It takes a highly positive, can-do attitude to be a great athlete. You have to have a vision to be the best you can be. Set high goals, work hard, practice, and demonstrate great determination. Make it all second nature, a part of your persona. Then, after a lot of effort, commitment, and dogged perseverance, you make yourself into the athlete who wins the big trophy.
The frugality trophy, that is.
What? Did you think I was talking about sports or fitness?
Actually, I was talking about what it takes to become a great frugal athlete!
The term “frugal athlete” could mean many things. One definition could be an athlete that happens to be frugal. You know – someone who wants to get in shape without spending a lot of money. That would be a great topic, perhaps one for another article, but I’m talking about something different here. When I talk about a frugal athlete, I’m talking about someone who is a highly skilled, competitive athlete in the sport of frugality!
Let’s face it: there are many people that thrive on living within their means, and maximizing the income minus expense gap. To do that, you have to:
a) protect and maximize your income earning potential; and
b) maintain a disciplined approach to keeping expenses low
As financial athlete, you take the two together. We can call that cross-training:) But in terms of the sport of frugality, we will focus on the latter: managing expenses.
So, how do you become a frugal athlete? Well, let’s just say I’m continually working on the “manual” as I train, day by day! But here is how I view it:
1) Visualize success. Just as athletes work toward the goal of winning a championship, making the game winning shot, or getting the clutch game winning hit, the frugal athlete can work toward his or her individual, overall financial goal. Within that goal is the sub-goal of reducing expenses to the lowest reasonable level at which a comfortable lifestyle can be lived. As with many things, what is “comfortable” is relative to each of our individual tastes. That said, it’s visualizing where you could be in terms of spending – living a waste-free life that’s comfortable, where you don’t throw away money but do get value for every hard-earned dollar you spend.
2) Break apart the long-term goal into tangible, intermediate goals. Just as a pitcher in baseball learns his pitching mechanics, fastball, curveball, pickoff move, fielding skills, etc – you can break up your frugality goals into different tasks. These might include: deciphering wants vs. needs, knowing where to shop for groceries, learning how to obtain the best mortgage, learning the best sources for online coupons, etc.
3) Train effectively. Just as an athlete works with knowledgeable trainers and uses the latest techniques, the frugal athlete should do the same. To me, this entails spending time learning from the most current and knowledgeable sources – such as books, blogs, and those who have achieved frugal success themselves.
4) Practice Regularly and Routinely. Natural talent alone will not get it done here; you must work hard at making frugality a part of your daily routine. This could mean substitution: cutting out that $3 daily latte for a $1 cup of coffee instead. Or, it could mean cutting out that cup of coffee for water, thereby kicking that caffeine habit. Perhaps it means checking online for coupons before grocery shopping at a store with good prices, as opposed to going to a pricier store that you’re used to visiting. No matter how you do it, you have to practice. The more you practice, the better chance you have to succeed.
5) Persevere. Just as an athlete must press onward in the face of obstacles, so must the frugal athlete. A basketball player, for example, may get up at 5:30am in the off-season to run sprints and keep in tip top shape. If he gets tired, loses focus, and skips a few days – then he slips back a bit in his conditioning. He needs to be mentally tough. With the frugal athlete, it means keeping your focus and discipline when you have weak moments. For example, you may want to give in to the temptation of buying a very nice pair of shoes at the mall, but when you realize it will blow your budget, you pass on the opportunity and head down to a less expensive store. Emotion can be a big obstacle to staying disciplined.
Ultimately, the athlete who takes these steps will be in a great position to succeed and meet that big goal, be it winning a tennis tournament or achieving a personal best in a marathon. For the frugal athlete, taking these steps could lead to achieving the goal of bringing down expenses as a part of maximizing the income minus expense gap. The prize in this case could ultimately be financial freedom.
Is this a bit esoteric? Maybe it is. But we can learn a lot about reaching goals and becoming our best from areas outside of personal finance. Applying these principles to our money management could lead to our own victories that bring us a higher quality of life.
What do you think? Do you think that we can learn from other disciplines to become better at managing our money and reaching our overall goals?
This post was included in Festival of Frugality #232 at Provident Planning