Life

How Removing Backpack Straps Saved Me Hundreds of Dollars (You Can Do It Too!)

How’s that for click bait?  Not bad, huh?

I will actually deliver on that title, by the way, but first I want to just say that I’m so tired of ads and post titles like the above.  And I’m even more tired of myself clicking on them. Sometimes I just can’t resist.  So here I am hoping you couldn’t resist and clicked on this one, because I think I actually have something useful to say.

I have an AWESOME budgeting system.  I’ve been using it for several years and it really works for me.  Learn about it here.  This system really has saved me hundreds of dollars.  Probably thousands over the years.  It saves me a lot of money… when I follow it.  The only “hard” part is tracking how much you’ve spent so you stop before getting to zero.  I do this by writing down the numbers on an envelope that I carry in my diaper bag.

Side note: I have the best diaper bag in the world.  If you’re in the market and willing to splurge, I highly recommend it.

Anyway, the success of this budgeting system relies heavily on this envelope.  Every time I spend money, I write it down, do the math, and put the new total of how much I can spend in my brain.  Needless to say, if I fail to write a purchase down, I’m likely to forget about it and go on thinking I have more money left than I really do.

For this reason, I try to write it down right at the cash register or in my car immediately after shopping.  The problem with this?  I have kids.  Four kids and a baby and a cart full of groceries and someone has to pee and someone is making a run for the door and someone else is asking for a quarter and I just don’t always write it down in that moment.  The other problem?  I’m lazy sometimes.  Or in a hurry, or whatever.  Basically, I’m not perfect at tracking my spending, but when I make a conscious effort to do it right away, the system works and I save a lot of money.

Recently I got out of the habit of making the effort and almost completely stopped tracking it.  So at any given time I had no idea (or only a vague idea) of how much money I had left.  No good.  I ended up overspending and not putting anything into savings.  In times past, this kind of thing could send me into a downward spiral of throwing in the towel, whipping out my credit card and not even trying.  But having used this system successfully for so long, I know that it works.  I knew the problem was that I was just not writing purchases down right away.

So I just thought about it for a minute.  Why don’t I write it down?  I always used to, and it wasn’t a big deal.  I visualized me at the grocery store, actually reaching into my bag to pull out the envelope… and guess what I saw?  Backpack straps!  Aha!

Let me explain.  The aforementioned best diaper bag in the world comes with a shoulder strap and backpack straps.  Cool, right?  I mostly carry it on my shoulder, but the backpack straps come in handy when I’m pushing a stroller full of stuff at the dinosaur park or somewhere like that.  But when not in use, the straps kind of block the big back pocket, which is where I keep my budgeting envelope.  It’s not that big of a deal, but it’s a little tricky to get it in and out, especially if I have the bag on my shoulder.

So in my little visualization, I realized that with the crying baby, melting ice cream, potty-dancing 4-year-old and whatever else I have on my mind at the time, those dang straps were just enough of an inconvenience to stop me from pulling out my envelope and tracking my spending!

So I took them off.  It took 10 seconds.  I keep them in the car now, in case I want them on an outing.  And I’m back to writing down my purchases and sticking within my budget (mostly – I’m still not perfect).

So the moral of the story is… remove your backpack straps!!!

Oh wait, that’s not applicable to anyone but me?  Oh, right.

Here is the actual point of this post:

There’s something you want that you’re keeping yourself from having or doing.  Maybe it’s losing weight, or going on a cruise or keeping your office organized.  Chances are, you’ve done your homework.  You’ve researched the best way to do it, you’ve gotten advice, you know what to do.  But there’s something keeping you from starting.  And I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it were as simple as taking straps off a bag.  We’re talking about the very first step, people.  Did removing those straps actually save me a dime?  Of course not!  Neither does the budgeting system.  I like to say it does, but what actually saves money is ME NOT SPENDING MONEY.  So I’m not suggesting that one 10-second task will make you lose 20 pounds, but it is possible that a 10-second task will get you started.  It takes even less time than that to throw a pack of Oreos in the garbage!  Of course it won’t be the only task ahead, but find the one that you can do RIGHT NOW to get you on your way to where you want to be.  Sit down and think and visualize.  Picture yourself doing what you already know you need to do, and look for the first thing that’s stopping you.  Then clear the roadblock!  You may need to repeat the process over and over, but each step will take you closer to your goal.

Oh, and as for the click bait?  Take it with a grain of salt.  Lots of people (myself included) are quick to hand out free tips and advice for any given problem or goal, but you need to find what will work for you.  Don’t worry about what “one weird trick” someone is trying to sell you on, or what works for me (although I really do recommend my budgeting system – haha) or anyone else.  The only thing that will get YOU results is YOU taking action.  So find your fist step and take action!  Then just keep going until you get there.  Good luck!

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