Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare that you heard in elementary school? The hare got off to a speedy pace and seemed to be a sure win, but in the end he didn’t, did he? The tortoise, although much slower than the hare, kept moving steadily and consistently toward the finish line. In the end, the tortoise crossed the finish line first.
What’s the lesson we can learn from this as adults? Slow and steady wins the race. To reach any goals in your life, including your financial goals, you need to switch from the hare’s mindset to that of the tortoise. In other words, you must break that “all or nothing” attitude.
Ask yourself: Do you start saving or paying off debt with a superhuman resolve- determined to avoid all temptation- only to fall off the wagon and give up hope in a matter of a few days?
Such an approach to anything can be appealing and even motivating at first, but I can assure you it is the quickest way to fail and lose the race.
Instead you need to start thinking like a tortoise. Pace yourself. Start with a reasonable savings goal, one that is manageable and yet still allow yourself some fun and luxuries. When it comes to debt, start off with a payment that allows you to still pay off your monthly bills. If you take on more than you can handle, you will end up like the hare and lose out in the long run.
I remember when I first started my debt reduction strategy. Ambitious was an understatement. I was so pumped to get rid of my debt and move on with my life, that I ended up setting up an unattainable plan. My payments were too aggressive and I ended up needing to re-borrow to pay my monthly bills. Not a good strategy at all. Just like the hare, I started out too fast.
After failing a couple times, I came to the realization that I needed a new plan, one that was attainable and manageable for the long term. I started making smaller consistent payments that I could afford month after month and before I knew it my debt was gone. I also allowed myself to still enjoy life. Paying off debt is great but having no quality of life in the process is not the way to do it. I adopted the tortoise’s approach and it got me to the finish line. Living with an attitude of “all or nothing” was not productive.
What I learned through this whole thing is that you need balance and consistency to be successful. This is also true with our finances. If you are consistent and steady with saving and paying off debt, you will reach the finish line in the end.
Remember, you can have your fun every now and then, just don’t stray to far from your original path that will lead you to your goal.
So, are you going to start acting like the tortoise?
What strategies have you found work great for saving and paying off debt?