I’m excited to share this guest post from Justin Montour at Elfcu. He and his wife recently worked through my 60 Days to Change program and hilarity ensued. Enjoy!
Sixty days ago I thought I had a pretty good grip on my family finances. I was making all monthly payments on time and paying extra toward our smallest student loan. We even had decided to lower my internet and cable package to the lowest level, which cut our bill in half. Actually, my wife made this decision for us. She said getting rid of DVR “wouldn’t kill me;” however, when I pleaded my case and asked, “Why risk it?” – it disappeared. Let’s not reopen that wound.
When Elfcu challenged its members to the “60 Days to Change” contest I admit my first thought was, “Piece of cake!” Then I ate that piece of cake and finished reading the rules and thought: “That sounds easy!” I had read Pete the Planner’s book about budgeting, heard him speak, followed his blog, friended him on Facebook, tweeted him, and superimposed him into my wedding photos. By internet standards we were best buds.
For the first few weeks this contest was no contest. We didn’t have any family loans or need any refinancing, and our credit history was clean. Pete took the gloves off around week three. He wanted us to challenge the abundance mentality of keeping too much money in our checking account, which reduced the balance in our account significantly. He used the metaphor of toilet paper (how much you use with a full roll versus a near-empty roll) to describe the “scarcity principle.” This concept is designed to make you stop and consider all the ancillary purchases you make throughout the week. I thought having some padding in our checking account was a benefit of being above-water in our financial lives, but it turned out that same padding was giving us permission to buy lots of little things that we ultimately didn’t need. The first week after lowering our balance we calculated over $65 worth of skipped purchases (beer, bubble gum, two fast-food meals, etc.) that we had saved just by increasing our awareness of our balance and running lean.
I was floored! It may not look like a hefty sum but this was almost exactly the amount we were saving monthly when my wife pulled the plug on our (my) DVR. Suddenly it was clear to me that we had some work to do. Maybe I hadn’t trimmed all the fat from my budget. Maybe I could be putting more toward our student loan debt. Did I want my DVR’s sacrifice to count for nothing? Could I let its death go unavenged? I decided we would redouble our efforts and by the end of the “60 Days to Change” we felt like we were at a whole new level of financial wellness. We had fully stocked our emergency fund, adjusted our cell phone data plan and paid off our smallest student loan with the excess. I know what you’re thinking: “with all the other savings, did you get your beloved DVR back?” It turns out I could live without it and really enjoyed throwing the extra savings at our debt. I even contemplated canceling cable completely, but apparently I needed it to watch “The Bachelor” every week. Go figure.
Maybe you missed out on “60 Days to Change” because you are a new member. Maybe you didn’t sign up because you didn’t want anyone to know your deep, dark financial secrets. Maybe you skipped out because you felt your finances couldn’t get any better than they already are. Whatever your reasons, if you didn’t accept the “60 Days to Change” challenge, then try this one: put your Elfcu to the test. Bring your financial situation to us and see if we can help you consolidate some debt, free up cash flow or redirect your investments to better work for you. Share your financial goals, concerns, and struggles with us. Trust us, because we have been building lifelong relationships with our members and supporting their financial success for almost a century. We can’t wait to hear from you!
Justin Montour (or J-Money, as he is called around Elfcu) is originally from New Hampshire. He likes reading, writing, and Mountain Dew. He’s been married for three years, and he and his wife enjoy watching movies, going to concerts, making new friends and seeing new places.
Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.