One Change

The Impact of Making Just One Change

A few months before we dove into purging our stuff, Mr. T got new socks. I was reading The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up to prepare for the big event. I was just reading the socks section when Mr. T was unpacking his new socks. “This book says you should roll your socks to let them rest.” Probably more to get to me to stop talking about the book, Mr. T dutifully rolled all of his socks. For two months, those perfectly sushi-rolled socks taunted me. They actually seemed happy. Socks. Happy. Crazy? Right? I wanted our whole house to feel that way. Every time I saw his socks, I wanted more! I wanted to dive right in and make it all better.

Our entire journey began with $500/month. One day, I realized I could increase Mr. T’s 401k contributions from home. Immediately, I increased them $250/paycheck. It was a simple, easy change. The first month, we noticed the $500 decrease. By the third month, it was our new normal. That was almost nine months ago. I wanted more. I loved seeing the numbers go up and I wanted them to go up faster!

Last month, I logged back in and increased them to the maximum monthly contribution that would equal a maxed out 401k in a year, $750/paycheck. It’s only been a month, and we’ve definitely noticed the change in our monthly budget. But it’s made us think harder about our financial choices. We have to think more clearly before making a purchase. I work on an hourly wage and having less money coming from Mr. T’s paycheck has made me hustle. I work more than I did and I’m more engaged in my work.

As we worked through the major purge of our stuff in our house, I kept returning to Mr. T’s perfect socks (of course, mine don’t look nearly as perfect and relaxed as his). It was a breath of fresh air. It reminded me what I wanted in our home and why I was doing this. It helped me ask “Is this thing getting in the way of having my house feel like that perfect box of socks? Is it worth it?”

One simple change is all it takes to start you on a path. If you’ve already increased your contributions to max them out, what simple change can you make this week to move you along your path? If you haven’t increased your contributions for awhile, jump in. What amount would challenge you?

What’s one change that would push you that you could make this week?

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39 Comments

  1. I think in another three months you won’t notice the change – and you’ll be banking so much more in your 401k! For us, ‘one change’ would need to be on the spending side, not the saving side (since we are now retired!). The biggest thing I am looking at is the amount of $$$ we spend on our screens – internet, phones, cable TV. Thousands of dollars a year. With the weather warming up, now is a good time to re-evaluate!

    • MaggieBanks

      It’s always time to re-evaluate! I’m excited for the 401k to grow that much faster! We’ll get there!

  2. I just increased my 401k contribution as well. It was already set to max-out in Sep-2016, but why not do it sooner (I don’t get penalized on the match by maxing out early)!? Once I complete my move as well, I’ll ratchet up the percentage again. My new goal is to max it out by July!

    • MaggieBanks

      Awesome FF! We’re not going to max out this year since we just set it up last month, but at least we’re automatically set up to do so in 2017! And congrats again on the move!

  3. We are definitely in the midst of evolving finances. We used our tax return to completely pay off one credit card and pay off a couple thousand on another one. I increased 401K deductions from my paycheck. Now, with some extra side hustle money coming in, we’re going to be able to pay off even larger amounts than our previous “normal” on the remaining credit cards. It’s incredibly motivating to see our progress start to snowball, when it seemed like such an insurmountable task just a year or two ago. For us, it’s really been a combination of small changes – I wish I could remember the first one, it might have been putting an end to buying new clothes.

    • MaggieBanks

      Harmony – this is so great! Congrats on getting more weight behind paying off debt! Little changes turn into big changes!

  4. Tawcan

    We’re doing some changes in our finances as well. It’ll take some time to get used to some of these changes but before you know it, you’ll get so used to it.

    • MaggieBanks

      I know! Isn’t it great how that works!? One step at a time and we’ll end up in greatness!

  5. Love the socks, they look happier 🙂
    We have been budgeting for ages and estimate variable bills such as water, electricity and toll roads. One change we’ve been making is if the actual bill is lower than the estimate, we transfer the difference into our mortgage. Eg we had 2 public holidays over Easter and so my husband didn’t need to go on the toll roads to get to work and saved $12. Or we’ve been putting the dishwasher on during non-peak hours and noticed that has saved a little on our electricity bill.
    Sounds like a small amount but it gives me something ‘active’ to do as our mortgage and extra repayments are all automated. Last month we made 8 payments into mortgage – 2 minimum repayments, 2 extra automated repayments and 4 manual ones from saving under our budget.
    As you say, making just one change does make a difference.

