How many times have you told yourself, this is the month, the quarter, or the year that you were going to get your finances in order. This is it! No excuses!
Maybe for the first few days or weeks, you actually do stay on track. You create a budget for yourself, you start cooking at home to avoid eating out and you may even start to clip coupons!
But inevitably, the motivation you started out with to get your money in order starts to fade. You may overspend one day and think, it’s fine I’ll be better tomorrow. Then tomorrow turns into next week and next week turns into next month. At some point, you completely give up and say I’ll try again next year!
I completely understand. When I started on my money journey to get out of $65,000 worth of student loan debt, as soon as I started, I wanted to give up. All I kept thinking was this is going to be really hard. Like nothing I’ve ever done before type of hard.
The difference is that I started and then kept going and going, and three years later (two years early than planned) I was able to reach my goal. I learned some valuable lessons along the way that really kept me motivated to keep going.
1. Set realistic short term goals
There is nothing more important when starting on your money journey than setting SMART goals.
S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Attainable
R – Realistic
T – Timebound
HOWEVER, that first “S” should also double for the word short-term. Your money goal might be an overwhelming number that your brain cannot comprehend. So try dividing it by 4 or 5. Hell, even 10! Just get to a number that you can wrap your brain around and set a short-term goal around that number.
Let’s say you have $20,000 worth of debt. If you divide that by five, your new target number is $4,000. How quickly can you pay off $4,000? Three months? Six? Whatever that amount is should be your new short-term goal.
GOAL – I will pay off $4,000 worth of debt in the next 4 months – $1000 per month.
$4,000 sounds a LOT easier than $20,000. So set that short-term money goal.
2. Build a budget that includes a line item for fun
One of the easiest ways to lose motivation while on your money journey is the feeling like you’re being punished. You can’t do anything fun because “you’re on a budget.” Once that feeling gets overwhelming, you might want to rebel because YOLO.
The truth is that the fun you were having was just a bit reckless and was taking you further and further from your money goals. While I do want you to reign in your fun behavior just a bit, I don’t want you to cut it out completely. I just want you to plan a bit better!
When I was getting out of debt, I purposely left a small budget for clothes and entertainment. Each line item was only about $50-$100 max but this allowed me to do a little shopping every month and hang out with my friends. I just couldn’t go to the mall and go crazy or buy out the bar with my friends. But that was okay! I was still going strong on my money journey and doing things that made me happy.
So, if you haven’t created a budget yet, do so! Here are some budget tools that I created. And if you have created a budget, be sure to build in a little fun!
3. Build in mini-rewards
Who doesn’t like presents! Everyone does! A great motivational tool, while you’re on your money journey, is to create rewards for yourself. Hence another reason to set short-term goals so you don’t have to wait years for your prize.
You can plan a staycation at a fancy hotel, or treat yourself to a nice dinner or get yourself a new outfit. Whatever the reward is, plan ahead for it so you can have a nice reminder of what you’re working towards and keep your money motivation high!
4. Stop comparing yourself to others
Your money journey is YOUR money journey. It is a completely personal experience. You will lose all motivation to stay on your money journey if you’re constantly wondering why you are not saving as fast or paying off as much debt as someone else.
Even if you know that person’s salary, you may not know that they are getting childcare for free, their parents helped pay the downpayment on their home, or that they just got a $30,000 year-end bonus. You have no idea! All you can and should do is “worry ’bout yo-self.”
On the flip side, you might start feeling depressed that you are living on a budget and missing out on all of the fun because… FOMO. Everyone is stuntin’ on the gram, showing off their luxe vacations and designer clothes. So demotivating!
But what you don’t know is how much debt they have. For all you know, they could be renting their clothes straight from Rent-the-Runway and returning them after the four-day period. So unless you know exactly what is going on in someone’s finances, the comparison game is completely futile. So cut it out.
5. Remember your why
Let me be clear, when you’re on a money journey your why can not be some lofty philosophical concept. You will forget it so quickly, it’s not even funny! You need something more tangible.
I had a couple of whys. My student loans were the same amount as my living costs and I had no flexibility in my budget. I knew that if I took some time to pay off the debt, all of my income, no matter how big or small would be mine to keep. I also wasn’t convinced I was ever going to have a high salary, so I needed a way to free up my money.
For you, it could be the fact that bill collectors keep calling you and you need it to stop for your mental help.
Or maybe you really want to buy a house because you’ve outgrown your apartment and your why could be more physical space to do as you please.
Whatever your money journey “why” is, try to make it tangible and imagine your life on the other side. You may even want to create a vision board. This will help to keep your motivation high during your money journey.
6. Know who to discuss your money journey with
When you’re embarking on a money journey, you need to surround yourself with people who will motivate you to stay the course. Not the Debbie downers who can’t think any bigger than what they’ve done.
I truly do believe people mean well, for the most part. But what I’ve come to realize is that if a person cannot imagine accomplishing what you’re doing, they won’t think you can either. If someone is used to living paycheck to paycheck, it will be hard for them to understand how you will be able to save thousands, pay off debt or buy a home.
So maybe those are the people you show rather than tell. Let them see your results after you’ve hit your first short-term goal. But in the meantime, look for other forms of motivation. Try Facebook groups that are focused on your goal or follow people, like me 🙂 on IG that will give you that extra bump of money motivation.
7. If you fall, pick up where you left off
You only fail when you completely give up. Your money journey is never over as long as you keep going no matter how many times you fall. One bad day does not mean it’s time to give up. What it does mean is that you may have to revisit your plan. Are your goals too aggressive? Are you surrounding yourself with people who are naysayers? Whatever the cause is, don’t let it demotivate you completely. Just shake it off as one bad day and keep it pushing.