    Our income has gone up – which is great.

    Each time though it’s a challenge to find a way to stick to goals – especially as the extra money is often finding it’s way to us in big chunks [think tax refund – but sporadic]

    One thing I’ve done is set up a wish list spreadsheet – things outside our budget, but things I want [whether savings goals or vacations etc] and sometimes hide the money away and add it to that spreadsheet – this necessitates an extra account [or it gets spent right?] and another spreadsheet but it helps me avoid having that extra money in our accessible funds

    Also I hide savings from myself at another bank – some in a savings account and some in a small cd ladder

    But it’s hard – and the truth is we manage to put some away by spending some – the last big influx came in the form of four monthly checks – one went to pay off my car loan [which was taken out knowing it would arrive in a few weeks – we paid cash for 80% of the car] and the second went, in part, for spending on things we’d been holding off on till we had cash – a new to us piano [our old one only had half the keys working] and a trip to Manhattan, some small furniture purchases for the kids’ rooms. The rest is staying in the account as a cushion – but the next two checks will be tucked away in another account – and will fund, I hope, a generator, and a big chunk of a long term EF.

    So I think, when you reach a time of prosperity, it’s time to give a little to yourself – whether it’s giving to charity [that’s something we do regularly, but we also add bigger giving into our ‘wish lists’ or savings or spending on a long term goal. But it’s also time to think of all the things you’ve forgone because of your goals and see which ones really still matter to you. Then achieve them 🙂

  4. We also had to spend several years paying off debt and doing without became such a way of life I totally agree it was scary when we were able to buy a home last year, I kept thinking someone was going to send us a letter saying it was all a mistake, it felt so strange for it to be happening. I still keep on with our cheap ways but sometimes it is hard not to splurge on something silly when it has been a long week.
    The main things that help me is no looking at magazines, no checking out stores online, trying very hard to avoid Target since I love it, and I like Aldi for most of our food since there are less choices I don’t linger in the store. I get what I need and get out. If I don’t see all the new pretty stuff that is out I am better off since it is just more to dust in reality and I don’t need the extra work. I did get myself the good lemon mint scented dish soap last week without a coupon and paid the full $3. Shocking I know! Dishsoap as a splurge, what is wrong with me? Hey whatever it takes to keep me motivated to wash all those pots and pans is money well spent I tell myself!

    1. You made me laugh. That dishsoap is the kind of splurge I do. Or buying clothes off the clearance rack. lol

  5. By this time next week we will be debt free AGAIN! This time I am hoping it stays that way. The last time we were debt free we took on one too many paid for houses (we had received an inheritance) without a large enough emergency fund to cover the what if….and well what if happened. We had 3 homes bought ( $10,000, $13,000 and $65,000 we live in the midwest) one last one being repaired when BOTH cars fell apart one so badly it could not even be towed to the garage it had to be lifted. We needed the cash we had left to make the last home rent worthy so we made some poor quick decisions and ended up in car debt. This week one of the homes we thought would be a rental will be sold so we can pay off cars and have a good emergency fund. Then I am setting up an automatic withdrawal from each of our checks into a savings account that will be earmarked for our next vehicle replacement. NEVER again, payments messed with our mentality we immediately felt enslaved and poor. I love the freedom feel of no payments.

  6. We’ve paid off 20% of our student loan and credit card debt in the last 18 months.

    Now, our problem is that we keep having expenses crop up like $744 in medical bills, a $600 spark plug repair, etc. We put off our expenses by doing things like walking instead of driving the car so we can time to raise the cash for the repairs, but those other expenses keep us from paying down our debt as quickly as I would like, and it can get frustrating.

  7. About a year ago after getting everything but our mortgage debt paid off, we were able to get our emergency fully funded. Then last summer my husband was told he had to find another job and we took almost a 50% pay cut from his income. We cut back on all expenses drastically, Then in November we had a $2000 emergency room visit. I am finding this time around that we are really struggling to get that $2000 back into our emergency fund and at times I feel very frustrated and want to give up. I do fall from time to time, but agree that it is not to the extent that I did before we took Dave Ramsey’s course. When I find myself wanting more than I have, I spend time in prayer thanking God for the many blessings God has given us and remind myself that God wants me to be content with what I have.

    1. Just remember, that’s why you had the emergency fund in the first place!

      I know the struggle; our income has been cut 75% and it has been hard for many years. We look forward to having the savings built back up; it will come.

