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Uphill is the Hardest

Last week on our trip to Arkansas, I was determined to keep up with my running schedule, despite the fact that the cabins we were staying at were at the bottom of a hill and I’m used to running on a treadmill (yes, I know, I’m such a slacker to run indoors in air-conditioning! :)).

That first morning, I got up early, laced up my running shoes, and headed out into the humid weather, excited at the thought of running as the sun was still coming up. I quickly realized that running on a treadmill doesn’t hold a candle to running in the heat, humidity, and hills. In fact, I think I’d only run a quarter mile uphill before I started to wonder if I was even going to be able to make it a full mile!

As I was panting and struggling up to the top of the hill, I thought of so many of you who are experiencing similar feelings in your financial situation right now. You’re determined to get out of debt, start living on a strict budget, and/or working hard to put yourself in a better financial position.

You’re slogging up a steep incline, feeling like you’re barely getting anywhere. You’re tired, exhausted, discouraged, and wondering why you had this crazy idea to jump out and be counter-cultural in the first place. You want to give up, stop, or turn back.

I felt the same way as I was running up that hill. I kept thinking, “Why am I doing this?” My legs hurt, my muscles ache, and I really don’t want to keep going.

But I pushed myself onward, reminding myself that once I got to the top, the hardest part was behind me. There were times when I slowed down so much that I was barely jogging. A couple of times, I even walked for a bit when I felt so out-of-breath that I thought I might keel over. But I didn’t let myself stop until I got to the top.

And you know what? It was so worth it! As I started going downhill, I had renewed energy and a spring in my step. When only minutes before I felt like I couldn’t go another foot, now I was bounding down the hill with zeal. I would have never gotten to experience the thrill of running downhill if I hadn’t first put forth all the effort to claw my way up that long hill.

If you’re feeling like you’re barely making any traction with your goals and finances and every step forward takes almost more strength and stamina than you can muster, please don’t lose heart. It may feel impossible to keep going, but don’t stop–however tempting it may be.

Your hard work and incredible effort will pay off. Your many financial sacrifices will make a difference.

Don’t give up. Don’t quit. Keep inching forward–if even at a snail’s pace. The best is yet to come!

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  • Jenny says:

    You are so blessed with the gift of encouragement. Thank you for using it. I am motivated by the goal setting as well. Thanks for writing such a well rounded blog! How awesome that you pushed yourself and went up that hill, way to go!

  • I appreciate that you are real. Your encouragement is so appreciated. Really!

  • This post made me giggle just a little. 🙂 Running outside is completely different than running inside on a treadmill. It’s crazy how many people don’t make it running the first mile in a 5k because they are used to training inside. Running outside is the best training ever. Speaking of which, I need to pull on my running shoes! 🙂 Thanks for the encouraging post, Crystal! 🙂

    • Casey says:

      LOVED this post! What a great comparison 🙂 Gotta say though I enjoy running outside SO MUCH more than running inside on a treadmill. Have 1 in the basement, but pretty much only use it in the dead of winter when snow is on the ground or when it’s pouring outside. Otherwise outside I go. Even found I can run outside in the cold. Tried for the first time this past winter. (I live in Michigan.) Bundle up and off I go. My pace is faster outside and I can go further.

      Such an encouraging post too. I’ve been working a lot of extra hours at a part time job and cutting a lot of spending (already been using coupons for a while now.) My current financial goal is to pay off my student loan. I’m close!! Just over $1,000 to go. By my calculations it should be paid by January (February at the latest.) It’s so hard to say no to the things that I want now, but I know once that burden is off my shoulders I too will be able to say it was worth it. Then I get to set up my next goal.

      Your blog is such an inspiration. Found it looking for coupon matchups a year ago-but this blog is SO much more. There are several sites I used to visit, but I stuck with this one. It’s encouraged me to try new things. I’m now a DIY-er. (is that a thing?) and enjoy meal planning and cooking. Love the other fellow readers. Just recommended the site again today. The Gluten Free post made me think of a friend. Hope she likes the post and sticks around to check out the site!

  • Emma says:

    Thanks for sharing this. Your description sounds like me running on the flat! Actually, I posted about my attempts to start running again just last week:

    I’m feeling like the money thing is a slog at the moment too. All my best efforts to stick to our budget seem to get thwarted. Thanks for reminding me to stick with it!

