The sports world is filled with philosophy. And some of that wisdom, I've belatedly realized, applies to frugal living. Here are a few lessons from the 2005/2006 Miami Heat basketball season.
• Consume less. After cutting back on fast food, a trimmer Shaquille O'Neal is highly effective on defense and offense as long as he stays out of foul trouble. Likewise, when I cut out unnecessary calories and indulgent expenses, I function better on the court of life.
• Constant review. After a troubling game, Miami Heat players and coaches scrutinize game tapes in order to identify and correct problems in ball movement or shot selection. We could all benefit from reality checks. It helps to write down daily expenditures and regularly review purchases.
• Patience. The naysayers -- including myself -- took a dim view of Coach Pat Riley's dramatic changes in the Heat roster before the 2005/2006 season. But recent glimpses of the stellar contributions of Jason Williams, Antoine Walker and Gary Payton have underscored the importance of planning and patience. Difficult short-term adjustments in our personal strategies can yield long-term benefits.
• Focus. After 82 games in the regular season, Miami Heat players approached the playoffs with a higher level of focus. Whether trying to save money or save a game, it helps to keep the ultimate goal in the front court. I save best when I constantly remind myself of my long-term financial goals.
• Beware of the backslide. Miami Heat fans are well aware of how easily double-digit gains can be squandered. It's tempting to be lulled into a false sense of security. While watching the Heat struggle to maintain a lead, I've learned to take nothing for granted and to avoid coasting on past accomplishments. ''Every possession means so much,'' Dwyane Wade is quoted as saying in a Miami Heat publication.
• Think discount. Shaq -- a megawatt superstar center -- markets his brand-name shoes through Payless and he once joked about selling another product through Target. Lesson: Don't be a snob when shopping. Some discount stores have great deals.