Why KonMari and Dave Ramsey Failed Me, And How I Found What Works

This post is about how KonMari and Dave Ramsey didn’t quite work for me the way I had hoped, and what I learned from the experience. Before anyone gets all defensive about either of these methods, I’m gonna say that I learned things of value from both the individual methods as well my personal failures with them. In fact, I’m happy I tried both of them, failed, and learned what I did. 

If you have ever been on a diet/”cleanse”/”detox” (or many), you probably are intimately familiar with the emotional states that motivated you to overhaul your lifestyle. Specifically, the frustration and impatience. “Why is my life such a mess? Oh god, how did I let it get this bad? I need to change everything right now. That’s IT! I’m making a change.”

And instead of making one change, such as “eating more vegetables at dinnertime” or “going to bed 1 hour earlier,” you decide to make many changes. Maybe you do a Whole 30 or a 21-Day Fix or whathaveyou. You cut out several food groups, count every calorie at every meal, implement a new workout, completely change what you order in restaurants, completely change your meal schedule, try and shop for completely different foods, cook completely different foods, and more…..all at the same time.

Within 3 months, your habits are back to where you started, and the cycle begins all over again. Maybe you have a case of the “fuckits” (as in, “fuck it; I’ll do what I want!”) for a while until the frustration and impatience builds up again. “Why is my life such a mess? Oh god, how did I let it get this bad? I need to change everything right now. That’s IT! I’m making a change.”

And on and on it goes…..

I’m gonna propose that programs like the KonMari method and Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover have much in common with the quick “fixes” of the diet world. Let’s look at some of the similarities:

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Convenience and Saving Money Through Meal Planning – What’s Working For Me

Happy March! This month, the Healthy Habits Happy Moms habit of the month is meal planning / meal prep (go check them out if you are looking for healthy habit ideas! I’ve tried a few of them and have really enjoyed them).  I have been doing some form of meal planning for several years now, and have tried several different strategies.  This post will discuss some of the strategies I have tried, and what is working for me right now.
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I Cut My Grocery Bill in Half!

Last month I posted about how eating intuitively had suddenly clicked for me….but that my shopping and cooking habits hadn’t caught up to my eating habits yet, so I was wasting a lot of food.

Well, this evening I went grocery shopping and realized that for the past two weeks, I had easily spent almost half of what I had spent in prior weeks. Even though I bought plenty of vegetables and fruit, some meat and seafood and eggs, and some treat foods (I still had plenty of dry goods in the pantry).

And the past couple Sunday nights, my husband and I have cooked some food to have on hand for the upcoming week, and we have done a pretty good job cooking the right amount for the week and not throwing much away.

And my pantry is pretty full, so I’m sure that if I actually bothered to meal plan, I’d spend even less.

So, I would say that I am adjusting well to my new intuitive eating habits….and they are benefiting not only my physical health (better sleep), but my budget too!

Habit Cultivation for Financial Goals: My Personal Experience

Two years ago, in October 2013, I learned about Dave Ramsey and read the information on his website as well as his book, The Total Money Makeover. My husband and I were inspired and blasted through the first two baby steps: saving $1000 in an emergency fund, and paying off all non-mortgage debt using the debt snowball. Doing those things was a huge relief, and we started working on baby step 3: fully funding our emergency fund with 3-6 months expenses.

And our pace slowed down. We had a few times we’ve had to use the emergency fund to cover various costs, and each time, it seemed like our motivation and intensity diminished.

This year, one of the goals I set at the beginning of 2015 was to “save $12,000 in the emergency fund.” I wanted to finish it off and be done with it.

And then we needed to replace our car. Our emergency fund was down to around $1200. So very discouraging. There was no way that we would finish it by the end of the year.

Don’t get me wrong: we were still in a better place than we were when we started. We haven’t put anything on a credit card in two years! But we were stagnant; we weren’t moving forward.

And then I realized that focusing on the end number might be what was killing our motivation –  similar to how focusing on a “goal weight” while dieting can make every day choices and changes seem to not matter. So I thought, “what if, instead of chasing the end goal of a certain number, I focused on cultivating the habit of the ACTION of saving?” So, as I had done with my other goals, I got rid of the goal of the “end number,” and set a goal to make a deposit at least 15 times of at least $10 by the end of the year (this was in September). Surely I could do at least that, right? It wasn’t nearly where we needed to be, but it was more than zero. So, I started by depositing $10.

And you know what? Over the next 6 weeks, it got easier! I’ve been depositing $20 or $30 some weeks! Seeing the balance go up again is encouraging. (And we got a few hundred for the car we would have junked, so that helped too).

It was definitely an epiphany that I could apply the same habit cultivation methods to savings habits that I was using with training and sleeping and eating habits. I am excited to see if this helps us get over the low motivation hump with this goal.  We’ve tried other money management methods before with similar results: high motivation in the beginning, and lower motivation later. I’m thinking that perhaps they all failed for us thus far because they required a complete overhaul of our habits overnight. Maybe if we had taken the time to develop one habit at a time, we might have had more sustainable success. Hey, just like health habits! Whoa!

Got any saving tips? I’d love to hear about them!