Making Small Sacrifices Count
You hear and read a lot of debate about the value in making small sacrifices in your spending. Many habitual spenders resist the call to cut out their discretionary purchases of small items, e.g., that morning latte’ or lunchtime meal out. It’s part of their enjoyment of life, they say, and the costs are insignificant compared to their finances as a whole. To them, not having that daily treat is more than saving money – it’s sacrificing something of value.
The key to finding out is making those small sacrifices count.
Let me give you an example.
I was driving back from a client meeting on Friday and happened to tune in to the Dave Ramsey Show. A caller was complaining to Dave about their family budget. They couldn’t save and often lived paycheck-to-paycheck or worse. The caller said that she had eliminated a few small expenditures from her personal spending. She had stopped buying coffee on the way to work and was brown-bagging her lunch. The problem was that her husband was not on the same program. He was big-time into the “latter factor,” showing no hesitation in spending money on frequent snacks and meals purchased at restaurants, drive-thru’s, and vending machines. She could mentally picture every dollar she saved from her small sacrifices being piddled away by her husband. (I could mentally picture a husband walking around with an extra fifty-pounds or more around his gut, which I used to do.)
I can understand why that would bother her. It would bother me.
But does that mean she should give up?
I don’t think so.
I have a simple idea for how to convert those small sacrifices into important ones and perhaps get hubby on board at the same time.
1. Make the small sacrifices visible. To do this, I would create a cash fund representing the little things that I would have enjoyed (briefly) buying but chose not to. Each time I passed that Starbucks or said “no thanks, I brought my lunch”, I would stuff the cash I didn’t spend into that fund. That fund would be visible to me and to others in the household whom I thought could be positively influenced by my sacrifices. Maybe the “small sacrifice fund” is stored in a large, clear bottle or jug on the kitchen counter. Over time, it gets filled with dollar bills (for the coffee I didn’t buy) and five dollar bills (for each drive-thru I bypassed or workday lunch I brown-bagged).
As that bottle turns green with cash, the people that you are trying to influence will notice. More important, you will notice. You will see a real, positive correlation between your small sacrifices and cash accumulation.
2. Make the small sacrifices pay-off. Visibility is nice but you also need a payoff from your non-spending. What happens to that “small sacrifices” cash? There are several approaches you can take to achieving a satisfactory pay-off on your small financial sacrifices. To me, the best motivator is to start with a specific goal.
Before you start dropping cash into the “small sacrifices” jar, have something in mind that you will spend that cash on. This can be to save for something special or to pay your cable bill – anything that will allow you to appreciate why the small sacrifices count and to give you the satisfaction of success. In fact, you could write that goal each month on the side of the jar in very large letters. (Just leave enough visible area so you can watch that growing green mound of cash!)
I did something analogous to this in 2008 when I wanted to lose weight. I used my steady measurement of dropping weight as a proxy for the money I was saving from bringing my lunch every day. I even wrote about the money I saved while dropping that weight as a guest post at Lazy Man and Health.
Trust me, if you do it right, the small sacrifices do count. Don’t let the unmotivated naysayers tell you otherwise.