Back in 2007, a post by Trent at The Simple Dollar introduced me to the concept of the financial treadmill. The idea is that, if you're living paycheque to paycheque, and spending every dollar you make (or, worse, dollars you haven't made yet), you're basically running in place (or even falling behind).
I've written about this a couple of times, looking at my financial progress to see whether I can "get off the treadmill". So far, I still feel the treadmill spinning away, even though I've brought my cash flow out of the red, and built up a small savings cushion.
A post today at Generation X Finance put the treadmill dilemma in a slightly different light. The focus here is to "stop running in place and start making progress."
That "start making progress" piece is a subtle but important difference in the approach to the problem. It really suggests that, instead of looking to get off the treadmill (which really only happens at retirement), you should look to keep ahead of the treadmill. When you look at it this way, it takes "no, I'm not off the treadmill yet, but I'm getting closer," and turns it into "yes, I've come so far, and I'm getting better every day."
Forward motion is success, and helps to motivate future success. My debts (consumer, student and mortgage) are getting smaller every month, and my savings are growing consistently over time. If I have an off week, I may lose ground, but I still end up ahead of where I could be.
I'm still on the treadmill, but I'm running at my own pace.