      1. You have unbelievable stamina, Brandy. You always amaze me. I hope things are looking up for you guys.

  8. We also struggle to stay on track. We also overdid it with stretching ourselves too far! I need to make more of an effort to avoid the shops and online browsing as its dangerous. But, the main thing is that we are all aware of budgeting and are trying to get into a better situation on a daily basis, thats the positive thing that needs to be taken from this. Always easier when the sun shines and this weekend in England its a bank holiday = saturday, sunday and monday off with the children and the weather forecase is sunshine!! x x

  9. Sticking to financial goals is probably my biggest obstacle in life. It’s a constant battle. A good chunk of the problem is me and my obsessive compulsiveness. Another part of the problem is I never really learned how to set realistic financial goals and follow the steps to get there. This is something I’m working on really intensely right now. Something new that I’m trying is picturing myself in my mind as an geriatric woman (I’m 43) now. I don’t want that old version of myself to have money struggles.

  10. Hubby finds it really hard, farmed the first 25 yrs and was always in debt, so it’s where he is comfortable. I on the other hand never was in debt not even for college and no I didn’t have grants or scholarships.

    The savings in on automatic, what we don’t see we don’t spend. The retirement is on automatic (with reviews once a month). The kids paid for their own schooling with the option to live at home for free and us cover them with health ins. which at that time we had to pay for their ins.

    Still there is a weekly check that we aren’t wasting money. It’s okay to spend it on plants for the garden that produces the food or something that will ease our work load (weed whacker so I am not trimming sq ft gardens with a pair of scissors like I have for the last 20 yrs).

    We have a set budget for pleasure and that includes Hubby’s hobby with the local ham radio group.

    I guess being accountable to each other and a couple of friends that are supportive of us getting out of debt and staying out of debt helps when the urges to blow it all away comes over us.

    1. Your life is so full of great stories. I love hearing about these great things you’ve done or learned.

  11. I think its easy to fall into “frugal burnout;” after all it takes a lot of willpower to avoid splurging, especially if you were used to getting that retail therapy while building all that debt. I definitely feel this way from time to time. It can be frustrating to want even something that is a low cost splurge (hair dye, new makeup, etc.) but feel like you HAVE to wait for a sale/coupon before you can buy it. My suggestions:
    -set aside a small amount of money for a little splurge for yourself (even $3-5 every week or two can buy you a coffee drink, ice cream cone, or a nail polish, etc).
    -try to give yourself visual reminders of your savings goals (ex. start a pinterest board and go there when you are tempted to do online shopping instead)

    1. Yep, you named it: frugal burnout. Thank you. It needed a name.

    2. I am totally feeling frugal burnout! I love that name! We don’t have any debt besides our home (which we are trying to sell at the moment. Any takers 😉 ) It is so frustrating to me that I try and try to make the budget add up, but there is always too much month left after the money is gone! Sigh…..thankfully we all have food and a warm house, but some days I just want to buy the whole grocery store!

  12. It has been easy in the past to save money. I didn’t have debt when I got married, but my husband did. When we finally got “gazelle intense”, we paid $16,000 off my husband’s student loans in 16 months (you can read about that here: Now we have no debt except our house, and we want to move. We are finding it impossible to save money now that we are buying whole foods and lots of organics. I’m frustrated about this, yet, we know we are making choices in which we believe. This is causing me go through our freezer and pantry like never before because I just want to save some money. It’s frustrating, but it is good.

  13. Very inspiring stories here. We got into debt because my husband was ill for two years. From our early years with low or no income except some inheritance and savings we got very good at living frugally. Now with our income up, it’s hard not to splurge at the supermarket sometimes. But the nice thing is to realize how much our saving habits have become a part of us, how much we’ve learned to enjoy the simple things in life – and best of all – how our children are learning these principles as well and taking pride in them. I love shopping at the thrift store – it’s like a treasure hunt. And I tell my husband every morning is like Christmas when you’ve got a garden and chickens because you’ll find some egg or sprout.

    The biggest helper for me is learning to keep things simple – give myself time to look up, be aware of my life and the world around me. Be thankful for my health and family. It helps me stay focused on the good things that are in my life that come without a price and make the occasional cravings for a gourmet food purchase less intense.

    Here’s a post I put together about pig’s foot soup – one of the meals I still make that keeps us all aware of our ability to do more with less – and savor it:

  14. You can splurge as long as you budget for it. So allocate some money for splurges and only spend that amount and if you don’t spend it all let it roll over to the next months fund eventually you will have enough for that big splurge. Sometimes the funny thing about impulse buying and splurges is once we know we can buy these things we don’t really want to anymore.

