A lot of people make a hobby of their money. They read a couple of finance blogs. They fool around with a budget. But like so many disciplines, desire lags with time, and the bank account stays about where it’s always been: running on empty. So how does one make the jump from broke to breaking the bank? It’s no one thing, but it requires a serious lifestyle change, altered habits, and dedication. We’ll look at each one of these factors below.
1) Lifestyle Change. Most of us are impulse buyers, or at least were at some time in our life. This has to change. Impulse buying takes many forms, but in all you are basically hemorrhaging money, unable to control yourself. Some of us spend hundreds of dollars at the bar, have expensive car payments on a car that’s more than we can afford, enjoy expensive meals out a few times a week, and countless other expenditures with no return. You don’t have to be a monk, but sometimes it pays to act like one if your finances are out of control. After all, it’s free to stay home (except for your rent/mortgage). Take a week and don’t spend money on anything, just to see if you can do it. Look for inefficiencies in your spending habits: subscriptions you can cancel, money you can route to debt, unhealthy habits that are costing you a lot of money. When you’ve taken a good hard look at your financial life, start letting activities and spending back into it. Just make sure each thing is something that doesn’t simply blow money. Look at every action as an investment.
2) Altered Habits. If you smoke, take up jogging. If you spend lots of money on gas and car upkeep, sell it and ride a bike. If you don’t save, start saving 50% of your income. Just force yourself to do it. Sometimes it helps to just jump into the deep end like that, rather than setting modest starter goals. By going big, right out of the gate, you are committing to drastic action. It changes the way you think, your priorities. By setting high goals, you are actually more likely to stick to them.
3) Dedication. This only happens when you start to see results. If you have savings goals, stick to them until you see the money start to pile up in your bank account. If you have credit card debt, throw everything you have against that balance, and watch it melt away. When you’ve eliminated the debt, let the feeling of freedom wash over you. Once you’ve had a few financial victories like this, you’ll really know the value of your efforts. Until then, it’s just abstract thoughts. To get you over these first humps, enlist your friends for their help. Talk about money with people in a similar situation to you. Motivate one another to make big changes, and stick to them. Look at it like Alcoholics Anonymous. You need to make some big life alterations, and you need other people’s help to stick with it.
You can get your financial life on track. You can get serious about this thing. Anyone can do it, but the challenge is mental. Don’t let yourself slip back into old habits. Grab the bull by the horns and don’t let go until your financial life has changed for the better.