    • MaggieBanks

      I Love that idea! Tracking and shifting even small wins over to the mortgage! I just may have to implement that… Thanks for the tip!

  6. I think signing up for a CSA share will help us cut our grocery budget. I’m going to give it a go this year. Thank you for the encouragement! 🙂

    • MaggieBanks

      I’ve totally wanted to do one of those, but Alaskan produce is mainly gigantic cabbage and root vegetables. 🙂

  7. This won’t happen for a few months, but when we move to England we’re only planning on having one car. Although this will be a bit of a change, I’m sure I’ll get around by bike or foot just fine.

    • MaggieBanks

      Again, my dream. I totally want to take my children to church on the train and ride my bike to the store! You guys need to start watching the Vicar of Dibley!

  8. I love this question! We keep upping what we save every month (or nearly every month anyway), and keep finding that there are more places where we can trim, even though we’ve been at this for a few years now! It’s a good reminder to me that everything is a work in progress. But I love how making these little changes keeps giving me more motivation to go after the ever-bigger ones, too. We beat our goals by a good margin last year, we’re ahead of schedule this year — it would be easy to say, “Eh, let’s spend more. We can afford it.” But instead we keep finding ways to accelerate our progress. This FI business is powerful stuff. 🙂 Maybe not as powerful as perfectly rolled socks, but still!

    • MaggieBanks

      Mr. T even jumbled them up a bit for the picture! The man keeps everything in his closet picture perfect. Weirdo. And then you open my side… which, of course, I consider totally KonMari’d because I know where everything is and there’s not a lot of excess. It just ain’t as pretty. 🙂

      • What a guy! Messing things up for your pictures. 🙂 (And don’t feel bad — we’re both a bit messy in our sides of the closet.)

  9. I like the idea to regularly push the limit of what is considered normal. Initially, it hurts but after a while, it becomes the new normal. And after a while longer, looking back, so much as changed.

    It’s amazing how much progress you can make once you start. Someone said going from 0$ to 10k$ a month is harder than going from 10k to 100k$. But you have to start.

    • MaggieBanks

      Maybe one day we can use the same momentum of saving money toward earning it! We’ll see. 🙂

  10. A very good idea. Kudos that you implement such a system.

    We ran over our expenses just lately and decided we would change nothing. We must be lame! 😉 I guess we are for now happy with the situation and want to keep a status quo for a while.

    We did a bigger move about 18 months ago whereby we limited our discretionary spending to a certain amount. All the rest will be saved. Before that, we had a minimum saving target, all the rest was discretionary spending.

    • MaggieBanks

      that’s a big shift as well! So whatever works for you. I like to test us to see how we do! (I’ve overdrawn once… so I’m not perfect!)

  11. Our one change that snowballed is to where we are today was a simple challenge to knock our monthly credit card bill down by 10% or so. We had been spending almost $4k/month on stuff that we couldn’t even remember buying for the most part. That month we knocked it down by almost 25% with super minimal effort, so then we aimed for 50%. Surprisingly to us, it was just as easy to hit that target too. That’s when we realized we’ve just been throwing money away on drivel that we didn’t need, and we could’ve been saving it. Gah!!
    That led to the question, “Do we want this or do we NEED this?” before almost all of our purchases and that’s stuck with us since then, along with a way lower monthly credit card bill.

    • MaggieBanks

      That is SO AWESOME. I kind of wish I could say we had that much discretionary spending to cut down so we could start with such a large snowball with just one change! 🙂

      • It’s kind of embarassing looking back at just how much we frittered away not thinking about it. But it is easy to see how some of our friends can have the same incomes and still be broke. Literally paycheck to paycheck, because they’re not watching their spending at all. That’s a whole separate post. 🙂

  12. Des

    Oh my gosh, THIS. “What amount would challenge you?”

