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Sprint vs. Marathon Finances…


When my husband first lost his job and I wrote about further ways to reduce my finances, a few readers gently pointed out that it looked as though I had missed making those cuts on my initial reductions for my debt free journey.

The truth is…

I didn’t.

I have two simple choices when it comes to reducing my debt. I can sprint or I can marathon.

I am currently sprinting. I’m pushing, giving it my all, and taking no breaks. Unemployment is forcing me to take a hard look at every dollar. There is no dinner with friends, no movies at theaters, no new clothes, no dental insurance, no doctor’s appointments, nothing. There is no waste.

Sure I could even go further. I could eat bread and water and be debt free faster. I could sell my car and bike to my bus stop in the dark and be debt free faster. I could stop wearing make-up, shower once weekly, and leave my electricity off and be debt free faster.

But my weariness would grow at the same sprinting pace and I would burn out before my balances ever read zero.

I can’t sprint forever and once my husband is employed again, I plan on slowing my pace to what is was before his layoff. Every once in a while, I think it’s OK to buy a $6 burger during happy hour at a nice restaurant. Once every few months, I like to buy my husband a bag of his favorite coffee.

This is my marathon. Sure, some folks will be faster and others will be slower but I’m running this debt marathon to finish – not to burn out before I see the finish line.

Are you sprinting or marathoning?


  • Reply Jenn |

    Definitely marathon over here… I started out sprinting and discovered that denying myself everything just doesn’t end well. Eventually I crack and undo a bunch of the progress I worked so hard to make. So I go slow and steady and it might take me longer, but at least I’m still moving forward!

  • Reply Mona |

    I am a turtle. The alternative is to crash and burn. That does not work for meg. Turtle it is.

  • Reply Melanie |

    This is a good post…you can’t be frugal about everything all of the time…unless you have to. There have been times where we’ve sprinted and times where we’ve marathonned. We sprinted when we first bought our home on just my income. Then, I got a raise, and we slowed down. Now, we’re paying tuition for the both of us, and we’re ramping up for another sprint come January. Frugality is doing what you should do most of the time and doing what you have to do when you have to do it, eh? It sounds like you’ve got it absolutely right.

  • Reply Mysti |

    As a whole, it is a marathon. But we sprint at times. There are things that we are cutting out of our budget…there are things we aren’t willing to at this point.

    The thing we all have to learn is moderation. It is ok to spend a little extra….sometimes. Not all the time! Most of us got into debt because moderation wasn’t part of our vocabulary (in our case, most of it didn’t have to do with this problem, but there is a chunk that was pure want over need).

    I think if you sprint too hard and too long, you burn out and then binge.

  • Reply Sharon |

    I’d say we do a little of both. We sprint, we walk, we jog. We are ALWAYS moving and going forward though. Our goal is to finish the marathon rather than get to mile 18, tired, burned out and tell ourselves that it’s good enough.

  • Reply Cynthia |

    Ha! Great post. If you’ll notice, my URL is called debt-marathon. So I guess you can see which side I’m on. I need to enjoy life and splurge once in a while or I burn out very quickly, so does my husband. So we still have a restaurant budget. We still save $50/month so we can splurge on bigger ticket items (currently saving for a new TV). I made room in our budget for new clothes, dates with my husband, gymnastics class for my daughter, etc. But it’s about balance. Before my husband was laid off we were saving about 15% of our take-home income so while we were treating ourselves each month, we were saving far more than we were treating. And we did the same while we were getting rid of our debt too.

  • Reply Bucksome |

    I’ve sprinted in the past, but right now I’m at the marathon pace. It’s something I can live with long enough to get all the debt paid.

    The best thing is that our debt load has been consistently going down since June and we haven’t added any new debt.

  • Reply Rick |

    Great Post.
    You can sprint for a while, but you’ll never finish the race doing that.
    I’ve sprinted for the last few months, but now I will fall in to a marathon pace.
    As long as you can show progress, you’re doing good.

  • Reply Ginger |

    Thank-you so much for this great post. I’m a lurker here and have been for sometime now even before you took it over, but I just had to make a comment on this post.My husband and I live in S.C also and are trying very hard to pay off the second mortgage we have, but every now and then we need to buy our favorite coffee as well.

  • Reply Abigail |

    I wish we could sprint. But the fact is that there’s only so much we can do right now. My husband is still on unemployment, and I can’t work more than part-time. We cut our costs for the most part, but my bad health means we eat convenience food more than I’d like. And my husband’s ADD means it’s extra difficult to rein in spending. He has made huge strides, but, unlike me, he can’t just sit around every night and watch TV and chill out. He gets antsy.

    So we keep spending down where we can, have our setbacks, and generally keep our eyes on the prize, as they say. That said, I’m pushing a little harder than I have been, since it looks like my contract work will end in June. With some luck (ie, not too many more unexpected expenses), we should be able to just about done with the credit cards by then.

  • Reply ellen |

    It’s mostly a marathon here, with occasional sprints. It’s as much about changing habits as it is about clearing the debt. Every little notch of belt tightening makes it easier to change the next naughty habit.

  • Reply Beks |

    It seems like there’s room for sprinting and marathoning – each has it’s own time. I can’t wait to marathon again.

  • Reply Ryan @ Planting Dollars |

    I think I’m a bit of a mix. Sprint for a year or so, then toritise for a month or two, then back to sprint.

    Do you have a particular date you’re aiming for to finish the marathon?

So, what do you think ?