My Journey out of Debt

Featured customers currently enrolled in a CareOne Debt Relief Plan, share journey to become debt-free; hear how they juggle family, finances, and more.

Get What You Want

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Get What You WantYou may have heard the story about the time management expert trying to illustrate a point to his audience.

The man fills a mason jar with as many large rocks as he can, and asks the crowd if it is full. They say, "Yes." He proceeds to dump a pail of gravel into the jar, and the smaller stones fill up the spaces between the big rocks. Next, he pulls out a bucket of sand and dumps it into the mason jar; the small granules work their way in between the stones. Finally, he pours a pitcher of water into the jar until it is full to the rim. 

Now the jar is full. 

The moral of the story is to fill your life with the things that are most important to you first (the big rocks) and let the less important things fill in around them. The professor pointed out that if he had started by dumping the gravel, sand, or water into the jar first, none of the big rocks would have fit.

I recently found an application for this illustration from a financial perspective, as well.  

I love to grill, and for the longest time I have wanted to purchase a smoker. The object of my desire cost about $200, but we never seem to be able to accumulate enough money to purchase it. 

Several times over the last few years, my wife and I would agree that it was time that I finally get my smoker, and that we would apply funds from that month's entertainment funds to purchase it. We decided it would be best, though, to wait until towards the end of the month to purchase it, just in case something came up that required the use of the money instead. 

For whatever reason, it always seemed that by the end of the month, our funds were exhausted. Something always came up, and the smoker would again have to wait. When we finally took a good look at our spending, we found that what was preventing me from purchasing the smoker wasn't  "need"  expenditures such as a car repair, or a medical bill, but a series of small "want" expenditures such extra dinners out, or extra clothing purchases. 

We also tried stashing away small amounts of money to gradually save up for it. That too, ended in the same failure. The problem was, no matter how we tried to save the funds for my smoker, we always put it lower on the priority list than other discretionary spending. 

Even though I viewed the smoker as a "big rock," we kept filling our jar with sand and water first.

At the beginning of March, we decided that we were going to put that big rock in the jar first. With paychecks safely deposited, and bills paid, we went to the hardware store down the block and purchased the smoker. It was a little scary putting such a dent in our discretionary funds on the first day of the month.

Travis Pizel Smoker Chicken, Debt Management Plan Customer CareOne Debt Relief ServiecsBut you know what? It worked out just fine.

  • We had to cut eating out for that month down to almost zero.
  • Instead of going somewhere during Vonnie and the kids' spring break from school, we stayed home and performed a much needed, major house cleaning.
  • We were still able to have a few gatherings with friends (potluck, of course)
  • My son and I shared a great father-son afternoon at a matinee movie (minus the snacks)

When it came to our discretionary spending, we had been filling up our jar with sand and water first. When we put the big rock in first, not as much gravel, sand, and water fit, but it didn't matter.

The big rocks are what matter.

Related Links:

Why Yes, We Can Afford That!  

Putting the Priority Principle to Work, in Fitness and in Life 

Big Rocks: A story about priorities

Travis Pizel, My journey out of debt customer blogger for CareOne Services, Inc.Travis Pizel

Travis is a contributing writer for the My Journey out of Debt blog and is a very active member of the CareOne community forums. Travis is currently enrolled in a CareOne Debt Management Plan (DMP). Travis very candidly shares his personal journey to pay off his debt and the tips he's learned along the way. As a father and husband he provides a unique perspective on balancing debt, finances, and family. You can also follow along with Travis on his personal blog, Our Journey to Zero. Compensated Blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services.

Follow Travis on Twitter @DebtChronicles

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  • I have heard that illustration and even seen it demonstrated many times and I have found it applys in every part of life.  I often associate it with my time, but looking at it financially makes a point too.  Great Post

  • I've heard it a number of times as well,, Motherofone,  and I take something different away from it each time - because the context in which I hear it is different.  Come back and let me (and the community) know if you are ever able to apply it from a financial perspective, I know we'd all love to hear about it.  Thanks for your comment!

  • Great illustration! My husband and I devised a new approach to our budget a few months back. Every two weeks when we are paid, we redo the budget - we sit down with our calculators and check register book and our calendar and we plan for the next two weeks rather than the whole month. Since I have paid off my debt and now save all of that money every month, we still had a significant amount of money left over that we'd keep in our checking account just waiting to get spent on something silly. Breaking apart the budget this way has saved us hundreds every month!

    Now our approach is to only leave the budget amount of money in our checking account and place all the extra money in a savings account at a separate bank. The funny thing is since we've started doing that, we don't even notice not having all those small things that we wasted money on. . . and the big plus is we have saved over $2,000 just by moving that extra money to a place we don't see everyday! This has been a wonderful way for us to save money for something we can enjoy later and not touch the emergency fund.

  • I like your method, saracarr!  If it's not accessible in the checking account, you're less likely to spend it, right?  Maybe that sort of thing would have worked for us too.  Instead of leaving everything in one account, put an amount away in a separate account.  Out of sight, out of mind.  I'm actually doing something like that right now for a conference I am attending in the fall.  Every Monday some money is automatically taken out of my checking account and placed in a different account.  By the time I go to the conference, I'll have a nice egg of funds ready to go. Thanks for sharing!

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