When a person gets caught in quicksand, the first reaction is to struggle to get out as quickly as possible. Yet, the frantic undirected motions to get out will cause the person to get more exhausted and sink further. Fighting against quicksand will just make matters worse. The same can be said about escaping debt. The more effort we put towards minor fixes, the more tired and frustrated people become from not seeing a major result from all their effort. It is like going on a diet and working out for 3 weeks only to lose 1 pound (when the goal was to lose 100 pounds). All that work may seem like a waste of effort and a sense of hopelessness falls over the effort.
In a class that I recently taught, I discussed giving 110% towards what ever you do. Like a light bulb, our finances are driven by how much energy we give. The brighter we shine, the more we will receive. The less we shine (give), the less we will receive. A student asked then why his business was not successful when he was giving and giving all that he had (12 to 14 hour days). Sometimes we do need to work a little harder to get what we want. Yet when I discuss giving at 110% is not to about burning yourself out. For example, if we want to make a light shine brighter, sometimes giving more electricity will just burn the light bulb out (if the bulb is already working at full capacity). The problem may mean taking a step back and seeing it is not the energy but the bulb itself (may need a 150 watt bulb instead of a 50 watt bulb). For the student who asked the question, it may have not been working harder (to the point of burn out), yet taking a step back and reassessing the situation (e.g. allocating more time to marketing, finding a partner to help, realizing that the field is too competitive to succeed in, etc.). So when you are giving, you want to make sure your efforts are going to the areas of the highest payoff instead of just giving effort aimlessly.
For a financial plan, taking a step back means creating a budget and calculating your net worth to see how far you need to go to meet your goals (e.g., retirement goal, debt reduction goal, etc.). If you are only slightly off pace to reach the goal, then you may only need to cut $5 a day from spending ($1,825 a year) which may be just mean not eating out for lunch. Yet, if you are $30,000 or more in debt, then cutting a few coupons or cutting back on lunch will not work. Actually, cutting out little things (taking quick frantic actions) may make the struggle worse. By focusing your effort on little things and not seeing a positive result (still $30,000 or more in debt at year end), will result in getting trapped in financial quicksand. You will believe that no matter what I do, there is no way to get ahead.