The Discipline of Self-Discipline

In September, I decided to take a close look at my finances to see where else I may be able to curb my spending as I look towards the future. With no one keeping tabs on me, it can be really easy to justify that happy hour, new pair of shoes, or medium half-caf, half-vanilla almond milk latte… that I get several times a week. It’s all fun and games until the credit card bill arrives. Mix in real life (the plumbing problems I’ve had twice this year, and – SURPRISE – I need to replace my 25-year old furnace and A/C too). Let’s just say the reality of my spending caught up with me.

I made a decision to take a hardline on my finances in October, starting with my food/coffee/eating out budget. My goal was to spend less than I had been without completely giving up my vices. Using recommendations from Smart Dollar, I chose a number and made a commitment to myself: October would be the month I really put my money where my mouth was. Literally.

On October 1, I went to the bank and withdrew cash for the amount I had allotted for food and uploaded my coffee allowance to my Caribou app. It was empowering and nerve-wracking at that same time. And cash? Well, that changed the game.

I’ll spare you all of the details, but I’ll share what I learned about the discipline of self-discipline. It’s hard. It’s uncomfortable. It’s inconvenient. It forces you to say no to things you want to do and think twice about most of your purchases. It is painful to turn over real money instead of swiping a magical card, and watching the money dwindle created a real sense of anxiety until I reminded myself why I was doing this: to improve my financial health, give me an awareness around my spending, and slow my “money grows on trees” roll. Embrace the suck!

However, it wasn’t only hard lessons that I learned. There was a real sense of connection and intention to my choices that had been missing for a long time. It made me more conscientious of looking for ways to save money on shopping trips, eating out or ordering in. I was more planful in ensuring that I had enough choice to keep me satisfied through meal planning to avoid a lot of waste with my groceries.

In short, I kept my integrity in tact during this experiment. Brené Brown tells us that the definition of integrity is: choosing courage over comfort; choosing what’s right over what’s fun, fast, or easy; and it’s practicing your values, not just professing them.” No one promises that self-discipline will be fun, fast or easy, but it does create meaning. We can do hard things.

So how did my experiment turn out? I used every penny of my food/happy hour budget, but only 60% of my coffee budget (this is an actual miracle). Did I get to do everything I wanted? No, but I also didn’t feel deprived. I’m really proud of how disciplined I was and am encouraged to carry this forward into November and beyond. Going into the holidays, I am committed to being gentle with myself as far as additional demands go, but anything is possible when we put our minds to something!

QOTD:  “Life is short. Stay awake for it.” ~ Caribou Coffee

Mood: May It Be — Enya

Share: Do you struggle with self-discipline? Where do you do well, and where can you improve?

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