  • Mary K says:

    Crystal I LOVE your encouragement and honesty! I ran a 5k on Saturday and many ladies were passing me and I just kept going until the finish line- it’s a great feeling! We are being as persistent with our financial goals and I’d love your input- how do you budget for exensive home repairs while on Dave Ramsey’s baby steps?

    • Crystal says:

      Congrats on your 5K! What are your home repairs and how much debt do you have left to pay off? I’d prioritize paying off consumer debt first, if the home repairs can hold off until it’s paid off.

  • Melissa says:

    I can not even begin 2 tell you how timely this was for me & my family. We r in,the middle of trying to get our finances back on track & it just seems so immposible. Thank you for the words of encouragement

  • Brandy says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this post. You are having quite the knack lately for posting just what I am needing to hear lately!

  • Kim DeFilippo says:

    I love this post, and am thrilled my son’s girl friend will read this in the morning at work. She’s been struggling with her budget, and I’ve been enouraging her…but your analogy is so much better. Thanks for all the encouragment.

  • elisabeth says:

    I had the exact same experience today while working out on the elliptical trainer. I had set it for 30 min of cross training and it was getting harder and harder. I kept thinking of quitting, and I heard all the voices in my head– this is so hard, it hurts, I can’t do it–and they are the same voices of discouragement in any situation. I listened to them and even answered them back in my head– who said anything was easy? how will I feel if I give up? and I completed the workout because I know that how I handle that is how I will handle the next obstacle. Thanks for this post.

  • Emily says:

    I have to agree, this come at a perfect moment. 🙂 Not only does it speak to our current financial situtation, sacraficing etc., but also over coming a loss of ours and wanting control in the situation…I know I need to give it to our Heavenly Papa but it is sooo hard when you feel waist deep going through the trenches and want to see the future will bring. The unknown and all those questions that go through your head make it hard at times to know what to do. In those moments it is hard not to give up, but the rainbow & “down hill run” will come. All in Gods timing…

  • Sara says:

    Thank you so much for this post. We are struggling so much right now to stay afloat. I was feel discourage much of the time about our finances even though we are making baby steps in the right direction. It just feels like we can never make any headway and when we do make a small amount of headway, we seem to get bombarded with 3 more things that weren’t on our radar. I keep telling myself that the best is yet to come, but it is so hard to see that many days.

  • Dawn says:

    Great post, thanks for the encouragement, Crystal!

  • Claudia says:

    Crystal, I know that you don’t know me personally but I’m pretty sure that this post was written for me. See, God works like that, He sends complete strangers in our lives at just the right moment to tell you just the right thing. Thank you for your encouraging words, I’m gonna keep going I may not see the end right now, but it’s there and I will reach it! Be blessed!

  • Rocky says:

    This is exactly what I needed to hear tonight! Partly for our finances and partly for my blog I’m struggling to get off the ground. Despite having it all mapped out, and 15+ articles ready to go I’m refusing to launch it until I get it custom designed, which is proving difficult on our student budget. I keep telling myself that it doesn’t really matter, but in all I truth it really does (to me). I just need to keep believing that the best is yet to come!

  • Whitney says:

    This just spoke to my soul, not only about my finances but other parts of my life too. Thank you.

  • Cher says:

    Thanks for sharing your pearls of wisdom with the world with such eloquence and heart.

  • su says:

    OK, first of all you’re not a “slacker” for running indoors. You’re quite smart for many reasons. You have children first of all. Anyway, I walk indoors on a treadmill. Once and a while I run…usually walk though.
    All exercise is important. No matter where it’s done!

    Yes, money is an uphill constant battle. We can all do it and your support and honesty is appreciated!

    Have a great day.

  • Heather says:

    Love this post! Great comparison!

    And remember running is a free stress reliever 🙂 All the endorphins you want when you are finished. While running you can use the time to clear your head, organize your week and plan out details.

  • Davonne says:

    It took my husband and I four years to pay off less than $9,000 in credit card debt. Talk about slow! He had started his own business and I stayed home with our daughter – neither of us were willing to sacrifice those jobs to get a better paying job. Now my husband (who started his business solo, with help from me) has three full time employees and we finally finished paying off the last card this month. So many times I felt like what you’d described in your post – exhausted, discouraged, and beaten down. Now I feel like we’re running downhill to pay off the last part of debt – still work, but oh, so much easier with much quicker rewards!

