I'm lucky. The sacrifices I've made to improve my financial condition haven't been too painful. I drove my first car for about 13 years, for example, but it never pained me to forgo buying a new car. In graduate school one year, I ate a lot of ramen noodles and beans and rice, but I actually like ramen noodles and beans and rice.
What sacrifices are you making, or have you made, to improve your financial condition? On our Credit Cards and Consumer Debt board, where lots of board denizens routinely report on their progress defeating massive debt loads, this topic recently came up. Here are some sacrifices that members reported. Perhaps some of their stories will inspire you to save some more dollars yourself:
- Windowseat said: "I'm living in a less than luxurious apartment, bringing my own lunch, and resisting regular temptations because I want to have a healthy savings account. I will never again face short-term disability or unemployment without a safety net, and I want to have money for a retirement." She later added: "I take public transportation to work. Two changes in each direction, occasionally miserable conditions, and it adds at least 20 minutes in each direction. But it is much cheaper than parking near where I work."
- Amy4Tybee noted: "I'm working two jobs to eliminate the last of our debt. Probably the biggest challenge for me is not buying into the temptations that surround me in Chicago. Everywhere I look, everyone is getting spa treatments, buying expensive clothes, driving expensive cars. Eventually you get the unconscious message that this is how you're supposed to live, the status quo."
- Gingko100 reported: "I lived in a studio apartment until I was 39 so I could afford to buy a house in the San Francisco Bay area. I knew if I lived like I wanted in my 30s, I couldn't in my 40s and beyond."
- Diablo2Queen confessed: "My children have never been to Disney World. My husband and I haven't had a vacation since 1999. I still have the ugly carpet that was in my house when we moved in."
- And ilovepez offered this unusual strategy: "My husband and I have been married for over 10 years, and for about nine of those years, we have lived with a roommate. From our very first apartment through our current house (we own and he rents from us), we have found it very useful to have another party to help cover the rent or contribute toward the bills.
Let it sink in
I hope that no one is reading this list and thinking, "Yeah, yeah, yeah -- so they suffer a lot and save a little more than me. I'm doing all right saving a little here and there." But if you face some financial obstacles, such as credit card debt, please let these stories sink in, because they can give you a push toward doing something about them. For instance, Fool Community member bleplatt reports what happened by going without car repairs, a decent computer, and home maintenance:
"I have paid down almost $30,000 in debt in less than 23 months and have been sticking 10% into my retirement account. So, frankly, a dinged-up door and a computer that drives me bonkers is chump change compared to the realization I had this weekend that, IF I am careful over the summer and IF I get a tax return the size of last year's, I could be non-mortgage debt-free by September 2007. (I cried.)"
See? Making some serious sacrifices, even if it's just for a few years, can make a huge difference in your life. Otherwise, if you owe $30,000 on credit cards with an interest rate of 20%, you're facing payments of $6,000 per year just in interest. How ridiculous and painful is that?
Think of what that $6,000 could have been doing for you instead. If it were invested in, say, an S&P 500 index fund, it would instantly make you a part-owner of hundreds of different companies. If it grew at the market's historic average rate of 10% annually, a single $6,000 investment would grow to be worth some $65,000 in 25 years. Not bad for a single $6,000 that didn't have to simply service expensive debt, eh?
The good news
The good news is that you can get out of debt, and you can build a more comfortable future for yourself. And you don't have to be wincing and wearing burlap clothing while you do. Read through the whole board discussion, which spans more than 80 posts, and you'll run across many more good ideas.
And finally, if credit cards have messed up your life to any degree, learn much more about the surprisingly interesting credit card industry in our Credit Center, which also features tips on getting out of debt, along with guidance on how to manage your credit effectively. There's some great stuff there, and it's all free reading.
The following articles can also help you:
- The 8 Commandments of Credit
- The Best Low-Interest Credit Card?
- Urban Credit Legends Exposed!
- $24 Billion to Card Companies ... for What?
- Sneaky Credit Card Tactics
For more money-saving advice, tips on great deals, and general investing guidance, I invite you to take advantage of a free trial of our Motley Fool Green Light newsletter service. I think you'll like what you see.