The Process of Habit Evolution

debt free for life changing habits

When I started up the Spending Diet in January of 2011 to try to eliminate the remaining debt that I had I was shocked at how hard the Spending Diet proved to be. I thought that it would be easier than the Spending Fast. Since I had just completed a year of spending no money at all, the Spending Diet seemed like a piece of cake! Especially since I got a $100 “non-need” allowance. (When I first decided to do a Spending Diet I was going to give myself a $200 a month “non-need” limit, and changed it to $100 a month because $200 a month seemed waaayyyy too easy! *shakes head in disbelief*)

Turns out $100 is not really much money at all, and most months it only proved to be a gateway drug to spend more than I was supposed to, and often I felt frustrated that I wasn’t able to stick to my $100 limit.

Sticking to the Spending Diet was very difficult and that sucked. The guilt and remorse that was so often associated with my spending prior to the Spending Fast was back, this time though, I just didn’t have the debt cloud hanging over my head.

That discretionary spending was, once again, my problem, and my main issue. I found myself losing track of how much “non-need” spending I did, and more times then not, I didn’t want to keep track. I found that it was a lot more tedious to be on the Spending Diet because I had grown so accustomed to my “Wants and Needs” list of the Spending Fast. If an item was on my “Needs” list, it was okay to spend money on the item. If it was on my “Wants” list, “Nope, no spending on that!” The Spending Fast was cut and dry and that part made it very easy.

While the Spending Diet was extremely difficult, it eased me into thinking more “normally” about money.

This whole process has been so much about changing my thinking, and about changing my habits even when I don’t really want to.

how to change habitschange

Deep-down, I’m still a natural spender, but I’m also solid proof that getting-out-of debt is possible (even as a spender).

And even though I was far from perfect on the Spending Diet it helped me go from the extreme of spending no-money-at-all to spending a-little-money-sometimes, it’s been more than anything, a transition. A transition that’s taught me how to be cautious with my money, and to not go all ape-sh*t wild like I really want to most of the time.

Like for example, I want to buy these shoes (why is it always shoes or boots!?) and it’s driving me nuts how much I’ve been thinking about them. I’ve looked at the website probably 20 times (at least) this weekend (um, crazy time-consuming! I’ve got stuff that really needs to get done, and I still can’t seem to control myself!), and I keep comparing them with other shoes, and trying to justify a reason why I need these shoes. The reality is, I have plenty of shoes. They’re just not those shoes, and I want those shoes on my feet! Like, yesterday!

Being on the Spending Fast, and Spending Diet has taught me that I can switch camps from being a “Spender” to a “Saver”, that getting out of debt it more hard than it is easy, that it takes a lot of time and repetition for habits to die and for habits to evolve. I’ve also learned time and time again that mistakes will happen, and that it’s really, seriously, okay that they do.

I’ve also realized that I seem to learn the most when I mess up. When I have to find a way to fix something that cements it in my brain.

It’s in the fixing that the true changes happen.

So, with that, this is how the Spending Diet shook out for 2011-2012…

Total Spending Diet Savings: $5,973.94

While that number is considerably lower than the savings from the previous year’s Spending Fast of $17,911.89 it is still pretty good.

(See my Total Savings from the whole deal here)

My habits are continuing to evolve and I’m making peace with the fact that even if I don’t do something perfectly progress is progress. Today, I can live with that; even if it’s hard to see the changes as they’re happening I’m completely amazed when I look back on the past two years and what I’ve been able to accomplish.

debt free livingimage via a well traveled woman

What have you been able to accomplish that amazed you? What habits are the hardest for you to change? What do you do to stay motivated on the days that you want to quit?


17 thoughts on “The Process of Habit Evolution

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  1. Erin

    I have a super hard time NOT going out to eat. I am a pretty good cook but then I get a craving for fast food, or don't have time to make a lunch before I leave. It adds up so fast!

