I hear many people complain that they aren’t creative. “I can’t paint or write,” they say. They assume that creativity is only relevant if you are creating some piece of art, music, or design. But creativity isn’t limited only to the arts. Plenty of creativity is required in everything from manufacturing to accounting to the medical field. You’re probably being creative most of the time without realizing it. Every time you do something a little differently than others, or take an existing idea and tweak it to your advantage, you are being creative. Every time you solve a problem, whatever it may be, chances are you are being creative.
Creativity plays a big role in frugality and personal finance. And it is practically required in order to become and remain debt free. I know it doesn’t seem that way. Budgets are often dry and boring, reading the stock section of the paper rarely lights a fire in your belly, and living within your means feels restrictive and not at all joyful or passionate. But as someone who has lived debt free for years, let me tell you that this is about as creative as it gets.
I used to think I wasn’t creative. I never create great works of art, I don’t sing, I don’t make anything, and the most creative decisions I ever made were what colors to paint the walls in my house. I never felt like I was inspired or like I was creating much of anything. I was just living my life and doing my job and none of it was creative. Or so I thought. But then one day I looked around me and I realized that I was extremely creative and none of it had to do with the arts. It had to do with the way I managed money.
Being debt free requires a lot of creativity, largely because there aren’t that many blueprints available for how to live such a lifestyle. Since many people aren’t debt free and free spending is somewhat encouraged, we debt free people are sort of the oddballs. We have to find our own way in the financial world and make things work for us. There are few books or other resources out there that tell you what it takes to live a debt free life. You have to go with trial and error and that takes creativity.
I get creative everyday when I go out to my garage and look for ways to repair or otherwise extend the life of my things. I’m being creative when I repurpose an object for a new use. It takes creativity to find less expensive alternatives to overpriced commercial products. I have to be creative to find ways to bring in extra money when I need it. I am creative when I find new, less expensive ways to do things that I thought had to be expensive. I get creative to find alternatives when there is something I want to do but I can’t afford it. I have to be creative in order to find cheap/free sources of entertainment. I am creative when I figure out novel ways to save up the money for a purchase or tweak the budget to get just a little more out of it. I am being creative when I find new ways to reduce the costs of my everyday life. Even planning and planting a garden requires creativity.
Every decision that I make that does not involve taking on debt requires some level of creativity. It requires no creativity to whip out the credit card and buy things. However, it takes a great deal of creativity to find ways to reduce spending, avoid debt, save money, budget, and generally find ways to do things that allow you to keep more of your money. Turns out, I was creative all along.
If you’re interested in learning more about creativity and jump starting your own creative juices, here’s a list of my favorite books on the subject. None of these relate directly to finance, but once you see how the creative process works, you’re likely to see how you can use it to become and remain debt free.
- Creativity Workout: 62 Exercises to Unlock Your Most Creative Ideas by Edward De Bono
- Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques (2nd Edition) by Michael Michalko
- The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life by Twyla Tharp
- The Spark: Igniting the Creative Fire That Lives Within Us All by John U. Bacon
- Boost your creativity by Robert Allen
- The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
- Caffeine for the Creative Mind: 250 Exercises to Wake Up Your Brain by Stefan Mumaw and Wendy Lee Oldfield
- Make Your Creative Dreams Real: A Plan for Procrastinators, Perfectionists, Busy People, Avoiders, and People Who Would Really Rather Sleep All Day by Sark
- Aha!: 10 Ways to Free Your Creative Spirit and Find Your Great Ideas by Jordan E. Ayan; with Rick Benzel
- A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative by Roger von Oech
Finally, I’ll throw one more book out for you. It’s not a book about creativity, but it is the most creative finance book I’ve ever read. It’s called The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn. That book has some of the most creative, frugal solutions to everyday problems that I have ever encountered. It makes a great jumping off point for creating your own solutions. I’ve used my own creativity to adapt many of her ideas to work better for me.
Creativity allows you to see ways to save and make money that others miss. It opens you up to see how old things can be made new again, or used for other purposes to keep you from spending more money. Creativity helps you budget and reduce your expenses so that you don’t have to take on debt. Everything you do to reduce your expenses and your need for “stuff” is creative. A debt free life is a very creative life.