In my last post, I revealed my dream to go to Germany in 2017 to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Making this dream come true requires a plan and a lot of discipline. So what is my strategy?
First, I thought about major changes I’ve successfully made in the past. In 2005, I was 25 pounds over my healthiest weight. I joined Weight Watchers online and, one year later, I was at my goal. I have maintained that healthy weight for over ten years now. Success, long term.
In 2009, layoffs were imminent at work and I took a new position at a much reduced salary to remain employed. That’s when I learned to really create and micro-manage a budget. Even after fortunes improved, I faithfully maintained my budget and it has served me well ever since.
In our marriage, my husband is the saver and I am the spender. Financial responsibilities are divided with me managing the bills and routine living expenses and my husband managing the savings and the non-budgeted expenses. I saved for retirement out of my salary and my husband took full responsibility for maintaining the equity/investment value of our first home so we could retire reasonably when the time came.
Whatever discretionary funds I had left after my responsibilities were met, I spent. I was okay at saving for special things on a short-term basis only. Now I am challenged to save for a LONG time and that will require changing my way of thinking.
In reflecting on how I made changes to my thinking in the past, I realize I am most successful when I take things in small pieces. Little effort, multiplied many times, becomes a big result. Taking online surveys that average less than a dollar each seems hardly worth the time but I’ve already earned $20 in less than two weeks.
Small choice changes equal big behavior changes. Skipping the little spontaneous treats – cookies at McDonald’s, my daily Hershey with almonds, etc, – puts $3 a day in my trip savings box. That’s almost $100 a month. Putting loose change in our piggy bank adds up to several hundreds of dollars in a year. (My husband always gives me the bigger share when we cash it in.)
Changing my grocery shopping and cooking habits in minor ways will give me another opportunity to save a little here and there and that can all go to my trip fund, too. Staying out of the App Store and saving the $1.99 for each fun little app – another small change that gives me change to save.
While I intend to get a summer job to earn the bulk of what I need to fund my trip, creating a habit of daily saving will grow into a character change strong enough to sustain over time. Then, even if my trip falls through, I will have the benefit and satisfaction of correcting a weakness that has plagued me all my life. Piece by piece, the picture will be made whole.