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Dragging the Tin Woodsman on Your Journey to Financial Success

Financial Journey (featured column)
by Karen Kuebler

How many of us have tried to travel the path of frugality feeling like we are dragging the other members of the family along behind us? Sometimes they are trudging along behind us, and others are being dragged with a ball and chain.

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I know this is an exaggerated picture, but often we are not skipping down the path hand in hand! This could be due to the fact that you are forced to follow the path and not all family members are willing participants, or it could be that one family member is the visionary for this life of simplicity and frugality and the other members haven’t caught the vision yet.

My husband and I began our financial journey with entirely different backgrounds and perspectives about handling money. I was the one who had the natural inclinations toward frugality, having experienced many years of my childhood with meager surroundings and income. My husband was an only child whose parents lavished upon him just about anything he wanted.

This is a little sidebar, but I have to share it. One day he and I sat down to start a project of taping his life history. I was playing Barbara Walters and asking the questions. I asked him what kinds of chores he remembered doing as a young child. We were about 15 minutes into the tape. He said he didn’t have to do any chores! He said once in awhile he might be asked to take the garbage out.

Well, after that we didn’t get much further on the tape. A long conversation ensued, where I was feeling sorry for myself and felt like Cinderella as a child and was jealous of him having it so easy. We laugh about it now.

I’ll have to say he has grown into a most sensitive and loving adult, and always does housework with me. It’s a 50/50 partnership. Anyway, I know I digressed, but I always laugh when I remember that story. The tape is still sitting in our drawer waiting to be finished.

As a young adult, my life continued down a path of forced frugality but I didn’t think much about it since I was pretty used to it. My husband always had the money for what he needed and wanted. He did not have the experience or example of living on a tight income and saving money for a rainy day, so he didn’t worry about it.

In the early stages of our marriage we weren’t frugal and we weren’t saving. I was rather enjoying the new spendthrift lifestyle that I had ‘caught’ from my husband! We were both working, so why not enjoy it. A couple of years later, I decided to quit work to return to school.

Heavily in debt, and living on one income, we returned to a path of living consciously and frugally. Having been down this path many times in my past, it was easy for me to return to it. I was actually enjoying it.

Here is the picture of me skipping along the path with my husband tailing behind. Try to visualize Dorothy having to drag the Tin Woodsman down the yellow brick road and you might have the picture of our journey at this point! To say he wasn’t enthusiastic about this in the beginning would be an understatement.

We’ve discussed this from time to time. Yesterday, we talked about it again. I asked him at what point did he become converted to this way of living. He loves it now. I honestly don’t think he would do things much differently if something happened to me tomorrow. He might buy more convenience foods because he doesn’t cook. But, other than that, he is pretty well entrenched in this way of life. Even though we don’t have to live on a shoestring budget anymore, we still do.

He said enlightenment occurred for him somewhat gradually. When he could see the savings grow, and the future dreams become more of a reality, he became an enthusiastic participant. In the beginning, he was unable to actually picture our goals as reality. Once he was able to experience the accomplishment of our goals along the way, he became convinced. His creativity and resourcefulness became a vital success factor in our journey.

If you approach this journey with enthusiasm, it will make all the difference in the world. Rather than feeling deprived, you will begin to feel like you are really doing something that will make a difference and get you where you want to go.

Start to track your progress toward your goals. Use visuals to help you see how far you have come. Celebrate milestones toward goals by rewarding yourself occasionally. Share the progress with the rest of the family. Enlist their help in ideas for further progress. Attitude plays a major role when it comes to enjoying your journey.

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Copyright 2002 by Karen Kuebler. All rights reserved.

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