A Small Step

This article is a guest blogger submission from Julie Ali, happy stay at home mum of two elementary school boys who really loves to write.

Every time I embark on a new journey I have to remind myself to take just a small step. For example, recently, I was determined to write a novel. I went at novel writing with great enthusiasm and fervor and I was totally bored with the whole process within a couple of days and promptly abandoned the stirring embryonic saga. The novel now sits like a spent cartridge and the fired gun lies next to it. I am not a novel writer (as yet). I needed to take a small step (which was to write a few lines) and instead, I ran a marathon, got an injury and am now, sidelined.

Similarly, in money management, large measures to curtail spending, liquidate debt, invest extensively and achieve financial fitness, rarely succeed. A small step in the right direction always works and you tend to keep going with the program. For example, one small step I take on a monthly basis is to save all the money I can from our rental property earnings. This collected rental money funds projects such as the inevitable rental house repairs, taxes, and insurance. In addition, if we are lucky, this surplus cash allows us to make a regular mortgage prepayment on our personal home. We like to save money every month for this small step fund. It is a very small step but it works for us. I simply take the rental cheque each month and deposit in a separate account. I do not add this cheque to our regular ongoing expenses account (i.e. we do not upscale our standard of living). One small step and it results in a big result: large savings. I do the same thing with any bonus money, any tax refund or any increase in my husband’s income; I put this “bonus” money in a second savings account. Another small step and eventually, we have a second savings account – our emergency fund fully funded, armed and dangerous.

Another small step is that we limit our work related food and liquid expenditures. For example, we buy our coffee beans from the Superstore, grind it at work, use a coffee maker and drink office made rather than store made coffee. With this small step we save at least a couple of dollars a day. We also brown bag our lunches. That small step saves us a couple of more dollars a day. Not large steps at all but you would be surprised at how these small steps add up to a lot of cold hard cash.

I am continually surprised at how so many people spend so much money on coffee and lunches at work. I, myself, am literally unable to spend $2 for a muffin at work when I can whip up a dozen for that price at home. It is simply too horrific for me to contemplate how much is being charged for food that is unpalatable and almost sponge-like in nature and that possesses no redeeming nutritional values whatsoever. There must be a reason – a darn good reason, why people do not get up earlier, make a ham sandwich, add a banana and a homemade muffin to the lunch bag and head off to work. I do not know what this reason is but it is probably related to a deep-seated neurosis regarding brown bag lunches that originated from their having to eat too many cardboard school lunches as a child. In fact, I am probably contributing to the development of such psychological pathology in my own two blameless offspring by inflicting upon them the daily trauma of cold ham sandwiches without even the addition of a store bought juice box or toxic treat to alleviate the monotony of such meals. But I digress. Maybe this inability of people to save money by making their own lunches has nothing to do with childhood parental lunch abuse. Maybe these people just have a lot of money that they, like drug dealers confronted with the police, need to flush down the toilet and thereby rapidly dispose of. Who knows? I personally think it is unconscious living, poor management of resources and failure to plan.

Being the tight fisted miser that I am, I can no more spend money for store made lunches than dive into a pool emptied of water – for me, it just defies reason to go this route. Instead, I roll out of bed in the dark hours, make lunches for the four of us and drink home brewed or office brewed coffee. I know, from personal experience, that a small step for our family will eventually lead to a big leap in our financial fitness level.

I believe that a small step in the right direction – walking towards a cleaner, better way of managing your money always works out better than a full exercise regime with weights, cardiovascular workout and fancy schmancy workout gear. All you need to do is to take the first small step. Once you take this small step, take another and another and you are on your way.

The journey may not be Google mapped or perfect. You do not need to be the Superperson of saving. The first steps do not need to be perfect. You do not have to be an opera singer in order to bellow out a tune in your shower. You do not have to be a master painter to paint. For example, next to my wall of reproduction paintings done by master artists, sits a lonely canvas half painted and abandoned by some ordinary dabbler in oil pastels. I picked it up at a garage sale. It called to me. It is incredibly ugly. But I have it in my house. It sits next to the perfect paintings and reminds me, on a daily basis that the attempt is enough. Each step that you take to financial literacy and balance is enough. Each step does not have to be perfect, successful or productive. It just has to be attempted.

7 Responses to “A Small Step”

  1. Anonymous

    Hi Matt,
    I know what you mean about lack of time when you have a business. We had that lifestyle for five years. What has made the difference, is that my husband quit the software development consulting business and now works 35 hours for a University. We now have time.

  2. Anonymous

    Sure, stuff you do around the house is work. But the trouble with the analogy is, those of us who can’t stay out of the paid working world for six months at a stretch still have to do the same work, in addition to the stuff we get paid for. SaHMs get to count household stuff as “work” and we don’t.

    I have nothing against SaHMs. And I suspect both of our lives will be a lot easier when my fiancee and I get married and live in the same house, so that I won’t have to spend virtually every moment of the time left over after 5 hours of sleep, 14 hours of income-generating work, and 2 hours of driving I have to put in every day, on that household work you get credit for and I don’t. (And yeah, it’s true…I only work at my “day” job 5 days a week. But every other weekend I have to go out of town soliciting clients for my business, and what time I have on the weekends I’m here that isn’t spent on laundry, in Church, in pre-marriage counseling, doing wedding planning, and other such necessities, is generally spent visiting her. I suppose I _could_ break up with her instead, and free not only the visit time but all the pre-wedding stuff to things that might save me money…but that seems a really poor investment. Sort of like the time-expenditure equivalent of cashing in your 401k and spending it on a big vacation. Except that a big vacation would at least be fun.)

    I mean seriously…if it works for you, great. But please don’t assume that people who aren’t doing what you do are just blowing their money for no reason.

  3. Anonymous

    Hi, I am Julie’s husband. I thought that those muffins were bought at the store at half price (they tasted a bit off)!
    Yep, I used to believe that she loafed around at home but now I reallize that she passes her time writing for blogs. That’s even worse! However, I have to admit that her financial skills are superior to her cooking skills. What can I say, I never see any money!
    The muffin man.

  4. Anonymous

    Well, Matt may be correct. I am considered an abnormal person by family and friend. I do “work”, i.e. outside the house for about six months of year doing casual work and I work inside the house for the remaining time (although my husband thinks I loaf). I still consider myself, a mostly stay at home mum.

    As for the baking times,Matt, you can make muffins fast and fairly easily. And since I am no great shakes as a cook/baker, if I can make them, ANYONE can make them.

  5. Anonymous

    Oh. Right. Just re-read the into and saw “stay at home mum”. Which explains nicely why this is practical for her, but not for normal people.

  6. Anonymous

    One has to wonder where the time to both work and do things like making muffins comes from.

    I mean OK…throwing together a couple of ham sandwiches doesn’t take practically any time at all, and although I greatly prefer turkey to most ham, it’s essentially the same thing I do.

    But cook? Bake? Sure, I did those things when I was unemployed. It was cheaper, and fun too. But I never have time and energy for such things now.

    Maybe having someone else to share the household work with helps enough to make this possible.

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