Changing One Habit at a Time

This past week, Cash Rebel wrote a post titled Making Frugality Happen One Meal at a Time. It’s a really great post that you should read yourself, but I wanted to share the premise, as well as some of my thoughts, here today.

The premise

Last month, he overspent his budget on eating out, and knew he needed a change. But there was a night out with friends planned where they would be heading out to an Indian restaurant. Rather than just saying “screw it, I’m going”, he came up with an alternative solution.

He called up his friends and asked if they’d rather come to his place for dinner instead. They were all cool with it, so he found a recipe, got the ingredients, and cooked a great meal that they all enjoyed just as much as if they had gone out. In the end, the group saved a lot of money and hopefully started a routine that they can enjoy going forward.

One habit at a time

There are several reasons why I think this is such a great post. The first reason is right in the title, “Making Frugality Happen One Meal at a Time”. I’ve talked here before about the power of habits and about changing your budget one habit at a time. People often get bogged down by thinking too much about all of the things they want to change. This can lead to trying too much, failing, and giving up, or it can simply overwhelm to the point that nothing ever really gets done.

What’s so great about Cash Rebel’s experience is that he recognized a problem and rather then trying to fix everything about it, focused instead on changing one specific instance. Making this meal instead of eating out didn’t fix the entire issue, but it was an important step and it was successful. Taking small successful steps is how you really start to make progress with long-term goals.

Making a commitment to change

The second reason I love this post is his approach to making this single change. He knew he wanted a change and he had an idea for how to make it happen, but before figuring out all of the details he made a commitment. He actually writes that “For a lot of folks, cooking comes naturally, but I do tend to struggle when cooking for big groups.” Despite that hesitance, he called up his friends and invited them over, committing himself to this change in behavior before he truly knew how he would handle it. He only figured out a workable recipe and actually got the ingredients after he had already committed himself.

This is such a great approach to making changes. Some people can work well when the only person holding them accountable is themselves, but many of us can use some extra motivation. When you want to change, tell your spouse, your friends, your family, your co-workers, whoever. Make a commitment, even if it’s a little uncomfortable. Change is always uncomfortable at first, but it’s far from impossible. Committing to the change in front of others makes it much more likely that you will actually take the steps to make it happen. As Cash Rebel writes: “Although I felt uncomfortable figuring out how to cook something new, I just decided to make it happen because I had already committed to making something.”


Change doesn’t happen all at once. It happens one small step at a time. And it happens when you commit to the change and force yourself to figure out a way to make it happen. Cash Rebel’s story was an excellent example of this process at its finest.

Other posts I think you’d like

Johnny Moneyseed: Some really thoughtful comments on what early retirement means to him.

Debt Roundup: Sometimes it’s nice to have the option to spend rather than save.

Budget Blonde: Life insurance considerations for the self-employed. You know I love a good post about life insurance.

Budgets are Sexy: What saving up for a Game Boy as a kid taught him about saving in his 401(k) as an adult.

The Frugal Farmer: Paying down debts is easier once you realize that you’re actually building up wealth.

Frugal Rules: Tips for buying a new car. This is particularly relevant to me because I might need to do this pretty soon.

One Smart Dollar: Another great life insurance post! This one talks about the importance of life insurance for stay-at-home parents.

Thanks to these carnivals for including me and some other great posts!

Carnival of Financial Independence
Finance Carnival for Young Adults
Carnival of MoneyPros
Carnival of Retirement

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11 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • Cash Cow Couple May 10, 2013

    I think you’re spot on with the commitment coming before the change. And the fact that you’ve got to just do it, one step at a time.

    Have a great weekend Matt!

  • Matt @ momanddadmoney May 10, 2013

    Thanks Jacob. You too.

  • Pauline May 11, 2013

    I just read and loved the power of habit, it is amazing how you can progressively evolve towards a better life. future new habit: running! (hopefully haha)

  • Matt @ momanddadmoney May 12, 2013

    It really is amazing how just committing to doing one small thing over and over can make such a big impact. Good luck with the running! Starting small will help you stick with it.

  • Budget & the Beach May 14, 2013

    There is a recent book out about habits I forget the name of. But yes, little small changes done consistently can actually help rewire your brain. One of those things for me (thankfully) is exercise! It’s hard to create the habit but once you do you can’t live without it.

  • Matt @ momanddadmoney May 14, 2013

    That’s pretty interesting about the affects on the brain. I hadn’t heard that before. I definitely agree that habits can be hard to create, but it’s amazing how quickly they can become pretty easy if you just stick with it.

  • cashRebel July 12, 2013

    Somehow I totally missed this post until now. Thanks for the kind words and the promotion. It means a lot to know that other folks are really getting something from my writing andit appreciate it. Have a great weekend!

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney July 12, 2013

      No worries. And I love your writing. You’ve got a really great perspective. Hope you enjoy the weekend as well!

  • Cat Alford/ Budget Blonde July 12, 2013

    Thank you so much for the mention! I really appreciate it!

  • Cat Alford/ Budget Blonde July 12, 2013

    I just realized this was from a while back. I just got the trackback so I’m sorry if I missed it earlier!

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney July 13, 2013

      No worries! I just updated something on the post, which I guest much have sent the ping out again. I’m not really clear on how this stuff works. Anyways, hope you’re having a great weekend!

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