How many times have you tried to lose weight, save money, or make other improvements to your life, and failed? You always start that new diet on a Monday. You go to the store Sunday night, fill your cart with the healthiest foods you can find, and by Thursday night you are surrounded on the couch by 5 empty Ben and Jerry’s Half Baked ice cream cartons.
Ok, maybe that example is a little extreme…but it’s probably not too far off base.
We find people have a similar experience with money. You are motivated at the beginning of a new month or year to write up a budget, but after a week or two, you are completely off track.
Whether it’s money or food, you get to the point where you are afraid to open your checking account, or step on the scale. Afraid of the reality.
When I was fed up with being in debt, it took me multiple tries to make consistent progress. When you have built up bad habits, it takes time to fix those behaviors.
Dollars Are Dollars
While I can draw many parallels between dieting and budgeting, the one benefit to budgeting is that you can know 100% for sure if your plan will work.
You will hear many experts say things like, “a calorie is not calorie” or “not all calories are created equal.” Fortunately for our money, all dollars are created equally. One U.S. Dollar equals one U.S. Dollar.
If you plan on spending less dollars than you bring in, you can be 100% sure you will end the month with more money if everything stays on plan. Of course, life happens, and that’s why it’s important to have an emergency fund, but for the most part, we can use simple math to create a solid plan to get out of debt or save for retirement.
The trick is sticking to that plan.
Finding Your “Why”
I didn’t realize it at the time, but the reason I was able to become successful at paying off my debt was because I had a goal that was providing the right motivation.
The key to being successful, especially with your money, is having the right goals in mind. We call this your “Why?” Coming up with your “Why” gives you the motivation you need to stick to the plan even when times get tough.
Let’s say you want to start budgeting. Your “Why” should be more than just “to get out of debt.” Go one step further and ask yourself why you want to get out of debt.
Maybe you want that financial independence so you can take a job you are more passionate about, but pays less money. In that case, your “Why” might be, “I am making a budget every month to pay off all my debt so I can afford to change careers into my dream job.”
Tell me that would not be killer motivation to spend more time thinking about your spending plan each month!
I think many young pilots can relate to a similar “Why.” I had so much student loan debt, I couldn’t afford to take a job as a regional airline pilot making just $22,000 a year. If someone told me before I started college that I wouldn’t be able to pursue my dream job if I took out that much in student loans, I may have cared a bit more about finding scholarship opportunities or working more hours at a part-time job.
If you’re not worried about debt, your “Why” might be something like retiring early. Again, your “Why” should be deeper than, “because I want to retire early.” Well…why do you want to retire early?
We find that retiring TO something instead of FROM something makes a big difference in people’s happiness in retirement. Don’t let leaving the work force be your main reason for retiring or retiring early.
If you want to retire early, what would that mean to you?
Are you retiring early so you can volunteer your time for a cause you are passionate about? Many people retire, buy an RV, and travel the country. Giving your goals a deeper meaning will increase your likelihood of success.
One last example is charity. Many people find great satisfaction and fulfillment in giving back to their communities by volunteering their time or donating money to charity. Have you ever “paid it forward” by paying for the person’s meal behind you in the drive-thru? You’ll know how much that simple, inexpensive gesture can impact your day. In fact, many people will continue a chain of paying for meals behind them.
Finding more money in your budget to feel the satisfaction of donating your resources to charity would be an awesome “Why.”
If you’ve struggled with your money, or just need motivation to spend wisely, hopefully I’ve given you a different way of thinking about your goals.
Once you have a clear vision of your “Why,” it’s time to stay focused on your goals. I think you will find just by having a deeper meaning to your goals, you will stay on track longer, but it helps to frequently remind yourself of your “Why.”
You will find a number of suggestions out there like daily affirmations, visualizations, journaling, etc. These are all techniques that you can use to keep your “Why” in the front of your mind. Experiment and find what works best for you.
Even if you just have your goal on a piece of paper on your bathroom mirror, the goal is to keep your “Why” in mind. This comes in handy when you are faced with a difficult choice or circumstance.
In a consumer culture, it’s critical to ask yourself if your spending will support your goals.
For example, if your goal is to travel more often, you might question whether your housing costs support that goal. You may opt to rent a smaller home with only the bedrooms and space you need in order to have more money to fund your travel goals.
Similarly, if your goal is to spend more time entertaining family and friends, you might ask yourself if an expensive car is the right use of your money. The money you save on a car payment could go towards a bigger home that would support your “Why.”
Don’t Give Up
It’s really common in younger generations to expect instant gratification. I’m as guilty as anyone, and I need to continuously remind myself that any worthwhile goal is going to take time and patience.
You might stumble, you might fail, but never give up on your goals. You CAN achieve the life you want to live. The feeling of having control over your money is worth the time and effort.
If you need more help finding your “Why” feel free to drop me a line and I’d love to help.