  • JessieLeigh says:

    You have a true gift, Crystal, of finding a way to “speak to the masses”– to make total sense to all of us and to strike a relevant chord no matter what our individual circumstances. Thank you.

  • Perseverance and consistency is the key behind a success of any kind, unless you are exceptionally good looking or ridiculously lucky. Financial freedom is a goal which requires constant push. I am debt free, but yet I need reminders to stick on to my habits to remain debt free.

  • Stephanie says:

    Crystal…you’re such an inspiration. I’m so glad I found your blog. I am looking at surgery in the next few weeks, nothing serious but I will be off work for about 6 weeks with no pay. My husband and I have been praying for years for a way for me to stay home with our kids, but fear has kept me from having faith that God will provide. I finally prayed and just gave it to Him and asked to be shown how we can live on one salary….well, I can’t help but wonder if this is His way of saying if you can make it thru the next couple of months with one salary, will that be enough proof? I know a little drastic, but He has to be a little more forceful with His stubborn children….lol Anyways, you seem to always say what I need to hear. Have a great day!!!

  • Sierra says:

    Thanks so much for the encouraging words, they just started my morning on a very positive note. I love coming to your website to read the uplifting quotes and posts like this.

  • Thanks for the encouragement, Crystal. I’ve been feeling the uphill battle as we’ve helped my sister with her wedding this summer and then the financial aid office at the local college messed up our son’s scholarship package and we had to pay more than was expected this semester. We’ll get the funds back in about 5 weeks, but it was still a shocker. I needed to be reminded that this is just the uphill and that the downhill is coming.

  • Maryalene says:

    Thank you! Just the encouragement I needed this morning after logging into my bank account and finding a balance less than I expected.

  • Hope Easter says:

    I’m not big on running, but I love the way the post was written. It’s a climb. Just yesterday I felt like breaking, and just buying things to make myself feel better, but I didn’t. I have a bigger goal in mind, so I’m sticking with it.
    It’s hard, but the end result will be well worth it.

    Thank you for this Crystal! 🙂

  • Angela says:

    I just purchased Dave Ramsays book this weekend and was so excited to get started. As I am tallying all that we owe a dread starts to creep over me. I know we can do ot with a lot of hard work. Thank you for all words of encouragement they really mean a lot. Just what I needed to hear this morning 🙂

    • Guest says:

      Yay! You’re going to love his books. The initial “holy cow!” of seeing all your debt on paper is definitely a tough experience. Not only does that set you up for success but I think there is such value in the truth, in this case, the truth about how much we owe or how much we’re spending on things we didn’t even realize.

      Godspeed in meeting your goals!

  • Amy Lauren says:

    I love this! I’m a runner too and I love how this blog also relates to saving money :).

  • Elias says:

    I agree with all of the other posts. Your site is so very encouraging! I’ve taken up meal planning, freezer cooking and scored a few free things thanks to you!

    I also need to get those running shoes on again. I’ve really let myself go in this Fla heat!

  • Maria says:

    I’m a runner too and you are so right in your analogy. Once you get to the top, it’s all downhill! I only run indoors in the middle of winter. There is no comparison to running outdoors…

  • Willa says:

    Great post! Sometimes I think people could easily get discouraged reading some of your financial goals and how quickly you reach them. They may feel that they can barely make ends meet that getting to a place where they can pay off debt or start saving, etc, seems so out of reach. Your analogy is perfect though. Everyone is on a different path due to being at different places financially. It’s not about being at the same place as someone else, it’s about staying on your hill (or downhill!) and sticking to that plan. It DOES get easier, and the payoff is incredible! So…everyone, please keep plugging along and hang in there!! It’s SO worth it!

    • Crystal says:

      There was a time in the not-too-distant past where we couldn’t even afford to pay for $3 fish food for two weeks, that’s how tight things were (our fish miraculously survived two weeks without eating because we had to prioritize our eating over the fish’s food). At that point in time, putting even $5 or $10 a month into savings was a big accomplishment for us. Moving forward, even at a microscopic rate, is still moving forward!

  • Would the downhills bring as much joy if we didn’t have the uphill to get us there? If your cabin had been sitting at the top of the hill would you have enjoyed the downhill trek as much? Seems to me that life’s greatest pleasures often come after our greatest struggles. The endurance that takes us there is a part of the exhilaration we feel on the other side!

    • Crystal says:

      I so agree! Thank you for sharing!

