It’s a simple rule of life: “Whatever you practice at, you will improve at” (Elizabeth Gilbert).
And this applies to all areas of life. If you want to improve, get better, learn a new skill, or see success in a specific area, the best thing you can do is to practice. And then practice some more. And then keep practicing.
You don’t become a great writer, a five-star chef, a talented musician, a highly-sought-after speaker, or an outstanding manager of money without a lot of time, effort, and practice.
There is basically no such thing as overnight success. Almost all success is the result of hard, hard work.
If you want to be a wise money manager, it’s not just going to happen; you’re going to have to be intentional, strategic, and disciplined.
You’re going to have to practice, make mistakes, learn from those mistakes, practice some more, get better, and keep practicing.
Maybe you didn’t grow up in a household where you had financially responsible parents. That doesn’t mean you are doomed to always being a poor manager of money.
Here are two strategies to break the cycle and practice your way to better financial choices:
1. Surround Yourself With Frugal Advice
Find some frugal friends to regularly hang out with. (Need some ideas on how to find frugal friends? Read this post.)
You often are very influenced by the people you surround yourself with. If everyone you associate with is spending money pretty extravagantly and telling you that you “deserve” this, that, and the other — even if you can’t afford it — it’s going to be hard to stick with your resolve to live frugally.
On the other hand, if many of your friends are living frugally and simply, if they are content and totally “get” you when talk about buying something secondhand or saving up to pay cash for things, it will be a lot easier to keep on your slow and steady journey toward debt-freedom or achieving your other financial goals.
This is why I can’t encourage you enough to make the effort to surround yourself with friends who don’t think you’re crazy for being so frugal. And not just friends who don’t think you’re crazy, but friends who are just as frugal — or more frugal! — than you are!
In addition to hanging out with frugal people, read books on saving money, investing, and getting out of debt. Anne from Modern Mrs. Darcy made a great point on her blog a few years ago. She talked about how you should read blogs that are on topics related to areas of your life you want to improve in. I love that!
2. Challenge Yourself to Try New Things
Immersing yourself in frugal advice and money-saving ideas is great, but it’s not just enough to read about or be around frugal advice; you have to go out and experiment with some of the ideas. And then you have to keep experimenting and practicing.
For example, when I started learning how to use CVS Extra Bucks, I had no idea what I was doing. Even the store employees didn’t have much insight into how the extra bucks worked because the store was converting into a CVS from another drugstore.
At the start of learning how to play the Drugstore Game, I searched around on forums and read everything I could to learn how it worked. Then I would plan out my shopping trip (usually something really small and simple) and would go to the store to try it out.
I made a lot of mistakes in the beginning (and I’m so glad I kept my transactions really small so that it was only a dollar or so lost if I messed something up), but after 5 shopping trips, I had gotten the basic handle on it. And by my 20th shopping trip, I was good enough that I started helping my friends learn how it worked, too.
It took time. It took research. It took trial and error.
But it all paid off, because not only did I get hundreds of dollars worth of household products for pennies on the dollar and save our family a LOT of money while Jesse was in law school, but it also was the inspiration for starting MoneySavingMom.com! (So many people were asking me about my drugstore shopping trips and I wanted a place to be able to share them plus other shopping trips and how to save money on your grocery bill!)
Not every idea you try will be a home-run for you. And that’s why it’s called “experimenting”. Not all experiments are a success! 🙂
One of the best pieces of advice I can give to people who are trying to re-train themselves in the ways of saving money, sticking with a budget, and getting a good handle on their finances is this: true frugality considers the ROI (return on investment of time) as the bottom line.
There are thousands of ways to save a buck. But each family needs to carefully weigh how much time it is going to take to save that buck. Time is money, too.
So, as you are experimenting, be sure think in terms of what money-saving efforts are worth your time and that work for your own family and own situation. Don’t feel guilted over the fact that you might not be doing all the frugal things some other family is doing. You can’t do it all, so pick and choose what works for your family in the season of life you’re in.
Practice doesn’t necessarily make things perfect, but it certainly will mean progress over time — especially if you stick with it. So I challenge you to consider what areas you want to improve in in your life and then go start learning, experimenting, and practicing!
“Whatever you practice at, you will improve at.”