This post was written by Jessica Streit. She is a freelance writer and blogger who has a slight tendency to obsess over things. She is a staff writer for Everything Finance Blog, the site about everything money and finances.
A few years ago, I took to reading every book written by Dave Ramsey. I borrowed every book I could from the library, I listened to his radio program, I purchased a special cash envelope wallet thingy, I bought my kids banks that came from his site.
I became an obsessed, kool-aid drinking member of the Dave Ramsey cult.
That’s not to say that everyone who follows/reads/listens to Dave Ramsey is in a cult. Far from it. But the potential to feel like you are part of one is there.
Why is it that following the steps set forth by Dave Ramsey can lead a person to feeling obsessive?
Because it works!
His steps make sense most of the time. We should have an emergency fund, we should pay off our debt and then grow a savings account equal to 3 to 6 (or 9 or 12) months living expenses. We should do all of those things because they make our lives easier and happier.
However, there comes a time when a being “gazelle intense” (a term Dave Ramsey uses to describe being REALLY dedicated to the process) can seem obsessive. It might be when you are sitting your house with the lights out reading (a book borrowed from the library) via candle light in an effort to save money on utilities. Or it may be the moment when you take all the extra jelly home from the restaurant after you used buy one get one free coupons, came on family night so the kids could eat for free, drank water and split one entree.
Whatever the moment may be when a person crosses the line into the uber-frugal, it might be time for an intervention.
My own intervention came in the form of my mother. We were cleaning out my basement and she kept finding shopping bags that I had saved. They were the paper type, with the sturdy handles. I could name many uses for them, they were/are very handy. However, I was saving every one I came across. Why buy paper sacks for lunches? Or even pay for a new lunch box when we had all of these perfectly good bags that we could use.
A portion of my rationale made sense. There are good uses for them and saving them is good for the environment. The action wasn’t the problem, it was the mindset behind it (and all the other “reasons” I had for keeping things).
What I was labeling as frugal or “gazelle” was actually bordering on hoarding and plain crazy. What I realized was life changing.
I had replaced one obsessive behavior (shopping) for another (saving money).
Paying down debt is so empowering. It can be the encouragement you need to take control of other parts of your life (your health, your career, your relationships). It is important, however, to stay in touch with your behavior and the mentality that is going behind those behaviors.
Especially if you are like me prone to being crazy slightly obsessive about things.