Lead by example.

Why you shouldn’t be discouraged if you’re not changing minds on day one

If you’re like me, learning to be frugal can be isolating and discouraging. You try to share with your friends and family, but you mostly get funny looks. When people don’t understand what you’re doing, the best you can hope for is a “good for you!”

Don’t get discouraged! I completely reshaped my finances, spending, and lifestyle without losing friends or infuriating my family (too much.) When did others notice? When they saw my changes as proof.

I’m not saying it was easy, or that you’ll influence everyone in your circle to change their lives as well. I am saying you don’t need to wreck good relationships to build healthy habits in your own life. Just lead by example.

My (sometimes lonely) experience living out a financial transformation

When I started this journey toward financial stability and independence I felt alone. I had known, in real life, exactly one person who was interested in the topic. She introduced me to Mr. Money Mustache, but that was long before I was ready to digest the message. She moved cross-country before I became the crazy convert I am now.

So basically? I started with ZERO people who had already bought into these concepts.

I did have lots of people who wanted the best for me. Most of them weren’t altogether sure why I was so pumped about these ideas, but they certainly applauded good choices.

So I started saving and started paying down debt. I got excited and talked to everyone who would listen. I talked the ears off my family, friends and coworkers.

I wanted teammates. Comrades on the journey.

That didn’t happen right away. However, as I paid down debt, saved money, and lived frugally without being deprived or unhappy, people began to notice. Turns out the whole “leading by example” thing is totally real.

My teammates came from unexpected places.

Frugal breakfast friendsI loved my friends, for sure, but it wasn’t always easy to live out my frugal habits and see my friends at the same time. I had made a habit out of eating out all the time, literally every day, so when I tried to shift gears I found I was asking others to do the same.

A few friends were more than happy to oblige. One already ate-in pretty regularly, so we started taking turns cooking dinner for each other. Another friend was my wine-buddy, and she wasn’t hard to convince to stay in for wine on the patio. Turns out several of my friends were already fairly frugal, it was me that brought out their spendy side!

With others, it was harder to find a balance. One friend in particular loved eating out! So, I’d request the cheaper breakfast joint. I’d eat first and grab a coffee while she had her full meal. I’d invite her over and offer to cook. Slowly we found a new pattern that worked for both of us. Funny thing is? These last few months she’s become as excited about these changes as I have. She’s one of my biggest supporters on this journey. She’s making changes herself now!

Surprised by like minds.

At work I stumbled into three separate people who are all working hard to pay down debt, invest, and spend meaningfully. In fact, they’re ALL further into this journey than I am!

Because I was waiting to pounce on any financial discussion I heard, I got to know a whole new side of some of my coworkers.

Obviously I didn’t walk up to anyone at work and just start talking about savings rates and net worth. One conversation started with bringing vs. buying lunch. One with home-buying. One with credit card rewards. Each time the person was only a few sentences in before I realized we shared a common mindset.

It’s been great to get to hear from people both younger and older than myself. We can compare strategies and share stories and tips. In other words, I found some like minds with whom to geek out about all things finance.

Bringing it home.

The longer I spend on this path toward financial stability and independence, the more I realize I have a huge desire to bring my family and friends along with me. It’s not corrective. I can’t fix anyone’s lives any more than someone could have “fixed” mine.

It’s just that the changes I’ve made have had such a huge impact, it’s too valuable not to share. My finances are exciting now, not overwhelming. Everyone should have this!

And like I said before, I want teammates. Fellow journeymen. When I call, excited about some frugal win, I want the person on the other end of the line to really get it.

Who better to have your back than your own brothers?

Leading my brothers through a fountain.I’m an older sister to two younger brothers. As such, I want to teach my brothers everything I know. I always have. They weren’t always a willing audience, although as we get older they’re not always unwilling. Have you ever read any Dr. Seuss? I like to think of my brothers as Thing One and Thing Two.

Thing One

In the past few years, most everyone in my family has gone through some trying times, the sort that make you reassess your priorities and your path to happiness. Right now, it’s my middle brother’s turn. I’ve seen him make a bunch of exciting revelations and moves towards health. Still, this particular new passion of mine, financial independence, seemed to be mine alone.

Then this spring, one random Sunday morning happened.

I was with my family, talking about an amazing interview I heard on Choose FI with the Happy Philosopher. It’s a great interview in its own right, and you should listen to it. But the point here is this: the Happy Philosopher mentioned how in a time of major crisis he had real options at his disposal because of his financial planning and savings. That’s the freedom I’m working for.

That’s when my brother chimed in in agreement, “Yea, it’s F-you money.”

I could have cried. I had no idea if he’d been introduced to the topic before, or if it was my blog/podcast harassment that had led him to the term. Didn’t care. I loved that he got it.

He’s now talking about scavenging the internet and teaching himself a new skill set. Setting up a side gig to supplement the career that he loves but which isn’t terribly lucrative. This is the stuff.

You know how when you get inappropriately excited about something you try damp it down so as not to put off the whole room? That was me that morning. Trying not to pee on the floor like an overexcited puppy. Yes, man! It’s F-you money. Now let’s get us some!

It’s so encouraging to be working in parallel, with him learning to code as I learn to write and build a website. Whether it’s excitement or frustration, I know he gets what it’s like to be at the very beginning of learning something new.

Thing Two

Oh, and last week? My youngest brother caught me totally off guard. Let’s bear in mind, this is the brother who spent years cherishing his beautiful Mustang GTCS and who always bought our whole family lavish Christmas gifts. Now? He’s texting me about how he’s going to devote some new income to pay down his debt! Out of the blue, this was all him!

What’s next you ask? He blows up our family group text making banking recommendations about the amazing saving rate at Ally Bank. Here’s the thing, Ally is amazing! But I when did he realize that??

Again, I had to resist breaking into a happy dance in public.

Your life is the proof.

When I got hooked on this new idea (saving money, being frugal, buying my freedom) I couldn’t understand why no one else was as excited as I was. This was life changing! This was revolutionary!

But everyone else seemed pretty nonplussed.

Now I’m nearly two years into my financial changes and I’m realizing what happened. I was preaching someone else’s message before. I took the stories I’d heard and planned my decisions around them, but that’s all I could do. It wasn’t until those decisions started bearing fruit in my own life, in a way that others could see, that it became interesting to my friends and family.

Suddenly this was my story. I was the proof of concept.

At the beginning, I was probably the only one who was sold on my plan, but it didn’t stay that way. The changes I had made were obvious. Once my life told the story, people began to see it.

These changes shaped how I saw others as well. Early on, I had no idea how many people around me were interested in this lifestyle already. It took a major shift in my own perspective to recognize the frugal habits in my own friends!

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I was the only influence working on my brothers or friends to inspire change. And I know that everyone’s buy-in is going to look a little different. I’m sure each individual will come up with their own plan based on their own priorities, but that’s okay. In fact, that’s the point.

As for me? Now I have teammates. I have fellow travelers on this road. Some are just joining this trek, and others were there the whole time.


Please, share your story:

Who inspired you? Are you following a mentor down this path? Or going it alone right now?

Who is it you hope will be inspired by your changes?


Comments (2)

    1. Thanks Kirsten! Support is key. This time last summer I was sliding back into some old habits, I have so many more people to be accountable to now. Doing much better!

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