One of the things I’ve learned living a debt free life is never to dismiss anything out of hand. Whenever I see a money saving tip, investment strategy, or other money management idea I don’t automatically pooh-pooh it as something I can’t do. I’m always willing to try something new — or at least investigate it further — before deciding whether it will work for me or not.
Contrast this with many of the people I deal with who not only dismiss many money management ideas, they are actively appalled by them. Suggest to some people that they bring their own coffee to work, line dry their clothes, give up cable, make their own cleaning supplies, or stop eating out to save money and they will look at you like you’re from another planet. Then they’ll say something like, “Oh, I could never do that. It’s too… [gross, icky, hard, inconvenient, degrading, humbling, messy, insert reason why it’s impossible here].” They act completely appalled that you would even suggest such things to them. They dismiss anything that requires them to work, change their ways, or act differently from others.
But I’ve found that being debt free means that I can literally not afford to dismiss anything. Sure, some things don’t work out for me. I tried making my own laundry detergent once and I don’t know whether I had a bad recipe or what, but I could never get it to work. But I tried. And if presented with a new recipe, I’d try it again.
There have been other money saving ideas that haven’t worked for me, or at least not saved me any money compared to the effort they required. Some investment and savings strategies have run aground, too. Some things have worked in the short term, but then later I’ve decided that I’d really rather go back to the old way of doing things. But I’ve tried many things or at least put them to further scrutiny.
Being willing to try almost anything in order to cut costs enables me to avoid debt. I’m willing to try to repair something before buying new. If it comes to that, I’m willing to check out the used market before buying completely new. I’m willing to drive a car for fifteen years or more and I’m not at all worried about what others might think. I’m willing to take the time to use coupons and shop sales to save 40-50% on my food bill. I’m willing to cook at home rather than eat out five times a week. I’m willing to line dry my clothes to cut my energy bill. I’m willing to do a fair amount of labor on my home and property myself rather than paying someone else to do it for me. I don’t dismiss anything as beneath me and I don’t get bent out of shape when something requires me to try a different pattern of behavior.
There are some things I won’t do, although I’ve tried them, simply because they don’t yield the results I need or the effort required doesn’t really end up saving me money. Making laundry detergent was one of those. Another one was my failed envelope making experience. I tried making my own envelopes, but discovered I could buy a box much cheaper than I could make my own (and the store bought ones were sturdier). But I tried and never said, “Make my own envelopes? What a stupid idea.”
The willingness to try (and fail) and learn is one huge step on the path to debt free living. If you want to be debt free and stay that way, you have to cut costs (or make a fortune, but we’re assuming you don’t have a fortune). In order to find new ways to save money, sometimes you have to entertain ideas that seem foreign or hard, inconvenient or icky. But sometimes those strange ideas yield big savings that allow you to sock away money and avoid debt. Sometimes it won’t work out and sometimes you’ll need to tweak the idea to make it work for you. But getting appalled at savings suggestions and always saying, “I can’t,” or, “I won’t,” is a sure fire way to stay mired in debt.