Try It On for Size

3D Problem SolvingPhoto via StockMonkeys.com.

On Monday, I shared our super scary hairy audacious goal to pay off our mortgage in the next 5 years. It is a terrifying prospect, but the idea of having that much more income ours to hold on to in possibly 4 years sounds heavenly. In that post, I wrote:

Instead of just committing to the goal, we’re going to spend the next two months living uber frugally. We’re going to get back to truly sticking within our food budget, and attempting to live on our lowest salary…

Instead of just stating, yes, we’re going to go forth and live miserly on pennies a day, we’ve decided it would be best to “try it on for size” first before we actually commit to the long-term plan. This gives us the ability to save additional income we had not planned to save this spring, and see if we truly can make it work and still function decently in the process.

One of the best ways to see if something will work for you is to try it out for a shorter time period. Instead of focusing on the 5 year plan, we’re focusing on the next two and a half months. If that works and we get used to it, then it’ll be easier to tackle each month going forward.

Aside: We don’t get paid in the summer, so we have to tighten up every summer anyway. This will just be extending those limits for several years vs. a few months out of the year.

Here are some ideas to try a short-term challenge with:

  • Dropping cable for a month and observing how much you really need it.
  • Lowering your cell phone plan and noticing if you are restricted from your normal use.
  • Adjusting your home temperature for a week and feeling if you truly notice an uncomfortable difference.
  • Buying fresh food and cooking for a month vs. takeout and dinners out.
  • Cutting a regular bill or fee you pay for a service (subscriptions, cleaning, landscaping, etc) and seeing if it impacts your life in a huge way.

After experimenting time and again, you’ll find it’s not so hard to change your habits when looking at a short-term challenge vs. the overwhelming big picture.

Most of our changes have happened gradually. We’ve focused on getting rich slowly. In our careers and with our salaries, we’ll probably never hit the big time so we’ve stopped chasing after that and instead shifted to what is within our control.

For example, I am currently doing the One Year No Beer Challenge for 90 days. So far, it’s been 3 weeks and I’ve saved quite a bit of money from my allowance and lost a few pounds in the process. It has been hard to change my habit, but I hadn’t realized before how much I was spending weekly to try new craft brews; most of which I didn’t even like. If anything, it’s changed a bad habit and also given me control over how/when/what types of brews I might want to try in the future.

Another example is my choice to discontinue my gym membership as of January. I paid for the year in full when I joined, so I was able to negotiate the cost, and so I wouldn’t be locked into a recurring payment I’d have to cancel and track. When it ended, I just never went back.

I do miss the gym at times, but I decided to see how much I needed the monthly membership. I told myself that if I needed to use a gym facility, I’ll pay for a drop-in fee at another local gym I like better (that is far more costly as a regular membership than where I had joined before). It would cost me $6 per workout at that rate, and so far I haven’t needed to use it. Instead, my workouts have changed to outdoors or in-home workouts with no plans to sign-up long-term again.

In addition, my One Year No Clothes Buying challenge is going along pretty well. I have limited my time in department stores, paid less attention to fashion trends, and started to look at my wardrobe fo what brings me joy vs. keeping it all.

If you’re on the fence about making a change in your life, try it on for size. Committ to a week, a month, or 90 days. You can always make the decision to go back to your lifestyle before, but you might find you just don’t want to.