“Can We Ever Step Off the Gas With Our Finances?” That’s a question I asked just over a year ago on this blog. That post looked at when it might be appropriate to loosen the reins on the budget and relax the tightfisted control we have over our spending as we pursue certain financial goals.
My answer left open a great deal of room for debate. I concluded that “it depends” on many factors, such as:
…the depth of the person’s dreams.
…the levels of debt still to pay off.
…if a person is facing an expensive medical issue.
…if there is some form of crisis on the horizon.
…how large the bank account/investments have become.
…how old a person may be.
To reach any financial goal requires intense focus and discipline. The debt payoff journey may be the hardest of them all. When you are waist deep in it, the finish line may as well be half a world away.
With perseverance the day will eventually come when all the debt is gone. When that happens so many choices open up. One of the biggest is how to spend all the freed up money that was going towards debt.
Having recently paid off our mortgage early, I can attest that the “no debt world” is a great place to be. However, something else is at work that was totally unexpected.
I’m finding it difficult to relax my spending.
The Fear of Spending Again
We’ve been completely debt free since February. Yet we’ve continued to budget and spend like we have over the last few years. Those years were spent working towards debt payoff goals and career changes. They required financial sacrifices to get there.
Of course, we’ve spent money along the way but not like we could have.
The big thing I’ve come to realize is that my fear of spending again post-debt seems to have been greatly exaggerated. I know it’s only been three months but I have no inclination to wildly spend away the freed up money. Even for someone who is a natural spender, I can’t bring myself to do it.
I shouldn’t have been surprised.
A Spirit of Discipline
One of my favorite leadership writers is Dr. Tim Elmore. In his book Habitudes: The Art of Self-Leadership, he describes discipline as the bridge that helps us cross from where we are to where we want to be. The bridge of discipline is built by hard effort consistently applied over time and serves as the pathway to reach the goal.
Once that discipline is in place, it’s awfully hard for it not to be a part of your being. It’s represents who you have become and won’t evaporate from your life on a whim.
So because we spent all those disciplined years consistently budgeting, tracking our expenses, and holding back on expenditures, it has become second nature to us. It defines us. We really can’t see any other way to order our financial lives other than what we have been doing.
And that’s a good thing.
Still More to Accomplish
Will our lack of spending wane over time? Perhaps. It would seem logical to conclude the further we get away from the day we paid off our debt the more likely we will be to relax our spending.
However, we still have some big goals out there to accomplish, especially dealing with the kid’s college plans. Plus, even though I’ve become a stay at home dad, we are a long way from retirement. And who knows what medical issues or other crises might be on the horizon.
I think those big goals will keep our spending in check for the foreseeable future.
Questions: Are you worried about paying off your debt and lapsing back into bad spending behaviors? When do you think it’s OK to loosen the reigns and spend more? How disciplined have you become in working towards your financial goals? Do you have a fear of spending?
Next Post: God Wants the First Bite of Pie
Prior Post: How We Are Paying For Summer Vacations With Cash