    • Lisa says:

      Oh, this is so true! This makes me think of all that I endured before meeting my husband. I’m now happily married to a kind, wonderful Christian man, but I survived domestic and sexual violence in my past. I worked long and hard in counseling, rebuilding my life, and often wanted to give up and stop trying. But he was worth it.

  • Susan says:

    Crystal, thank you for posting this today. I SO needed to read that. I paid off my credit card debt a year ago April and have been working on building up my emergency fund. It taking SO much longer than I ever expected it to and there are days I’d love to just stop and go spend what little bit I have saved up. But, I know where I’m headed and I just have to keep plugging away. Thank you for your encouragement!

  • Merrilee says:

    To keep “running” with the metaphor, just like running on a treadmill is so different than running actual hills in actual climate conditions, budgeting “in theory” is not the same as actually budgeting in practice. I used to budget in theory–but never actually stayed within the proposed amounts. I tried to keep my receipts, but didn’t curb my spending (just collected papers that I never did anything with). When we started using the cash-only envelope system, we actually started to keep within the budget. And we began to see all the areas where our budget had leaks, and we keep plugging them up. It feels like a marathon for us, but at least now our hard work has an end in sight! (Okay, so the hard work never really stops, but some day, the debt will!)

  • Elizabeth says:

    Thank you for this post, Crystal. Sometimes we start to slip away from our big-picture goals in order to make things a little easier in the short term, but this has renewed my energy to stick with it!

  • Ani says:

    Thanks for the encouragement. We are yet another family that wants to please God by getting out of debt, but just can’t seem to move any faster than we are… I already work 2 jobs, my husband works and is trying to finish school, and we are planning to go into ministry, so we’ll probably never have a lot of money coming in from employment… But God knows, and He is pleased when we are striving to live under His principles.

  • Jennifer Mercado says:

    Thanks for the encouragement. I feel like giving up almost everyday- between barely having enough money to break even every month, and 1 car so Im stuck in the house everyday with 2 small children and no yard from 1pm on everyday. I feel lonely, depressed, and isolated. Im praying things will get better and I can be more positive about our situation, but its VERY hard.

    • Lindsey says:

      Ill be praying for you!!

    • Allison says:

      That sounds rough. I can relate to the feelings of depression and isolation and my situation isn’t nearly as difficult. I hope things get better.

    • Jo says:

      It will get better, Jennifer. It really will. Hold fast to your heavenly Father’s hand. He will not leave you. I, too, felt despair when my daughter was young and we were so poor, and I had no one to guide me or help me. My husband did what he could, but he was tired from working all day. Now so many years later our daughter is grown and we are blessed with a granddaughter. Because of God’s care, you will make it. Hold fast, Jennifer. Many prayers will go out for you…not just today but many days to come.

  • Jennifer says:

    I really needed to read that this morning. I was feeling so overwhelmed. God sent me to read this article to lift me up. Thank you for the encouragement!

  • shannon says:

    Thanks for being an encouragement and relating to us your readers! I love this analogy.

  • D.T. says:

    Thank for such encouraging words. You adequately describe exactly how challenging these changes have been for us, but by God’s grace, we will make it…and thrive.

  • Katina says:

    Thank you so much. This is exactly what I needed to hear today. I will not give up!!!

  • Evelyn says:

    Thanks for the encouragement. Love your site

  • Lisa says:

    This post and the comments are just what I needed to read this morning. I’ve been feeling very discouraged lately, not just with slow progress, setbacks, and missteps in our finances, but in other areas of my life as well. I’ll keep this analogy tucked away when I want to give up. Thank you all for the encouragement!

  • Heather says:

    Thank you so much for this encouraging post!!! It is so easy for me to get discouraged/ overwhelmed/ frustrated/ weepy (you get the idea) when facing our financial hurdles. Our particular beast takes the form of my student loans from grad school. I do not ever see how we will pay these off before retirement 🙂 but fortunately my husband has a much more optimistic outlook! And I love the analogy – I actually show much more determination when tackling a hill on a run then I ever show facing our debt. I hope that this image will help me transfer some of that resolve to our finances! Thank you so much!!!

    • Jen says:

      Heather, I’m in the exact same spot as you, and it’s worrisome for sure! We can only do our best though, and keep plugging away. 🙂

  • Preston says:

    As and Arkansan, I can attest to the beastly hills we have here 🙂 Congrats of pushing through it! Makes me wanna go for a run in Fayetteville!

