Now I am a big fan of Big Goals – I think we should dream big and take action to get up, get out and craft the lives for our families that we desire. Naturally I find myself at odds frequently with the dour Scottish Mindset… but I am sure you guys get where I am coming from?
But the reality is, at some point you have got to stop, take stock and focus on the basics for a while. Sometimes it is about “taking care of the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves”.
I knew when I was staring down the barrel of a 10K debt, with my income overnight shrinking to £800 that the only thing that was going to move me from this position of penury was complete mastery over every single penny of my budget. Then again I do regard my budget as a “plan of where to spend every penny rather than a record of where it was spent”.
Time moves on, debts get paid down, families move into financial equilibrium – yet I still return once per quarter to an absolute focus on the “little things” – yup!! For a few hours or so every three months I really do “Sweat the Small Stuff”.
Every line in my budget is scrutinised – nothing is sacred, everything is up for renegotiation and I reserve the right to throw my hands up and shout “well mucked that one up – shall we start again?”
Eating out expenses creeping up? – Well I can choose can’t I? I can choose to make this a priority and find the money from somewhere else in the budget, or I can choose to be better organised with my planning and have something suitable in the freezer for those “Oh! I cannot be bothered” evenings – come on admit it, you have those too don’t you?
Grocery bills edging upwards – well the cost of everything is rising, but is there another reason? Have I been shopping without a meal-plan? Without a shopping list? With the kids in tow? (Yeah, my kids cost me more too if they get to pick and choose). Have I become lazy and popped one too many ready meals in the basket – have I got out of the habit of making my own breads (I have a bread-maker BTW I am not a born homemaker LOL)?
Do I have enough in my petrol budget? Actually I looked at how “little” I spend on petrol in a month and have made the decision to get rid of my car come June when the out of town school runs stop – this “little” number in my budget will mean a BIG saving in ancillary expenditure of Car Tax, Insurances, Repairs, M.O.T’s – in fact it will give me a 25% pay rise in available funds after June – yup! For me the cost of having a car “sitting” on the driveway is about £200 per month. I just don’t use the car enough to warrant that kind of expenditure.
That will enable me to double up on my mortgage payments – cutting my Mortgage Free Date by eleven years. Little things plus time add up to truly impressive results.
It works in other ways too, this periodic checking of the “little things”. It can work when scrutinising your income – I have a very smart friend (smart enough that one day soon we hope to be calling her Professor) who discovered that she had been underpaid by a Government Department for nearly 7 years.
Now that is a pretty good return on investment for taking a little bit of time to check that the “little things” are correct. I bet we would all love to find a little accidental windfall like that wouldn’t we?
So setting that Great Big Fat Audacious Goal – gets two thumbs up from me … but maybe set a little time aside to throw a glance over the little things too. In this family it is paying huge financial dividends.
So what “little things” make a big impact for you on your way to the “Big Goal”?
Elaine has ridden the roller-coaster of the Credit Crunch. She fought the banks – and won! Saving the family home for her two boys and paying off the negative wealth in less than two years (despite being on welfare for one year). She has now set herself the challenge of building a business and paying off her mortgage of £125,000 ($185,000) in three years. Follow her ups, downs and sideways moods at Mortgage Free In Three.