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Fiscal Discipline: It Has to Have a Purpose

August 12th, 2014 at 11:41 am

Intellectually, I can see that being fiscally disciplined is in a way its own reward. Being in financial control of yourself is good in and of itself. But when you are embarking on a lifelong journey of fiscal discipline I think you need a destination. A goal. A reason to stay the course. A carrot. A heavy-duty carrot. Without that very strong long-term incentive, it could be too easy to dribble away money on shorter gratifications like lattes, a seventh pair of shoes, or the third vacation of the year.

For me, the first financial discipline goals were easy to define. Get my income to exceed my living expenses so I could stop living on borrowed money. Then build up an emergency reserve to backstop that income. Then save the money to buy for cash a car I could be happy with for a long time and dump the old wreck I was driving. Then move to a decent apartment I could afford and furnish it modestly but comfortably. At which point, about one year into my fiscal discipline journey, I had had the time to decide on my first truly heavy-duty carrot: buy a house and stop paying rent.

Setting those initial goals in sequence and keeping my money in my pocket so I could reach them was an adult thing to do. It required planning ahead and it required financial self-control in the present. And the carrot of those goals made the self-control much easier.

But just about everyone gets that far: job, car, reasonable housing, bills paid on time. Somehow, though, a lot of people seem to get stuck at that point. It just seems that they do not look beyond job, car, and a place to live. So, as their incomes improve, they just keep increasing the amounts they spend on car, housing, and an ever increasing load of consumer installment debt for recreational distractions needed to offset job stress and tedium.

They are living in the "now", not looking very far ahead. Like a child would. It is life caught in a consumerism hamster wheel.

The takeaway: It is terribly difficult to be fiscally disciplined in a vacuum. You need to give yourself a reason to be fiscally disciplined. You need to look ahead, use your imagination and set financial goals.

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2 Responses to “Fiscal Discipline: It Has to Have a Purpose”

  1. wowitsawonderfullife Says:

    "But just about everyone gets that far: job, car, reasonable housing, bills paid on time". I think things have changed. When I grew up I didn't know anyone who didn't have a job unless they were without work by choice. I think it's very different now. I know several 20-somethings who are out of work yet university educated. But I do agree whole heartedly that once the job is in place that your article is 100% bang on.

  2. Retired To Win Says:

    wowitsawonderfullife...

    Thank you for the comment. It's true: it's hard to be fiscally disciplined if you don't have any money or credit to be disciplined about.

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