  15. We have trouble staying on track too….I’ve been looking for a job since last July(the youngest started K last fall, SAHM for 5 yrs) and still haven’t found any thing(0 calls for interviews, so frustrating). Add to that hubby has an outdoor hourly paid job(mason)so if the weather doesn’t cooperate he does not get paid(he hasn’t had a full week check in months)

  16. Wow, this has so much truth because I have a great desire to spend. I like spending money it’s fun and I always thought with my talents and the way I always put work first money was never a problem. Fell in love with a musician who has a OPPOSITE look on money, life, and kids. So now I stay at home, homeschool, and my life is nothing how I envisioned.

    However, I have to say my stamina for keeping budget is very low, I suppose with anything in my life though, besides making money (one of my favorite hobbies which I’m not very good at). I have little stamina to want to keep my house clean, scan the papers I need to scan, keep tabs on my budget, etc.

    I have found that God has led me to believe that we are being taken care of (I have a crappy blood issue that put my family into medical debt) so while we are paying off that and trying to save I have to remember God’s promises for my life. Honestly I don’t have them written down which I should but when I re-evaluate my goals, my family’s goals, the goals I have for my children, my stamina seems to perk up a bit.. Like caffeine for the soul and I remember oh yeah that’s what I am doing this for.

    And with the caffeine rush I (without the caffeine and no crash later) I see why I’m here and am able to see the goal, why I (or we) made it, and how God can use it for his glory not mine. I’m pretty self-absorbed and think the world should revolve around me. 🙂

  17. We used to be in LOTS of debt, too, but now it’s just our home. I’d really love to be able to refi that soon. But for now I’m just enjoying not being so stressed about Every. Single. Dime! (spent or saved). Ahhhh….(It’s so nice to breathe again!)

    At the beginning of the year I started one of the best savings idea I’ve heard in a long time. It was something I read online (maybe even on this website, I don’t remember.) Anyway…I took an envelope and wrote $52, $51, $50…all the way to $1 on one side, then the dates of each Friday during the year on the other side. Each Friday I put in the $$ amount for that week (counting down) and check off the date and the $$ amount so I can keep track. By the end of the year I’ll have $1378 with very effort. YAY! I’m planning to use this for Christmas shopping this year. I love this idea and I’m so thankful for it.

  18. We are Dave Ramsey people also. Our only debt is our mortgage. It is really hard to stay on track. The things that help me stay on track is planning for my spending I keep a 3 ring binder with lists of wants for each area home, vaca, etc. I think this helps me to really think about my wants and determine if it is really worth the spending. Sometimes just wishing is enough for me. If not then I can set an amount and save up for whatever it is.

    Also the thought of freedom that comes from being debt free and knowing once our home is paid for and we have saved enough to replace basic needs we can then use the time we spend working doing whatever we want….. volunteering or serving others in a way that brings us joy. Check out what is posted today on the simple dollar…he says it much better.

  19. My tactic is what Kimberly above already mentioned. Budget yourself a splurge. Even if it’s just literally a couple bucks a paycheck, or whatever your comfortable with. It helps me to feel not neglected and that urge to over-splurge doesn’t seem to creep up. I often do a dollar bottle of nail polish, or a clearance scented candle, or heck, a new pair of underwear! If I’m not feeling desperate to treat myself I’ll just stick it in the back of my wallet and double it with the next splurge money. It even gets fun, and challenging, to see how much pleasure I can get out of a few bucks! It’s the same theory I use for eating healthy, allow yourself a very small treat every once in a while, or you’ll end up over indulging. Not sure if Dave Ramsey would approve but it works for me. 🙂

  20. We have a small amount of debt and I’m okay with it. While I get and respect the whole entire sacrificing thing I think it needs to be balanced with the idea that we don’t get an infinite amount of time or opportunities to do things. Time moves quickly and there is no set in stone guarantee that there will always be a tomorrow. I’d rather have the debt I have than carry the regret that I missed an experience that enriches my life or my family’s life(within reason) and gives us an opportunity to enjoy each other.

    Sometimes it’s okay to shoot for a middle ground and loosen the reins in my opinion. When in doubt I pray and ask whether I am controlling my money or if I am allowing it to dictate every facet of my life.

    My instincts? You’re not a spendthrift. If your heart is telling you to splurge beyond a small item, examine your reasons to do so or not do so. Weigh it and have your family (in particular your teen since in a few years HE may be facing this) help you. At the very least you won’t feel alone in the budget struggle.