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Talk about learning the lessons I preach!

I had a crash-and-burn with my plans to eat at home this month, and had to connect it to part of how I equip my money-coaching clients to manage change for the long haul.

Many clients discouragedly tell me, “I’ve tried so many times to manage my money effectively, but I always seem to end back in debt, spending my money on crap, fill-in-the-blank”.

That’s the time for a conversation about the Process of Change.

It goes like this.

Stage 1: Precontemplation.

There’s a problem, or something that’s not working favourably for you, but you don’t know it yet, or acknowledge it. Overspending would be an obvious example; or flitting from one job to the next, quitting just before you get your finances stabilized; or always giving away money to family and friends in need, without ensuring your own basic needs are covered.

If an outsider pointed this out as a problem, you would be resistant and resentful. In your mind, there either isn’t a problem, or you feel trapped so that change is impossible.

Stage 2: Contemplation.

You receive direct, relevant feedback pointing out the need for change. It causes you, now, to seriously consider whether you should change your habits. For example, you reach a new threshold of debt, and begin to panic. Or you have a child, and realize you need to get your finances in stronger shape for her sake. Or it starts to sink in that retirement is not that far away, and you have little to show for it.

Stage 3: Determination.

You decide change is required! This is a very precarious and wonderful stage. It’s wonderful because if you pull it off, the change will benefit you. It’s precarious, because many of us go off half-cocked with an overly ambitious plan. “I’m going to stop eating out until this credit card is paid off!” or “I’m going to start putting 30% of my take-home straight into RRSP investments!” or “I’m going to sell my condo and move back in with mom!”. Shameless self promotion: a money coach at this stage will help you create a sane, sustainable strategy that sets you up for success, rather than failure.

Stage 4: Action

You start to move forward on your plan. It feels good. You begin to experience results.

Stage 5: Relapse.

Ah! this is what I was getting at. Relapse – slipping back to a greater or lesser degree is simply part of the process that ultimately leads to lasting change … if you stick with it. So you are back in debt. So you withdrew from your RRSPs to finance something you now regret. So you sold your condo, and discover had you kept it, it would be double in value now, and you feel like an idiot.

Coming to terms with this relapse, this set-back, is part of what will ultimately get you to Lasting Change. How to manage the impact of the relapse and get back on the plan is the topic of a future post. For now, take courage knowing it’s simply a part of the journey.

Lasting Change.

This is what we’re gunning for. With a few back-and-forths eventually we get to a new place, with new habits and new outcomes. Overspending is a thing of the past. The debt is gone, or minimal, for good. We are taking responsibility for our retirement savings and building a nest egg. I’ve seen this happen time and again with my clients, and certainly have experienced it in my own life.

So, how does this connect to menu planning and eating home this month?

Here’s how. Not once, but twice, I experienced the exact same ‘relapse’. It’s not the end of the world, but it puts me out of the running for the $25, that’s for sure! Two weekends in a row, I was rushed for time, hungry-and-not-thinking-clearly, and didn’t have proper provisions (that I could think of) in my home. Two weekends in a row, without even thinking twice, I darted into the neighbourhood deli and grabbed a sandwhich – $8 each time. The first time, I didn’t realize what I’d done until I was out the door. The second time, the penny dropped (ha ha, sorry!) as I was keying in my PIN. Too late to back out.

Here’s what I did that was helpful:

1. I chose right away not to make a big deal of it – not to catastrophize.

2. I chose right away to get myself organized for an eat-in supper.

3. After the 2nd time, I’ve revisited my ‘determination’ stage and am now giving myself permission, once/week when desperate, to grab the chicken sandwich. My lifestyle, somewhat like money relation’s, makes eating home every single meal pretty challenging. Building in a realistic pressure valve will increase my likelihood of overall success.

About the Author

Imagine if Canadians were known for being all over their money. Engaged. Proactive. Getting out of debt. Savvy. Saving. Generous. Nancy wants to help. Nancy started her own journey with money over 15 years ago, and formed her company “Your Money by Design” in 2004 to help others along the same path. It’s not the usual financial advising/investment stuff. It’s about taking control of day-to-day finances –managing monthly cashflow effectively, spending appropriately, getting out of debt, saving. If you're ready to take control over your finances, pop by her business site, YourMoneybyDesign.com


  1. Good idea to build in a day when it is ok to eat out! Going cold turkey at not eating out seems challenging (I realized it wouldn’t work for me either!). Especially when busy – we all need to eat. I really like how everyone finding their challenges with the meal planning, but staying positive, picking up and going right back at it. I also like how you are relating it to financial planning directly, great reading!

    Just a suggestion, but maybe the prizes should just be for the most improved or just a random draw from all participants? Everyone appears to be on the ball and making a concerted effort, it is so nice to read and be inspired.


    Nov 20, 2007
  2. Mwah-hah-hah! Welcome to the dark side 😛

    Maybe I should have at least tried on the meal plan but I knew I’d probably crack early…

    But maybe it isn’t about going cold turkey. Maybe it’s about conditioning ourselves to get ready for the “big change”.

    Maybe I should have approached it as that.


    Nov 20, 2007
  3. How about building in a few things in the freezer for the crazy days – like frozen sandwiches. Or even some of those over-sized but wonderful healthy muffins? You could call it a “nest egg” for a rainy day…….


    Nov 20, 2007
  4. What a great post, and a great realization. I definitely see how this has related to my meal-planning and my finances. One of the things I’ve loved about this challenge is the sense of community, and the way that everyone is trying, falling, trying again–together.


    Nov 21, 2007
  5. @wooly woman and @gildedbutterfly – I agree; I really like this micro-community we’ve been enjoying. I’ve also liked a lot of the recipes and suggestions including …
    @liz reed – frozen sandwiches? What a marvellous idea although, I guess without produce. Would mayo/egg salad freeze well?
    @mariam – I cracked up when I saw your post about NOT brown bagging it. Really, the only reason to eat home-made food, is if anyone would prefer that money to be allocated to something else. Otherwise, there’s no moral law in the universe that says eating out every single day is inherently wrong.


    Nov 21, 2007
  6. Thanks for entering this post in the Canadian Tour of Personal Finance blogs.
    I love the term praxis…

    My personal comment on eating at home… I used to eat at restaurants 2-3 times a day. I even admit to being addicted to McDonalds!!

    A few months ago, I moved my office back home. I’ve slowed everything down to a point where I can make homecooked meals 1-2 times per day.!! I would never have done this working at the office.

    I don’t even want to go to restaurants these days as I’m having way too much fun discovering my favorite recipes on the internet and then trying them out. Not only does it give me a break from the monotony of working at home, I usually enjoy the meal way more than ever before.

    Good post!


    Nov 27, 2007


  1. Nancy Zimmerman: a canadian money coach (not a financial planner! I do the day to day stuff) » Blog Archive » Canadian Tour of Personal Finance Blogs

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