If your finances aren’t where you want them, it’s usually due to procrastination, overspending, or ignorance. Here’s how to combat each of those to take control of your money once and for all.
Now that the holidays are over, it’s time for all of us to get our lives back on track. It seems like we all get a bit lax in some areas during the holiday season. I’ve been eating all kinds of sweets and way too many of them. I know some of you have gotten your sleeping schedules all out of whack. And for others, it’s time to reign in your spending and take stock of the damage you did over the last month.
I think new year’s resolutions are our society’s way of trying to detox from the holidays. They’ve become a bit of a joke because only 8% of people are actually successful in achieving their resolution. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. You can take control of your life and make changes, and the beginning of a new year is a great time to do it.
If you want to make a change in your life, one key thing that many people overlook is to first identify the root problem. When it comes to personal finance, financial advisors have found that most people’s struggles can be traced back to one of three main causes. If you want to get your finances in order in 2017, you first need to identify what it is that’s holding you back so you know how to tackle it.
Procrastination is the action of delaying or postponing something. Per some researchers, procrastination has more than quadrupled in the last 30 years. I think we have a natural human tendency to procrastinate, but we can’t use that as an excuse. Procrastination can have serious consequences. Statistics suggest that 40% of people have experienced financial loss due to procrastination.
Are you too busy to put together a plan for your money? Does the thought of getting your finances under control overwhelm you so much that you just keep putting it off? Do you think you still have plenty of time, so you don’t need to start working towards your financial goals today?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, your problem is probably procrastination.
How To Overcome Procrastination
- Don’t say, “I have to.” That implies that you have no choice and triggers resistance. You have a choice. Empower yourself by saying, “I choose to,” or “I will.”
- Focus on starting, not finishing. Take your focus off the big picture and redirect it to something small and concrete that can be done today.
- Break it down. To avoid getting overwhelmed, do things one small step at a time and don’t worry about the rest.
- Accept imperfection. If you think you must do everything perfectly, you’ll never even try. You are human and you will make mistakes. The biggest mistake though is to never even try.
- Reward yourself. Once you’ve broken it down, plan small rewards for each step that you accomplish. Having something reasonably attainable to look forward to will really help you get moving.
Maybe procrastinating isn’t your problem. You’re on top of things. You don’t wait, you act. Unfortunately, you do a lot more acting than waiting when it comes to using your credit card. You are the quintessential American, living just up to or beyond your means. Whether you suffer from FOMO (the fear of missing out), you are trying to help your kids keep up with the Jones’ kids, or you just have a measly income, it’s really easy to spend all your money every month.
If this is you, you’re in good company. A recent survey found that 56% of Americans have less than $1,000 in their checking and savings accounts combined. Almost a quarter have less than $100 to their name. You can’t get ahead with your personal finances if you are using all your resources in the present with nothing left to put towards the future.
What can you do about it? It depends on if your base problem is spending or your income.
How To Overcome A Spending Problem…
- Have a written budget that accounts for every dollar you bring in. A good dose of reality, seeing where your money actually goes, can really help curb spending.
- Find accountability. Knowing that you will have to own up to them face to face with another person will make you think twice about your purchases.
- Establish a waiting period. Force yourself to wait a specified amount of time, 24 hours to 3 days, before making a purchase. Most things are impulse buys that you won’t want as badly several days later.
- Use cash. Many people find it more painful to part with cash than to swipe a credit or debit card.
- Identify your feelings if your spending is an emotional response. Ask yourself, “do I need this or do I want to feel better?” If you find that your spending is an attempt to pick yourself up, prayer or a talk with a friend are much cheaper options.
- Calculate how much the item costs in hours worked. If you earn $20 an hour, then $80 jeans would cost you 4 working hours, more if you pay taxes. A lot of things become less attractive when you see how many hours of your life you will give up to have them.
How To Overcome An Income Problem…
- Start a side hustle. Find ways to earn a little extra money on the side.
- Cut expenses. If you can’t find ways to earn more money, you’ll need to find ways to spend less. It may be as easy as changing cell phone providers or harder, like developing delicious recipes for lentils. You have to do what you have to do.
Many of you are like I was. You’re not putting things off and you’re not overspending, but your finances still have no goals or direction. You know things aren’t the way they should be, but you honestly have no clue what you should be doing or what your options are. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself in this position. After all, only 57% of US adults are financially literate. We’re not learning it in school and most of us aren’t learning it at home either.
How do you overcome ignorance? Learn! Luckily we are living in the information age and everything you need to know is at your fingertips. There are a number of different ways to educate yourself about your finances.
How To Overcome Ignorance
- Read my blog. The whole purpose is to help you master your personal finances. Let me know how I’m doing and if there are any topics you’d like me to cover or things you want to know more about.
- Take Financial Peace University. This course has changed many lives and I have seen the effects firsthand.
- Read books. There are a lot of great personal finance books out there, like The Total Money Makeover, The Richest Man In Babylon, The Millionaire Next Door, etc.
- If there is something specific you want to know more about, just Google it. Chances are you will find everything you want to know about it.
- Meet with a financial planner. My husband and I have had one meeting with a financial planner and it changed our lives. He reviewed every aspect of our financial lives with us, told us what we should be doing and how to do it. He got us on the right track, a track that I previously didn’t even know existed. We would not be anywhere close to where we are today without that meeting.
Whether you’re just starting out or you have decades of poor financial decisions behind you, it’s never too late to get on the right track. If your finances aren’t where you want them to be, is it procrastination, overspending or ignorance? Now is the time recognize what’s holding you back and take intentional steps to overcome it. Let 2017 be the year that you finally take control of your life and your finances! You can do it!