Six quick thoughts for people who want to be in charge of their money.
Money management shouldn’t be scary or difficult – and it doesn’t have to be. Money, like time, is a resource that can be either used or wasted. We all know this. There are hundreds of websites and blogs about people who have “figured it out.” But what does it actually look like to transition from living paycheck to paycheck and the seemingly elusive destination of financial independence? Here are some thoughts:
Expect it to be hard work. Don’t expect that changing your money habits will be any easier than changing any other kind of habit. If you’ve ever tried to start an exercise program or change your eating habits, you know that it’s an uphill battle…until it’s not anymore. The key to changing habits is consistency. You won’t transform overnight, but if you set your jaw and make good small choices again and again, after a while, what seemed like a huge change will soon be your new lifestyle.
Understand that more money isn’t (necessarily) the answer. If you don’t handle your poor money management skills while you have less income, you will only have a worse time with more income. While increasing income is an important part of debt reduction, simply getting a better job won’t solve all of your problems. You must be willing to make changes now, because the more money you mismanage, the more it hurts to be broke. On the flipside, if you tackle your money issues now, while you have a little money, you will carry those good habits with you when your income increases.
Keep your finger on the pulse of your bank account. Know where your money is going. Find a system to keep track of your spending that works. If you can’t find a system that works, create one for yourself – and use it. I created a spreadsheet that helps me keep track of my bills, spending, and saving for the whole year, and I update it daily. This may seem like a bit much, but it’s what I need to do to stay on track. Do what it takes to keep yourself on track, and slowly, you will begin to make better, more informed, choices.
Set yourself up for success. Make it difficult for you to mismanage your money. Put the credit cards in a box until they’re paid off AND you can confidently say that you can use (not abuse) them. Put boundaries in place for yourself and find a way to stay on track. Even when things get tough (and they will!), resolve to stay on course.
Find a reason to say no. Someone once said that self-control is choosing what you want most over what you want now. If you don’t have long-term goals for your life that truly matter to you, it will always be difficult to say no in the moment. And I don’t mean long term goals that you think you’re supposed to have, or that parents/society say you need. This only works if they're goals you care about. Take ownership of your future, because time is one thing you won’t get any more of.
Remember, it’s your life. If you’re single and childless, it’s your life. If you’re not single or childless, it’s your life with the people you do life with. So make it count. Don’t let a lack of self-control stop you from living!