  • Great post! Every little step takes us that much closer to our goals. That’s how we paid off our debt and started getting ahead, one step at a time. Congrats on not giving up. 🙂

  • Becky says:

    Thanks so much for this post! I’m a novice runner so I like the analogy. I’ve been dealing with a lot of setbacks the last few months and keep telling myself, “just think of it as an adventure”, but sometimes you just need to hear some encouragement from someone else!

  • Nancy says:

    Thank you for this post. That is exactly how I feel. My husband is currently getting his masters degree in business and we have two little kids and I am primarily a stay at home mom with a part time job. Between me and my husband we have about 5 part time jobs in addition to his full time job and school. Sometimes I feel so defeated. I feel like we work nonstop and cannot get any traction. He will be done this coming summer and then we can really start to tackle this mountain of debt that we have now. I love reading your blog because a lot of the things you have experienced in the past is what we are going through now. It is nice to see that other people are going through the same things and with hard work we can be debt free too. My goal is to be debt free (besides the house) by the time I am 30. Which is 3 years away, but being this tight for 3 years scares me. I hope we can do it.

  • takeya says:

    Thanks for sharing cause im going to start my blog next week on my journeys to a greater and better me and im starting back my working out and it is killing me. The money thing also is killing me so im so thank you for the post and the inspiration i really appreciate it

  • This is so applicable to many things in life.

    In hosting the Bible in 90 Days I hear from a lot of frustrated readers. But the ones who keep going, even when the reading is dry or tough, or life is extra-busy, definitely reap the benefits of continuing… and even finding more meaning in the tougher parts.

    Love the encouragement today, Crystal. Thank you.

  • Hillary says:

    Thank you! I needed to here this today! We are so very slowly getting out of debt and now have only three debts (car loan, one $500 credit card and a student loan.)
    We just started Financial Peace University and are struggling with a big decision: do we sell our car to get out of the payments. We will have it paid off in a year but we could sell it now and get $5000 more than what we owe. We would have money in the bank (which we don’t now, only $300 start to our emergency fund) and give us a big raise every month since we won’t have a car payment. We have a truck and a commuter car so it isn’t like we would be stranded without a vehicle but we are struggling with the decision.
    I really appreciate your encouragement and advice on your blog! This site is the first one I go to everyday to get good deals, coupons and encouragement.

  • DL says:

    I just wanted to share with you that perspective helps any situation as Crystal was sharing. As one whose children are almost grown I would just encourage you to look at your circumstances a bit differently. What a privilege to be able to be home with your two children. If you do not have books to read to them then make up stories, sing songs together, draw pictures and make lots of time for cuddles. Some day you will look back and the irritations of the present moment will not seem as big. Giving our children time is much more important than anything money can buy.

  • Hannah says:

    Thanks for the awesome post! I just did my first triathlon which included a 5k run at the end and believe me when I say running is not my strength (I am a swimmer). I felt so slow and tired towards the end but I kept going and the reward was awesome! I feel the same way in our finances right now. We are debt free but trying to save for a down payment for a house and in our HCOL area it seems impossible. Thanks for the reminder to keep going! I will think of this in both my running AND our finances!

  • Stacy says:

    Great post! I’ve been running on a treadmill this summer to beat the Phoenix heat. To up the intensity and make it a little more like running outside, see if your treadmill has an incline feature or even a hill program. Bump the incline up a notch or two and outside won’t be such a change.

  • Tracy says:

    It brought tears to my eyes to read this article this morning! Some days it does seem discouraging to need to keep waiting for things that we would like to have, or to have to do so much work to get the best deal. I am so thankful to have been raised this way. My mom has always been an avid couponer/bargain hunter, and my parents got out of debt while still in their 30’s, raised 9 children, etc. They set a high standard! My husband and I are now in our 30’s, and have 5 children. We have only ever had our house mortgage as debt and it is our goal to pay that off as soon as possible. There are times though that even that seems daunting! In the past year I was diagnosed gluten-intolerant so I have been scrambling to make the changes needed, and yet not cause it to be too much more of an expense. ( Thank you for the other post on that as well! )
    This article reminded me of the verse, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Gal. 6:9

  • Riann says:

    This made me tear up a little. I really enjoy reading your blog and your encouraging posts help. Thanks!

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