    That’s exactly what this saving-half-my-income thing has been for me – not easy, but an amount that challenges me, and a goal that has impacted literally everything about how I Do Life (and accumulate stuff.) I love the way you put that, about what amount would challenge you – I think having those stretch goals is so important!

    My sock drawer of lonely mismatched socks is still a disaster zone though, like the equivalent of a sock tornado or something. Someday.

    • MaggieBanks

      For me, the goal is always the means to getting somewhere else. I mean, the push is really what turns us into different people. Who cares if our plans don’t work out exactly as we calculate… constantly pushing ourselves to try new things and challenge ourselves is what leads us all to greatness! (I’m glad to hear even my messy sushi rolled socks are not alone. Mr. T’s closet is too perfect!)

  13. Great post! I’m a firm believer that big change comes in small steps. I was given a book to read in a professional mentoring group: ‘One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaisen Way’ by Robert Maurer. Not my usual type of reading matter but very, very powerful stuff.
    As for Mr. and Mrs. PIE right now, our recent rather larger step was starting our new blog. Our next smaller step is pulling the plug on our large cable bill. We’ve been putting it off mainly because dealing with the ugly behemoth cable company is so painful!

    • MaggieBanks

      Congrats on the new blog! And welcome to the awesome community! I generally hate talking to telecom providers, so I get it. We don’t have cable, but internet and phone are just as bad for customer service. Good luck!

  14. I think having anything inspire you to make smart financial choices is a great thing. Whether it’s socks, thoughts about retirement or being close to bankruptcy.

    I think for us, it was more a learning process that we can afford to have savings after all our expenses (whilst still having a bit of fun). We can actually build up an emergency fund, we can invest, we can aim for Financial Independence. As soon as we’ve achieved our IVF baby, we will be going for wealth and financial happiness extremely hard.

    Tristan

    • MaggieBanks

      Yes, inspiration can be found anywhere. I’d rather find it in socks than in bankruptcy, as you say. 🙂 Good luck on the baby and all those awesome goals!

      • Thanks for your good luck 🙂 I too would rather take it from socks, or a positive experience. Then you don’t have to work hard for 2 years clearing your debts. Although it’s great there are stories out there (like TheSimpleDollar and many others) who changed because of their debt. 🙂

        Tristan

  15. Great question! We recently increased our extra mortgage payments by another 50% because we are almost done paying it off! It does cause us to be more aware of how we’re spending, but it’s been quite manageable so far. The sock picture makes me feel happy too!

    • MaggieBanks

      That’s awesome! I’m hoping we’ll get that momentum as well as we get closer to paying it off!

  16. J

    I increased my fortnightly auto savings by a tiny amount at the start of the year. It’s literally a small change but still helps improve my savings rate. Also, the small adjustments I make every month after my month-end goal review help as well.

    P.s. I pair and roll our socks but our drawer is not as pretty as Mr. T’s. That looks like a well organised drawer you can stare at when your mind’s all cluttered and you just need some peace. Great work!

    • MaggieBanks

      Mine are rolled too, but they look horrible. Mr. T had to mess it up a bit for the picture. 🙂 He’s clearly nothing like me! And congrats on the auto savings… every change throws the momentum in the right direction!

  17. Jacq

    About two years ago, I started looking at my budget & month by month was able to up my 401k contribution from the company matched 6% to 10%. I still like a cushion in my emergency fund, or I might be able to save more.
    I changed from cable + Internet to just Internet in the fall & put my massage membership on hold for a few months to try to be a bit tighter on my budget.
    Keeping an eye on the line items, my apartment complex has had issues and deposited my checks late (even though I’d dropped it off with plenty of time ), the system automatically assesses a late fee for the following month and I’ve successfully argued that down (3 times now!). I wonder how many people just look at the ‘amount due’ and pay it?

    Thanks for this post, it’s good to consider motivation and inspiration sometimes.

    • MaggieBanks

      Those are all awesome, amazing steps! And doesn’t it feel great to look back on them and see the weight you’ve thrown into your financial momentum with every single one of them?

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