I try my best to apply everything I learn to my personal life – whether I learned it during my time in Corporate America, during courses in college, or in a sermon at church – each message or lesson can be applied to so many situations in your personal life.
Well, several years ago, I attended a training session on the book, “Leadership Challenge,” by authors Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner. The book is geared towards leaders in business and the premise of the book is learning techniques to motivate people to get things done by using “five practices of exemplary leadership.”
Well, one particular practice which is something I constantly apply in our life everyday is the principle to challenge the process. I want to discuss how I've applied this principle to my personal life and share tips for you to challenge your budget and think out of the box.
Challenge Your Goals
I talk about SMART goals here. Having clear goals also ties in the other tips I share. You have to have clear, defined goals to even start to challenge them and your way of doing things! Just think of it like this, companies don't grow because they remain status quo.Successful companies have performance management systems in place that includes challenging the current state of the business to help achieve goals and increase profit for shareholders. Well, I believe frugal minded families are following suit too – only the increase in profit (or savings) goes in their own bank accounts and earn a return on their investment! Challenging your personal goals is key in growing and moving on to the next goal to tackle!
Challenge Your Spending
My grocery budget is $100 a week for our family of 5 (which includes one on formula and in diapers). The budget is for any household items we need whether it's cleaning supplies, food, health/beauty, diapers – everything! This budget was around $150 – $200 a week last year until I really started to focus on savings for our family.
I was able to really see where our money was going and know exactly what to challenge, by utilizing a money-tracking software. We use Money because it came FREE with our computer, but there are many other software packages that do what it does. By utilizing money management software, I was able to truly determine and analyze the spending for our family and know what areas I could challenge our spending in order to save more.
I saw that I would make a trip to Sam's here, visit Kroger multiple times per week, not shop at drugstores like CVS or Walgreens at all (gasp…I know!). This really opened my eyes and showed me how I could begin to save more on our purchases, start stockpiling rather than shopping at warehouse clubs, and begin to challenge my spending and the process in which I spent.
The easiest way to spend, was definitely not the smartest financially. By challenging our spending, our budget, and our process, we're shopping smarter! We have saved an estimated $900 just last year in our grocery budget alone and that doesn't include the thousands in savings from couponing.
Challenge Your Process
Sometimes it is so easy to keep doing things the way we've always done them. This tip has really helped us to challenge our own process and showed us that doing this can help to achieve your goals!
I typically never have cash on me. But, that changed when we went on a cash-only diet. Many of you Dave Ramsey devotees know this method of payment all too well! Well, we primarily used our debit or credit cards because of convenience. I won't discuss the pros/cons of Dave's philosophy, but here's how I used his suggestion of using cash to challenge our process and budget.
I really wanted to try to save as much money possible during January and April. Well, I decided I would follow the practice of using cash for all my purchases during each month. I used cash primarily for payments that revolved and were f2f purchases (i.e., gas, groceries, coffee, etc). I continued to take advantage of our bank's free online banking for monthly bills like mortgage, utilities, etc.
Doing this cash-only diet was an excellent way we found to challenge our budget by challenging our process of how we spent for years and years. I was forced to use some creative ways to find money (extra cash or gift cards) to pay for things, which also forced me to think out of the box. This challenge showed us how much extra money we would have if we didn't use a credit or debit card. We were able to send extra payments to pay on debt – all because we wanted to challenge how we've always done things and refusing to remain status quo! I'm happy to report that we're still doing this today.
Finally, staying at home with our kids was a personal decision for my husband and I because our income allowed it, and it's only been 3 years since I've been in this “new” job. But, the tips I've listed above and challenging them on a frequent basis, allows our family the ability to breathe comfortably even with the recent food increases and, oh yeah, paying $4 for a gallon of gas.
I promise you, if we did things the way we used to and not challenged our process, I would more than likely be back at work because our financial situation would not allow me to stay home. These tips are small but in the scheme of things they can help you fill up your car for the month – challenging the process does truly help overall!