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Ask Dave

Be Aggressive With the Budget

Misty is a physical education teacher and focuses heavily on eating well. A large part of her budget goes toward food. How serious is Dave when it comes to a beans-and-rice budget?

QUESTION: Misty in Indianapolis is a physical education teacher and focuses heavily on eating well. A large part of her budget goes toward food. How serious is Dave when it comes to a beans-and-rice budget?

ANSWER: Beans and rice is a metaphor for taking your lifestyle to scorched earth. If you want to eat well, you know this: Stay out of restaurants. There should be no restaurants in your budget.

The only form of problem you have is debt because you keep spending all your money. You’ve got to decide which one you want to do.

Honestly, my answer to restaurants is your only form of entertainment is bull. You’re a phys ed teacher. Buy a Frisbee. “The only form of entertainment we have is eating out.” That’s a little bit melodramatic.

The parallels between what you do and what I do are incredible. One of the best metaphors for becoming debt-free is weight loss. There’s just no exception to it. You can’t sit down and figure out that a cookie is okay. If you want to drop some pounds, you have to stop the freaking intake and increase the aerobic burn. There is no exception to that, is there? Everybody can whine, and they can go, “Mama’s apple pie is so good. It’s a family tradition at our house. The only way we ever do anything on Sunday—our spiritual activity is eating.” They’ll come up with all kinds of crap, won’t they? You’re just looking at them going, “It’s caloric intake and burn. You’ve got to decrease one and increase the other.” It’s not rocket science. We don’t need Oprah to tell us.”

I don’t think the forms of debt determine aggression. Aggressive is, “I’ve got a $110,000 income. How fast am I going to pay off $40,000?” The deeper you sacrifice, the faster that’s going to happen. If you run one mile in the morning, you’re going to lose one level of weight. If you run three miles in the morning, you’re going to lose another level of weight.

Guess what? One of the problems I’ve got is the freaking time it takes to get up and go run. I don’t have that time as much as I want. Then I argue with myself about this, and then the chocolate-covered raisins are calling. It’s the same exact thing you’re facing there. You guys just have to look at that and go, “We can explain intelligently or rationalize a whole lot of stuff, but the more of that stuff we put in our budget, the longer we’re going to be in debt. The deeper we cut, the faster we’re going to be out.” Me? I’m a guy who wants to get out of there now. I’m willing to just do nothing. I can hold my breath for 90 days, but that’s a personality style.

You guys may say you’re going to sit down and analyze this, and instead of absolutely never going out on a date night ever, instead, we’re going to do that one thing and it’s going to take three more months to get out of debt because of that, but you’re willing to accept that. That’s okay with me. But lay out a plan and just mathematically analyze and count the cost. Are you really willing to delay this that much longer for this purchase that you’re talking about doing? The more of those things you add, the longer you’re going to be in debt and the greater the likelihood is you’ll never get out.

Is an occasional meal going to blow the whole thing up? No, but it’s a mentality of, “Hey, I’ve been eating a certain way and exercising a certain way that brought me to this point. I’ve been handling my money a certain way, and it’s brought me to this point. I have to sometimes radically change those things to break old habit patterns and set new habit patterns in my life.” That’s the business you’re in, and it’s the business I’m in. It’s called behavior modification. We’re trying to drill new ways of thinking into people’s heads because a diet doesn’t work. It’s a lifestyle change. The parallels in that are astronomical.

You get it. You’re trained in the same stuff exactly. You’ve just got to decide how fast do you want to get out and how intense are you willing to be? How deeply are you willing to sacrifice? How passionate are you going to be? That’s what beans and rice means. It means scorched earth. It means take away all the freaking HBO that you haven’t watched in two years anyway. We’re not driving over there to do this anymore. We’re not going to overbuy on this anymore. We’re not going out to eat every time we turn around, and we whine about this. But maybe there is a special time we do that.

I love the idea of really slamming your habit patterns, and then when you do relax later, it’ll just kind of be back to a reasonable thing then.