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Habits, Habits

April 7th, 2006 at 08:24 pm

Some of the thriftiest and healthiest things I do, I do out of habit. Some of my unhealthy and costly activities are also out of habit. I become more and more aware that habits can make or break me.

I realized with my low, low grocery bill that it was the accumulation of many, many habits. I had spent $100 a month last year (not including toiletries and cleaning products) but I went out to eat a lot, so on my (Modified) Minimum Wage Challenge I had budgeted $145 to compensate for fewer meals out, but only spent $85.27, $16 of that on Club Soda. That included two ďBigĒ grocery runs. None of the things I do happened overnight. I did not start buying oatmeal at the same time that I stopped buying pre-made cartons of juice. Powdered milk came into my life at a different time than the concept of having a max price Iíd pay for an item. (For me thatís an In My Head Price Book.) I didnít start putting leftovers in salsa tub Tupperware at the same time I decided to buy generic or store brand for everything. TVP and bulghur and beans entered my life at different times. But all of these thrifty skills and habits accumulated, over the years, to become a low grocery bill. I incorporate a new habit every now and then, and add it to the routine.

When I get up and go about my day, a lot of it will be a habit. Itís not that Iím unconscious, or unaware, but patterns make up the fabric of life. I do a ďpre-makeĒ of the coffee at night, and switch it to brew in the morning. I watch the same morning news, dress in the same place, and eat the same limited variety of breakfasts. I drive the same way to work and I park about the same place. I eat the same types of lunch out of my cottage cheese Tupperware. I come home around the same time. I usually bathe in the evening, in a hot bath. These small habits are comforting.

Some patterns will only last a while; for a while I was getting dressed in the living room every morning. Now itís in the bedroom. It may change again.

My task is to remember that new things can become habits. If I started a routine physical activity, and just kept at it, it would become a habit. Not going out to eat has actually started to be a habit on this challenge: the next time I do go out it will be a treat, to savor. If I always have a glass of water when I think Iím hungry, it will become a habit. Hanging laundry on the line was very awkward and time consuming and frankly mind consuming at first, now itís old hat. The first time I made muffins I was actually very anxious, and now I can whip out a batch. A batch a week is a habit now. I recycle a zillion things, but if I started that way it would have blown my fuses-I got in the habit of recycling some items, then added more and more over time. Itís no work now to recycle a battery or bottle cap: there are specific jars on my fridge for these two items-plop!

The first few days or weeks it can be tough. But I have to remember, have to, that once itís a HABIT, it just happens without extraordinary effort. Iíve gotten there with some frugality and house cleaning habits. I need to get there with some health habits. I have some bad TV habits. I need patience and persistence. I might look back someday and laugh at what seemed a looming task now. I mean, scared of muffins?

4 Responses to “Habits, Habits”

  1. Thrifty Ray Says:

    Great post! It made me think of habits I either have or wished I had...Thanks for sharing!

  2. contrary1 Says:

    Terrific post. Appreciate the thoughts you shared.

  3. Jenn Says:

    Great post. It makes me think about what I am doing, but also it will be a help to new frugalites to realize that they don't need to start everything all at once, but to just add a habit at a time.

  4. Champion Cheapskate Says:

    I've heard that it takes at least 21 days of repetition for a new behavior to become habit. So try, try again.

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