  2. Rich

    Eating out at, or picking up from, a restaurant is the hardest to control. WE also are good cooks and like to cook; a lot. However, life is so busy. Some days it's just easier to pick something up. And since there are 5 of us, it is not cheap. This past weekend is a great example. Oizza on Saturday, PF Changs on Sunday. $100 for the two nights, Ouch. If there is any upside, it's that we still have left overs.

  3. Meghan

    I don't know about anyone else, but the minute I get momentum going on my Spending Diet, an expense comes up! It makes me want to say screw it, I want to go shopping. Over the weekend, my dog got an antler bone lodged in the roof of her mouth and off we went for a visit to the emergency vet. A few hours later the pup's anesthesia wore off and all was back to normal, except my budget is busted. :( So many unexpected expenses lately!!!!

  4. Meghan

    Speaking of, right after I made my post, I went upstairs and checked to see if I had any more glass cleaner or vinegar. I didn't, but I did have water inside the cabinet. After emptying everything out and cleaning up the mess, I identified the source of said water. I get to call a plumber tomorrow. Grr. See?!

  5. Betsy

    Just found your blog–so inspiring!! I'm planning to do a post on Financial freedom and would love to feature you. Thank you for dedicating a blog to a topic most of us hide from!

  6. Anna Newell Jones

    It totally does add up Erin! I've found if I don't let myself get too hungry it's a lot easier to fight the urge to eat out.

  7. Anna Newell Jones

    Hey Meghan, yeah life keeps happening on the Spending Fast and Spending Diet. Be committed to it, keep going, & don't give up! The results are waiting for you!

  8. Anna Newell Jones

    Hey Betsy, glad you found my site! Let me know the link to the post when it's up; would love to see it. Tweet me @andthenshesaved

  9. Rich

    Meghan, right there with you. Although our expenses are not as serious as yours; and I guess that technically, most of them could have been planned for:insuracne bill due on three cars, registration due on two of them; $110 fine for expired registration, propane delivery for house, pump septic tank, Major repair ($1000) to car; unexpected vet bill. This why one of the first things I tried to do was build up savings; $1000. It is, of course, gone right now, but it was a nice buffer. Oh well, at least I can say we are making slow progress.

  10. Beth

    Firstly, I hope you know how many people you've inspired with this blog!
    I'm a very all-or-nothing type of person. It's easier to just NOT do something all-together. I've never understood those people that could only smoke on the weekends – I'd never be able to do that! When I quit I quit. When I do something, I give it my all!

    Anyway, this post made me feel better about not beating myself up about the little things. You're so right – we always learn when we make mistakes! Nobody is perfect, and what really matters is how we work towards making things better the next time around.

    I've been watching a lot of the Biggest Loser lately, and this might sound like a bit of a funny analogy – but it always makes me upset when I see the disappointment on their faces they only lose 1-3 pounds. Sure the other guy lost 14 pounds, but not everyone can do that! Our bodies (and our lives) are all different, and we should be happy with the little accomplishments. So I'm proud of you for what you saved last year, even if it wasn't the same as the year before. As they say in the Biggest Loser, hey, at least it's a loss! (or in your case, a gain!)


  11. Kendra

    I’m late to this, but when Beth mentioned all-or-nothing, I have to wonder how many of us spendy types have an all-or-nothing disposition. That would explain why we excel at getting out of debt (who else but AONs could be as extreme as to live off rice and beans?) but don’t do so well in the gray area post-debt. I’m a clothes shopper and to keep it under control, I have to be extreme. I take my focus off of clothes and shopping by not getting every fashion magazine and not visiting certain websites. I only go shopping twice a year within budget, and other times only when I’m not in the midst of a frenzy. Most of he time I’m fine but I’ve discovered that focusing on it too much can awaken the ol’ shopper, the same as a gambler can be lured back into their addiction. So I avoid certain triggers and take stock of how I’m feeling before I go. But having a certain amount to spend per year is definitely harder than alloting zero. My AON brain just doesn’t know what to do with that.


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