Saturday, June 27

Sometimes, it's just about making progress

Photo by Andy Carter

Budgets Are Sexy recently asked, How do you measure your own financial success? There were a lot of answers -- and there are probably plenty more that haven't appeared yet. Some people admitted that they measure themselves by their peers, how much debt they pay off, and plenty of others.

I had a slightly different perspective.

For obvious reasons, Tim and I can't measure ourselves against our peers. Most of our friends can work full-time. Few have chronic health problems that create constant medical bills. So it would be a terrible idea for us to compare ourselves to them.

I am often tempted to gauge our success by the amount of debt we pay off. But most months we're lucky to pay off $500. And with that $500 medical bill to pay off and some unexpected expenses (replacement sneakers, clothes that fit, etc), this month will probably be smaller than normal.

So for me, I usually have to concentrate on the fact that we're making any progress at all. It's not easy. There are plenty of times that I'm maddened by how slowly we have to chip away at the debt.

To remind myself that we are making progress, I got a white board awhile ago. This way, whenever we make a payment, I get to physically erase the old total and write the new, lower one down. (It's also a great reminder that the debt exists, when you feel like going on a crazy shopping spree or that LCD TV beckons with its siren song.)

It's a good way to actually feel that we're making a difference. Yeah, the amount of that difference probably won't be anything close to what I'd prefer. But it is cathartic to see that number decrease, however slowly.

How do you measure your financial success? What tricks do you use to keep your debt reduction efforts going strong?

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Anonymous bluntmoney said...

The whiteboard sounds like a great idea. I use little charts for debt reduction, and also a chart to track income and expenses. I think that celebrating even the smallest of payments is a good idea.

June 27, 2009 at 8:55 AM

Blogger Meg said...

We track our account balances on a Google Docs spreadsheet after every paycheck once the bills have cleared. I figure, so long as we're going in the right direction that's a great sign. Though, honestly, I do get impatient -- especially when there are a lot of unexpected bills or other expenses.

I try not to compare our progress to others'. No use. Every situation is unique. But I do get excited when we do particularly well for us -- even if I'm discouraged sometimes by bad months.

June 27, 2009 at 6:15 PM

Blogger Revanche said...

I just spend a LOT of time staring at my balances on Yodlee. Well, spent, now that ING and ED are being uncooperative.

Honestly, for many years, it's only been about making progress. I might superficially compare myself to others but my situation's just too weird to truly do that fairly, so I just made sure that I was meeting monthly, weekly, daily goals, and eventually moved up to annual goals. That's only been in the last two years, though, so I keep on top of tracking expenses and income on Google Docs to keep heart and keep moving.

I'll read dozens of PF blogs, all of them different from mine, to keep the ideas flowing, though, and that's pretty much the only "trick" I really have. Community can be a wonderful thing.

June 29, 2009 at 6:40 PM


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