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Friday, January 31, 2014

How My Tasmanian Devil Coffee Mug Tested My Discipline

Before Dani and I took Financial Peace University, I was never very good at budgeting. However, one habit I got into that helped me a lot—a habit I would eventually learn is actually recommended by Dave Ramsey—is using cash.

I had three coffee cups set up on a book shelf in my room—one of them was a super-groovy Tasmanian Devil mug that was so impossible to drink out of that it simply became a "piggy bank" of sorts—and every week after I cashed my paycheck I would "deposit" the necessary cash into one of those three cups—one for bills, one for spending money, and one for anything I was saving money for, e.g. photography equipment, larger expenses. At the end of the month I'd take the cash to my bank, make the deposit, and send out the checks for my bills the next day.

Despite the obvious flaws in my system—I would never recommend leaving that much cash just sitting around in your room—it kept me from over-spending each month. Well, almost. I wasn't as disciplined as I am now and I would occasionally find myself dipping into one cup or the other to make ends meet.

The cash system is great, but with it must come a fair degree of discipline. If, like me, you need help in that area, it might be worth it to seek out a financial accountability partner, someone who knows your financial situation and can encourage you in your efforts to get out of debt and build wealth. Also, breaking down your "cups" into more specific categories can help you know exactly how much you have to spend on different things.

Today, I've traded in my three cups for a specific savings sheet, which breaks down all the areas in which we are saving—house repairs, water bill, business, kids etc. I've disciplined myself not to spend beyond what we've saved in those categories. It wasn't easy. It took time. Discipline is like a muscle, and the more you flex it the stronger it becomes.

Don't feel like you need to dive into this budgeting thing with both feet... however, don't just dip a toe in to test the waters either. Start with some coffee cups, but keep going. It WILL get easier.

Keep pinchin' :-)

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