Today’s thoughts on making peace with money come from my friend Georgia Makitalo.

Like many people, I had found myself spending my pay increase, windfall or tax refund many times over to the point where I put myself in a worse financial situation-and STILL had nothing to show for it.

What was worse, this financial stress had caused me to become severely stressed and I gained a lot of weight.

Enter Gail Vaz-Oxlade, author of Debt Free Forever and the Canadian show, Til Debt Do Us Part. I had accidentally discovered her show on MSNBC while flipping the channels. I was instantly mesmerized.

The transformation of these couples in financial trouble hit a chord with me. From her budget jars to her relationship rescue challenges, I quickly identified the money issues that I was ignoring with and started to implement her suggestions.

One of the first expenditures that Gail cuts is overspending on pets. i was totally guilty of doing this with my dog Angel. I would go into my local Pet Boutique and walk out with a three figure treat.

“Pets aren’t expensive. The pet lovers are using their pets as an excuse to go shopping.” Gail insists, “Do you really think your dog cares if he’s wearing a $200 sweater?”

Yes, although it was fun to dress up my dog in a sweater from Harrod’s, paying my unexpected car repair gave me more satisfaction.

With this success, I have taken this saving into other areas of my life as well. Before making any purchases, big or small, I hear Gail’s voice in my head “Is this a need or a want?” or “What else could I be doing with this money?” and “Am I setting aside enough to keep this new lifestyle if the crap hits the fan?”

Sure that new skirt fits like a dream—and is on sale—but I will put it back if it does not fit in my current wardrobe. Or do I REALLY need the latest and greatest phone, when mine works perfectly fine?

Lastly, I now use cash for EVERY purchase I make, although I do have a debit card. “When we spend cash we get two responses in our brain: pleasure at the acquisition; pain at having to part with the money.”

Gail Explains. ” When we spend on plastic, there’s no pain. So cash keeps us more in tune with both sides of the transaction; cash helps to keep us balanced.”

Gail is absolutely right. For a while, I did not bother with pulling out cash from my bank and used my debit card instead. This strategy did not work for me because this pleasure/pain duality was not satisfied.

With the debit card, I had overspent and that kept me from putting money into savings. With money taken out each week and put into Gail’s suggested “budget jars”, I am challenged to make that money stretch to the end of the week-and beyond.

The satisfaction I get from succeeding is far more gratifying than any extravagant night out.

Granted, I do treat myself every once in a while, but I save for these occasions, using Gail’s 4 simple rules:

• Don’t spend more money than you make

• Save something

• Get your debt paid off

• Mitigate your risk with an emergency fund and enough of the right kinds of insurance.

I still am dealing with paying off my credit card debt and my two student loans, but now I have a plan to pay off these bills in the next three years. And best of all, I feel in control of my life and my destiny and my figure is responding!

There is no doubt, I have had those dreams of winning the lottery and never having to worry about money, but if have learned that even if you receive such a windfall, this does not guarantee financial freedom.

Recently, I read Sarah Ban Breathnach’s cautionary tale, Peace and Plenty, that tells of her spectacular financial windfall with the success of her book Simple Abundance and then total financial loss.

Sarah had such a great success that she had a “checkbook with no commas” that was quickly spent down to nothing in a matter of a few years.

This eye opening revelation made me realize that like watching what I eat, I need to stick to these 4 simple rules-no matter how much money I made. And in doing so, I will succeed in my goal of living a stress free financial life.

2 Responses to “Preventing Lifestyle Inflation”

  1. Carla

    Here are some other tips to stay on budget:

    1. No socializing with friends (it costs money even to buy extra pizza to feed them, let alone going out)
    2. No treats, i.e., cappuccinos or other supposedly cheap, quick snacks, which can add up throughout the week
    3. No DVDS
    4. No CDs
    5. Don’t attend movies (that’s $40 here in the U.S. for two people)
    6. No vacations or other trips; if your relatives want to see you, they can spend their money to come visit
    7. Consolidate errands to save on gas
    8. Shop at the food bank when possible (note: a lot of farmer’s markets are just as expensive as the grocery stores in our area)
    9. Don’t eat out (even takeout food can be expensive)
    10. Never buy new when used will do; this goes for everything except food, medicine, and health and beauty products
    11. Stop using the cell phone every five seconds; it costs money. A pay-as-you-go plan is much cheaper if you can cure your addiction to the phone and use it only for making NECESSARY phone calls.

    Most people don’t realize they have these options. You can say “no” to spending money on things you don’t need to survive. Or you can choose to spend the money as long as you’re consciously making the decision to do so.

  2. Tony

    Here’s what worked for me. I figured out exactly how much I needed to spend per month on essential things. Then I strove to ram this amount as low as possible. Then what I did was figured out how much I could save each month. Then I transferred this amount into savings automatically each month – at the start of the month. I used a debit card, but could not spend beyond my budget. Cash is OK, but I found it difficult to use cash for many purchases, and my debit card gave me a very useful online record I could track.

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