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Changing a Behavior - Dollar Stretcher Guest Blogger
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Changing a Behavior

by jd in st louis - Renaissance Woman

No matter what behavior one is trying to change, there is a need to look realistically at the problem and figure out what to do about it to create change. First, identify the problem. Second, determine how to fix it. But, how do we get to the second step?

There is a basic law of physics that goes like this. You are in a box. You want to move the box. No matter how hard you try from inside the box, you can't move it. To move the box, the moving force must be outside the box. From outside the box, one can see where the box needs to move. From outside the box, one can apply leverage, creating the force to move the box.

These basic laws apply to changing anything in our lives, including budget, diet, cleaning, and bad habits.

First, identify the problem, then get yourself outside the box to determine how best to create the change you need. Inform yourself by reading, speaking to experts, researching your options. Moving outside that box mentally also gives some emotional breathing room. The first step is the hardest, which is acknowledging there is a problem. The next step is the one that requires the most work, namely inform yourself, get a plan, move the box.

With the holidays coming up, many of us have more than one problem looming. There are financial considerations. There are time/work/energy issues. There may well be emotional issues related to spending time with extended families.

If finances are a concern, get outside the box and determine, first, exactly how much money you have to spend on gifts and entertaining. Outside of the box experiences include placing a dollar amount that is available to you without going into (or further into) debt. Make a list of those you want/must give gifts to. Then, decide who on that list can be removed. Call or email those people right away with a kind message stating that your holiday priorities have changed and you'll be paring them from your gift list or making a donation in their names rather than giving gifts. (This can cost you as little as you want.  Simply list all their names and addresses with your donation. The charity will take care of notification and won't mention how much you gave). For those you absolutely must give a gift (say the children in your home), go for quality rather than quantity. One well chosen gift with two small stocking stuffers will create more joy than a trunkload of "the latest thing." Determine your budget and stick to it. The payoff is ridiculously wonderful!

If entertaining/cleaning/shopping is a challenge for you, start making a list and checking it twice to eliminate the unnecessary. I know I can't afford household help, but I can lower my expectations of just how well manicured the house will look, how expensive the menu will be, and how much help I can reasonably ask of others. Most people are willing to help if they are given specific chores and left alone to do them. If the dust bunnies and Cheerios stuck to the kitchen floor are completely unacceptable, remove them. But, no one will be checking under the tables for dust streaks or opening your curtains to check for clean windows. If they do, point and laugh! Changing your expectations of yourself is one really good way to move the box.

Finally, that great big bugaboo, FAMILY. If you really dread seeing certain family members, then don't see them! Accept no command performances. Be busy. Respect your children, especially the teens and twenty somethings, enough to support their absence from Christmas dinner. If people don't want to be there, why force them? If Grandma or Aunt Tootie is critical, let them know that the young 'uns are where they need to be. That's right - where they NEED to be. Believe me when I tell you that you will teach your children a valuable lesson when you relieve them of the command performances. Family of Origin can be a pain. Cousins don't always love or even tolerate each other. Aunts and Uncles seen but once a year are strangers to toddlers and should be treated as such - kindly and firmly. So, especially if airplane tickets or tanks of gas are involved in seeing extended family, rethink the plans to remain within your budget. Travel is cheaper at other times of the year, and there are fewer demands on our bank accounts and work schedules, fewer travel delays due to inclement weather, and lower expectations from everyone.

The Spirit of the Season is one of love. Love yourself enough to change the things in your life that interfere with your enjoyment of the Season. Choosing (or feeling like you're being forced) to overspend is incompatible with the Spirit of the Season. There is no upside to that.

Do not expect that you can enact all these changes this year! This takes practice. But, you can change how you feel about spending for gifts, cooking for the masses,  and working at the office and home to create enjoyment for others. Expect some of this for yourself. Start now with identifying those things that interfere with your serenity and joy. Write them down. Get a plan. Understand that you can't implement all the changes at once. But, change ONE thing this year, this season. Make that your highest priority. Don't Overspend. Step outside the box to move it, a little at a time.

Everyone is smart about something! That's why we have The Dollar Stretcher Guest Blog. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it to MyStory@Stretcher.com

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