As a broke twenty something trying to ‘make it’ in NYC, I remember feeling like everything was outside of my control. Money was certainly no exception.
Then I came across this advice…
Stop thinking about money as something you struggle to understand and start thinking about it as a tool to build a life on your terms.
By that point, I’d made so many judgments about money – good, bad, confusing, hard, etc.
But when I heard that advice, it made me realize that money isn’t inherently anything. It’s just a resource, like wood, that you can use to burn or to build.
So I made a commitment to build.
How did I put that commitment into practice?
I started focusing on what I could control.
My income was variable and uncertain, but I could control how I spent my money. So I started tracking every dollar spent and earned in spreadsheets – a practice I continue to this day.
As I began to track, I started to feel empowered, finding that my commitment to engaging with my cash, however limited, was manifesting more broadly in a commitment to living on my own terms.
Taking control of my spending led to taking control of my earnings, then taking control of my savings, and finally, taking control of my life.
Throughout that process I learned that more than making the absolute best financial choices, the time I spent engaging with and taking responsibility for my money, was the most valuable thing I could do.
After all, I was spending 40 plus hours each week working to earn my money, the least I could do is take a couple of hours each month to take care of it – a few daily pages of personal finance reading, a few minutes each night to write down my spending, and an hour so at the end of each month to take stock of my goals and my budget for achieving them.
The more time I dedicated to managing my money, the easier it became to keep, earn and grow more of it.
If managing your money has always been a struggle, the problem might not be you – well, not exactly. The problem might be that you don’t know what you’re doing it for.
When you’re trying to do something as difficult as replace an old pattern of behavior with a new, healthy habit, you’re going to need more motivation than a bigger savings account balance.
You need to know what that savings balance is going to afford you – your own place, a dream vacation, the freedom to leave a job you hate, etc.
If you don’t want to succumb to FOMO every time you get a post-work happy hour invite or a new sale notification in your inbox, spend some time connecting the dots between your financial goals and the reasons you set those goals in the first place.
When the choice is between daily happy hour and paying down your debt, happy hour is the obvious easy choice. But when it’s the difference between happy hour and paying down your debt so you can qualify for your own apartment, (sans roommates or mom and dad), the obvious choice becomes the responsible choice.
When the FOMO creeps up on you, ask yourself if you’re really willing to give up that dream home or dream vacation or whatever you want your savings to afford you.
You have the power to design, live and LOVE your life, but if you don’t handle the money side, it will handle you.
That’s what this personal finance thing is all about. Not the budget or the savings or the investment strategy or the money itself, but affording the lifestyle you want.
Is that not worth a little extra time and effort?
Simply recognizing that our financial lives take the same energy and commitment to achieve the same positive outcomes as our health, our relationships and our careers, can go a long way in driving us toward our financial goals and affording a lifestyle we LOVE!