Money Matters:

A Checklist for the Minimalist

15 Jan 2018

               Sometimes, making a small change can have a HUGE impact on the bottom line. Have you ever thought of making a small change to your personal financial habits that would have such an impact? In today’s article, we will discuss such a small change that could have a significant impact on your bottom line.

Like any business, United Parcel Service thought the direct route was the best route to deliver its packages. But when they factored-in accident risks, travel time, and fuel use, it became clear that left-hand turns across traffic were a problem: They come with a higher risk of accident, and waiting for a break in oncoming traffic wastes time and idling fuel. As a result, after evaluating their CO2 emissions, UPS announced that its drivers would avoid making left turns. They calculated that the amount of time spent NOT idling waiting to make a left turn would save millions of dollars in fuel costs every year. For example, in 2006 UPS trucks drove 2.5 billion miles, and with their unique package flow technology combined with their right-turn routes, they estimate saving 28,541,472 million miles, and 10 million gallons of fuel, avoided 20,000 tons of CO2 emissions, and delivered 350,000 more packages. Talk about improving the bottom line! UPS senior vice president Bob Stoffel told Fortune, “We’ll never have a person turn left to deliver on that side. We’ll have someone go down the right-hand side and someone coming back down the right-hand side to avoid those left-hand turns. And that’s where you get stuck in traffic trying to come back across.”   1

Small changes do have a way of having an impact that can have a great impact either in the short term or the long term. The change I want to discuss today is living below your means. The Greatest Generation had it right. They scrimped and saved and recycled (a term not used until 50-70 years after they started doing that.) Reused. Save the leftovers. Waste NOTHING. In today’s heavily marketed society, we are conditioned to want it all and want it now. Depending on the level of your appetitive nature, some of us do exactly that and will stop at very little until we have the brass ring. 2-3 cars, almost nightly eating out, and expensive entertainment packages are considered the baseline for most households. I would submit a change in that way of thinking. A roll back to the days of being content with the basics. Making some or all of these changes could lead to larger changes that become permanent. Besides, if these changes become unsavory, you can always dive back into those indulgent activities and things that most of us are used to.  I submit a checklist for living below your means:

  1. Know your wants and needs. Write them out on a sheet of paper or some other method of permanent keeping. What do you absolutely need to have on hand for basic household operations? What would you need to for emergencies or that “Doomsday” scenario. If it seems to be a luxury, place that on a different piece of paper.
  2. Have an honest discussion about the real things that bring meaning to your life. A real search for true fulfillment combined with wants vs. needs will set the table for living below your means. There are many ways you can do this without causing a family meltdown: Less TV. More reading. Less junk food. More water. More wholesome or natural food products. Less soda. More walking. Less chips. More stretching. Less video games. More board games.
  3. Work with your spouse or significant other on the money weaknesses that you have. It may turn out that the weakness of one is the strength of the other and they turn out to compliment the other. Lean on each other. Learn from each other. Entitlement can be a temporary robber of permanent goals. Create a plan. Work the plan.
  4. Play the “What If” game. What if you took your lunch to work more? What if you cooked more meals at home? What if you cut the cord on entertainment? (BTW: This is something millions of people are already doing.) What if you took a long and honest look at the financial sense of that 2nd or 3rd Payments, gas, insurance, and maintenance are all on the table. What if you bought a cash car and saved cash to move up in car every few years instead of financing a quickly depreciating asset for a $300-$500 monthly payment. What if you took several short or small vacations you paid for instead of the giant cruise or the epic journey around the world that needed payment plans so large they followed you back home?
  5. If credit cards or debt is causing the problem, either get rid of them or have somebody you trust hold them for you. You need to remove temptation from your life. What matters most is results — self-discipline and control will come later. If you never or seldom used a budget to pay attention to spending and debt relationship, get on a budget. There is the old-fashioned pencil and paper method or various budgeting apps and software for the digitally inclined.


Since the new year is now hurdling in front of at the same speed as the old year, why not make a decision instead of a resolution: Make a change. Small or large. Private or on full public display. Do that thing with your money that is a departure from the normal thing you have been doing for too long that you are not happy with. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. Working with your family is the best place to start. If you need professional assistance, it is but a phone call away. Contact Lighthouse Financial Coaching for a no-charge initial consultation today and let’s get some light shining on your financial darkness.


Jeff Tucker

Certified Financial Coach

(512) 971-6739



  1. “The Science Behind Why UPS Trucks Avoid Making Left Turns” Robby Berman 14 February Big Think



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