[Today’s post is by staff writer Melanie.]
Accomplishing big, larger-than-life goals often comes with a certain amount of sacrifice. Oftentimes if something is too easy, the stakes aren’t big enough. It takes drastic change to really shake things up and reach those unthinkable goals.
Losing weight is one of the biggest examples of a big goal that requires a huge sacrifice. It requires changing your eating habits, pushing your body even harder and making long-term, consistent change.
Recently, I was so inspired by Brent’s admission that he has lost an amazing 46 pounds since April. That could not have been easy. It reminded me that losing weight and paying off debt are somewhat similar and take a lot of work to get ahead.
On the one hand, intellectually, losing weight and paying off debt should be as easy as:
Eat less, exercise more.
Spend less than you earn.
(Side note: I once saw a mock self-help book with 200 pages, filled with those sentences.)
While the answers seem so simple, psychologically they are not. We’ve grown accustomed to patterns and ideas that inform our eating and spending. Our culture assigns status to these things as well. There are so many things to work through to make big change and it requires a lot of sacrifice.
Sacrifice doesn’t mean that you are depriving yourself of something. It means you are temporarily not indulging in something, so you can make room for something else. Sacrificing things that you have taken for granted can help re-pattern your brain and adjust to new habits.
People often ask how I’m able to put 50% of my income to debt. My answer is simple: a lot of hard work and sacrifice. I’ve sacrificed things that most people take for granted or things that most people have normalized.
- I don’t have a house. I share a studio apartment with my partner.
- I don’t have pets. Even though I’m dying to have a cat, I just can’t justify the expense right now.
- I don’t have kids (disclosure, I don’t want them either).
- I don’t have a car. I bike, walk, or take public transportation everywhere.
- I don’t have a gym membership. See biking, walking above.
- I don’t have a landline or any fancy gadgets. The most expensive thing I own is this laptop I am using to write this.
The items listed above are pretty standard for most people and I don’t judge people who have or want those things. Not in the least. What I am saying is that I’ve had to tell myself “no, not now” to things that I think would make me happier or improve my life. I’ve also postponed my dreams to travel abroad once or twice a year, even with travel hacking, because of the cost.
I’ve put several hobbies, dreams, and desires on hold because of my feverish desire to pay off debt.
I know I could slow down and slowly integrate some of these things into my lifestyle. But once I start, it will be hard to go back. So I decided to keep going as is and live a minimalist life until I pay off debt.
For some this lifestyle may sound depressing and sound like a lot of “no’s.” But I choose to think of it as “not now, but later.”
Timing is everything and right now is not the right time for those things. Perhaps things will change and I will change, too.
But to accomplish larger than life goals – like losing 46 pounds in a matter of months and paying off $81,000 in student loan debt, you have to make big changes. There are no shortcuts. No easy outs. If there were, I’d tell you about them and be a millionaire.
While you are sacrificing some things, start to notice how you feel. You’ll start to realize that maybe you didn’t even need some of those things that were a staple in your life before. You’ll astonish yourself.
I’ve paid off $30,000 in debt in three years making roughly $30,000 or less. It’s been an insane ride. While there have been moments where I feel like giving up, caving in, and just say eff it, I keep going. I look at the past to remind myself of my successes. By celebrating your successes, you can prove to yourself that you can do this. This will inform your future, because you already know it’s possible.
What big, larger-than-life goals are you working towards? What sacrifices have you made?
About The Author: Melanie blogs about breaking up with debt at DearDebt.com and invites others to write breakup letters to their debt as well. She’s accumulated a total of $81k in student loan debt between two degrees. Currently she puts more than 50% of her income towards debt, while living a frugal, fun life. Melanie enjoys travel, art, music, adventure, and of course, personal finance. If you’re interested in writing for Vosa contact us here.
Afterword from Brent
Melanie is right and wrong about my weight loss. Yes, it was hard but I have found that it has been incredibly easy as well. Let me explain.
For years my weight yo-yoed up and down up and down up and down. I kept telling myself “I’ll start tomorrow”, “just this one last cookie” and all the standard stuff we tell ourselves to put off eating healthy, getting and staying in shape. During this time I would say that losing weight was incredibly hard.
When I woke up on April 1st I finally decided that today was the day that I was going to make some real changes in my life. I was going to start eating super clean and I was going to make my health my #1 priority.
Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, was more important than me taking care of myself by the food I was eating and the way I was treating my body.
When I made this decision, doing the things that lead to weight loss because easy. Incredibly easy to be honest.
I wouldn’t skip my workouts to squeeze in an extra hour of work. I wouldn’t pick up fast food instead of cooking a healthy meal. I wouldn’t sacrifice sleep for late night Netflix binge.
The next thing I knew, the weight was falling off and new habits were forming.
Now I go for a walk by the river at lunch rather than eat in front of my computer working. I’m a regular at a few fitness classes every week and I miss getting exerciser on the days that I do miss (can’t be perfect, remember).
Melanie likens losing weight to saving money and I couldn’t agree more. The 46 pounds that I’ve lost came off 0.1 pounds at a time, not all at one. The same thing should be happening to your saving and investing goals. Little by little your automated savings plan will add up.
Your mindset is the biggest hurdle to accomplishing whatever big goal you’re dreaming about. Take the hardest step today and make the commitment to do what it takes. You can do it.
Photo Credit: Song Zhen