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Think Sacrifice, Not Deprivation

Mary Hunt


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I have what could be characterized as a dark financial past. I didn't set out to ruin my life. In fact, I truly believed I was improving things for myself and my family. I used all the credit I could get my hands on to create a lifestyle I so richly deserved.

I can’t help but recall the times I attempted to stop using my credit cards. And I really tried to stop writing checks when there was no money in the bank. Cutting myself off from my ability to spend felt like a part of me was being ripped away—as if I was losing my security, comfort, and status in life. I felt like I was being punished and deprived of what I loved in the same way a prisoner is deprived of freedom and personal choice.

Over and over again I tried to reform, but the feelings of loss and the fear of deprivation were much stronger than any desire to change. A battle was raging inside of me and I controlled neither side. Instead I was controlled by overwhelming feelings and out-of-control desires.

The irony was that in making sure I never felt deprived I paved the way for the ultimate deprivation—the loss of everything in my life that truly mattered. I get chills recalling just how close we came to complete financial ruin.

I made a startling personal discovery that would come to change my life and make it possible for me to break out of the debt trap. I figured out that deprivation never works. You know that if you've ever been on a diet. Saying you will never eat chocolate again is a lofty goal, but come on ... it is not going to happen.

Both diets and budgets are based on deprivation. We can handle deprivation for only short periods of time because it feels so terrible. It’s only a matter of time before we cave in and give up.

Deprivation does not work in food or in money. But sacrifice does. Sacrifice means to give up something of value right now to achieve something far more worthy in the future. Deprivation means to have a possession or enjoyment taken away. Once I learned the subtle yet startling difference between the two concepts, I understood immediately why meaningful change kept eluding me.

Sacrifice. It’s a beautiful concept. Sacrifice involves purpose. Sacrifice acknowledges a goal that is more worthy and of greater value than the sacrifice itself. There’s no deprivation involved, simply a choice to give up something of lesser value right now to have or achieve something far more worthy in the future. Sacrifice focuses on a goal. Deprivation focuses on poor me. Sacrifice lifts my head and lets me see the big picture. Deprivation turns my eyes inward so I see nothing but myself.

The practice of sacrificing in the context of changing one’s financial condition is an art form that requires commitment and a lot of practice.

The key is to identify your more worthy goal. Without a very clear purpose, your sacrifice will be nothing more than deprivation. You’ll be tempted to quit before you even get started. You need a worthy cause on which to focus.

Perhaps your worthy cause is to get out of debt once and for all, or take a once-in-a-lifetime family vacation. Maybe your noble purpose is to save for college or invest for your retirement.

Let’s use the example that you’re committed to be debt-free three years from now and to that end you are willing to make the necessary sacrifices. Just saying you’re going to be debt-free is nice, but you need more than that. You need a specific strategy that outlines exactly how you are going to reach your goal. Here at Debt-Proof Living, we call that a Rapid Debt-Repayment Plan, and it is available in the member’s area of

You’ll need to establish bench marks so that you can measure your progress and look back to see how far you’ve come. Focusing on the worthy cause and visualizing its importance and value is the way to combine the economic and emotional sides of financial change. Living each day with the goal in mind and practicing how you’ll feel when that final debt is finally wiped out is the way to control your emotions.

I’m not suggesting that sacrifice will not be significant or at times painful. But when you choose to focus on the more worthy goal, sacrifice becomes tolerable. With practice you will see the connection between a small sacrifice and the great reward. You won’t be as tempted to quit the way you would if you were trying to survive deprivation.

If you are going to make the journey to meaningful financial change, you’re going to need lots of encouragement and understanding from your fellow travelers. We all need that because we are emotional beings. We thrive on approval and validation. We need empathy from those who understand what we’re going through when the path gets steep and rocky. And when it does, just fix your eyes on that goal and don’t ever give up.


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About The Author


Mary Hunt, known by millions as America’s Favorite Cheapskate, is passionate about leading people out of debt and teaching them how to stay out as they find joy living below their means. Her 26 books have sold nearly 2 million copies and include Debt-Proof Living, 7 Money Rules for Life, The Smart Woman’s Guide to Planning for Retirement, Raising Financially Confident Kids and Debt-Proof Your Marriage. Mary is the founder of Debt-Proof Living, a highly-regarded organization consisting of an interactive website, has attracted hundreds of thousands of members in its 26 years. DPL is dedicated to