One of the most powerful tools in your debt-free plan is the word “no.”
No, I will not buy new hand towels when the 10 mismatched ones I currently own dry the dishes perfectly fine.
No, I will not select more than one pair of earrings, just to take advantage of the “Buy 2 get 1 half off” sale.
No, I do not need the Keurig when the Mr. Coffee works great.
No, when I go to Costco to get bananas, I will not also toss into my giant cart the DVDs, the Christmas decorations, the crate of new flatware, the Vitamix, the toaster oven and the complete set of patio furniture—on my way to the produce section.
The word “no” spoken to yourself, a thousand times, over the course of time, will get you to debt-free.
Before Jon and I got engaged, I was actively shopping for a house. As a single woman with a decent job and a good savings, I didn’t want to throw my hard-earned money at a rental. I had a price-point in mind, based on my income and the fact that I’d also need to furnish the home.
(Because my childhood bedroom set was nice and all, but, where would I eat?)
When Jon asked me to marry him, suddenly my “household income” doubled. Where I had previously been looking for houses in the $75K range, the bank was now willing to approve us for houses in the $150K range!
Back in Northwest Ohio in 1992, you could buy a sweet starter home for $150,000.
So, you know what we did?
We said, “No.”
With two incomes and no children, we could have afforded a $150,000 house, no problem. But we decided we could find a great house for the two of us for half that.
Two years later, when we moved to Florida, we sold our house for $81,000, took the profit, the equity, and our additional savings (we saved because we didn’t throw all our income at our mortgage!) and looked for a new house.
By this time with two (higher) incomes and still no kids, we could have afforded something in the $250K range. But we knew we wanted to start a family at some point. And I planned to quit my job to raise the kids. So, instead of looking at the $250K homes, we decided to pretend I didn’t have an income—at least where the mortgage was concerned. We purchased a house well below our “approved” amount, used my income to purchase furniture—and we banked the rest.
Two years later, when I gave birth to Noah, we never blinked, financially. We had been living on Jon’s income alone for so long, it was an easy-peasy transition.
“Live like no one else, so later on you can live like no one else.” ~Dave Ramsey
It wasn’t easy to see our peers with nicer homes and nicer cars. It was a bit embarrassing to sit in their fully furnished dining rooms and beautifully decorated family rooms, when we still had bare walls and sparse furniture and my childhood bedroom set in the guest room. It wasn’t convenient rummaging through racks at TJ Maxx for decent business attire, when the women in my office shopped at upscale department stores.
But “No” has served us well.
Over the last 20 years, we have said “No” to ourselves thousands of times—literally.
It’s the big no’s—like more expensive houses.
And the little no’s—like ordering water instead of tea.
Or waiting until I get home to make a pot of coffee instead of paying $4 for a cup of Starbucks.
It’s deciding the frayed towels and worn bed sheets will do for another year. Maybe two. Okay, twenty.
That our much-used wedding dishes are fine (even for guests), chips, cracks and all.
That the puked on-peed on carpet may be disgusting, but not so disgusting that we need to replace it before the house is paid off.
It’s saying “I don’t need another Yankee Candle” and “I can go a few more weeks before I get a cut and high light.” (even though I love Yankee Candles and good hair)
It’s deciding to eat at home instead of out.
It’s resolving the outdated Dell laptop will survive another year of blogging.
(Okay…that last one is a total lie. I just lied to you. The Dell laptop is on its last leg, y’all. Jon, kids…if you are reading this, remember Mother’s Day is THIS SUNDAY! Nothing says “love” like a Mac Book Air.)
It’s walking through Target and telling myself “no” to every last item that is not on my list.
(I just heard a collective groan from you…)
It’s basically telling myself “no” to every impulse purchase and to frivolous spending, altogether.
But the beauty of debt-free living is that you don’t have to tell yourself “No” forever.
No is temporary.
“Remember that these small actions, done one day after another and another, give way to mountain-moving conditions. Think of the grains of sand that comprise the Sahara.” ~ Tsh Oxenreider
Once you meet that financial goal: when you make that last credit card payment, car payment, school loan payment, house payment…Baby, THEN you can start telling yourself “yes.” A resounding and recurring, glorious, well-deserved, hard-earned, GUILT-FREE YES!
Yes, I think I will get new matching plates.
Yes, I would love a night out at a great restaurant.
Yes, I like all three of those pairs of earrings. I think I’ll take ‘em.
Yes, I think I would like to go pick out new carpet today—and let’s add to that order, some new kitchen appliances and maybe throw in some granite counter tops, with a side of tile backsplash and a dash of matching kitchen towels, thankyouverymuch.
Balance is the art of knowing when to say yes and when to say no.
So, practice saying “no” to yourself.
Say it early. Say it often. Make friends with it.
And eventually your good friend “no” will open the door to a well-balanced and debt-free “yes.”
This is Week 13 of a year-long series on having Better Balance in 2013. For all the posts in this series, click here.
This is also week 3 of a mini-series of posts on being debt-free. In case you missed those:
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Q4U: Is “no” your friend?