Kali Hawlk is a freelance writer and blogger with a passion for helping twentysomethings learn to manage their money and live well on less. When she’s not out on a run, she blogs about personal finance and more at CommonSenseMillennial.com.
Although I hate to admit it now, the truth is I used to be far from frugal. I frequently gave in to the desire to accumulate more stuff, material things, clutter, and junk. Remarkably, I never went into debt, but I certainly didn’t have anything left over at the end of each month to save. I coveted what other people had that I couldn’t afford.
I was miserable without what I thought I had to have, but even when I went on a shopping spree, the happiness was quick to fade. Before the day was done, I would be back to being bored, sad that I didn’t have what someone else had, or feeling bad about the way I looked and wondering when I’d have enough clothes to make me feel good about myself.
I used shopping and spending as a cure for boredom, a way to relieve stress, and to improve my mood and confidence. Unfortunately, at the time I didn’t understand that I was choosing a really bad coping mechanism for dealing with my problems.
I wish I had some sort of financial epiphany that made me see the error of my ways (it would be a fitting story for a financial blogger with ideas about what twentysomethings should know about money). But what turned my spending around – and what ultimately saved my budget from being annihilated every month – was a habit I gained: Running.
It was this simple activity – something that we’re all born to do – that allowed me to kick the comparison habit, stop wanting what I didn’t have (to start appreciating everything I already had), and helped me develop a greater self-confidence. Running gave me a purpose I didn’t have before.
Suddenly, every afternoon I had a task to complete; I went for a run, cross-trained, did strength training, or took a rest day and went for a walk instead. A less-than-stellar season on the high school track team that ended in multiple injuries and embarrassing showings during competition left me feeling as though I had something to prove, so I was extremely motivated to work hard and succeed.
Becoming a runner made me healthier in every way: physically, mentally, and fiscally. Though the physical benefits were an obvious plus, I was surprised when I realized I had made positive financial changes, too. I quit going shopping for crap I didn’t need. New clothes didn’t make me feel confident; my belief in myself and what I could do made me feel that way. I started saving all the money I previously would have spent on more stuff that was supposed to make me feel happy, but didn’t.
Before I started running, I’d often feel drained and miserable. Becoming a runner made me feel energized, inspired, and motivated to work hard in every aspect of my life. I realized how much I had the ability to save, and I made a plan to stick with a strict budget and make the most out of my small income. I started setting ambitious goals and then throwing myself into making my dreams into realities. Without a doubt, I wouldn’t have found the drive to start up a blog, pursue a career as a freelance writer, and start making plans to quit my day job to travel full-time if I never found myself as a runner.
Now, when I am bored, I go for a run (or at least a walk) or work out instead of riding in my car to the mall. When I feel sad, I go for a run instead of sitting on my butt in front of the computer for a marathon session of online shopping. When I am stressed, depressed, or confused about something, I go for a run instead of lying in bed, staring at the ceiling and moping.
Whenever things are bad or not right, I go for a run and everything is okay.
What do you do to save your budget and reduce your spending?