Let’s face it; life isn’t perfect. We’re in jobs we don’t like; we aren’t saving enough for retirement or we just can’t seem to get ahead financially. I’ve had most, if not all, of these feelings in the past and know it can be a challenge to break past them and reach success.
However, what I’ve found over the years is that it’s easy to give into those limiting beliefs. It’s easy to think that you will never find a job you’ll like or that you’ll never have money left over at the end of the month. It becomes so easy that you begin to believe that’s just they way life has to be; that “everyone” has debt; no one has savings; and that it’s okay if you aren’t doing so hot financially.
That’s the sentiment my friend who spent $30,000 eating out last year shared. He does so to the extent that it’s holding him and his family back from reaching other goals. In essence, he’s settled for financial mediocrity. If that describes you, the key is learning how to break through limiting beliefs that are holding you back financially and live a life free from the shackles of poor financial decision-making.
Focus On What You Can Control
It’s incredibly easy to focus on things you can’t control. I know that’s true for me. This causes one major problem; it takes your eyes off the ball. It causes you to expend energy on things you have no control over and leaves you with less motivation to tackle the items you can control.
Take spending, for example. Many of your friends have things you want. It doesn’t really matter what the item is, but you want it. After awhile you give into the temptation and spend money you don’t have to get the shiny new item. Falling into this trap once in awhile won’t kill you financially; but developing a habit of spending money you don’t have to scratch an immediate itch will hamstring your long-term financial goals. Eventually, you’ll believe you just can’t get ahead or that you’re destined to be in debt.
The truth is that you can’t control how your friends spend their money but you can control how you spend yours. Being in control means knowing what you want in life and saying ‘no’ to short-term satisfaction for long-term financial ecstasy. It means living life on your terms and revolving your decisions around that.
Understanding the Behavior
Knowing why you do something is vital to overcoming what’s holding you back financially. Marketers and companies know this and they do all they can to separate us from our money. When we don’t analyze and come to know our behavior we make it that much easier to fall victim to their tactics.
It’s vital to understand why we make decisions that betray our best interests. What patterns or spending triggers cause you to make poor financial decisions? The answer is the second biggest weapon you have to combat the chaos working to convince you that it’s ok to not be on track financially – I’ll share the biggest weapon later.
Some of those behaviors could be as simple as not wanting to miss out on the latest and greatest thing; wanting to keep up with the Joneses; or an addiction to spending. Determining your specific behaviors will help you form a plan of attack to control your money, so it’s not controlling you.
I will say that it’s also important to embrace the reality that you’re not perfect. No one is. Changing your behavior is difficult but doable. You will make mistakes; we all do. Don’t judge yourself too harshly when you fall down; get up. Dust yourself off. Learn from the experience and put something in place that’ll help you get back on track. The worst thing you can do when you mess up financially is to give up the fight for financial freedom.
Taking the First Step
The single strongest weapon that helps us attain the kind of life we want is knowing our ‘why.’ Without that, we don’t know what we’re working towards, leaving us open to being less effective. Saving money every month is great, but if you don’t know what you’re saving for, you leave yourself open to not achieving success.
Personally speaking, my wife and I want to be completely debt free (our mortgage is our only debt) within ten years. We use that to guide our decisions, so we’ve done things like cancel cable and switch to a cheap cell phone plan and use those savings, and other income sources, to throw at our mortgage. Those are the actions (the active part of our why) that are helping us accomplish our goal of being debt free in ten years.
What if you have multiple goals and don’t know where to start? Don’t let indecision or complexity hold you back from starting. As Inc.com suggests, focus on one goal for a month, then move on to another one. Essentially, break it down into bite size chunks to help create momentum.
Lastly, don’t give into the excuse that you need to be an expert to start making financial headway. You need to take action, not become an expert at anything but your situation to take that first step and break free of what’s holding you back financially.
What’s one thing that’s always held you back financially? What’s your ‘why’? What are you doing to reach that ‘why’?
I’m John Schmoll, a former stockbroker, MBA-grad, published finance writer, and founder of Frugal Rules.
As a veteran of the financial services industry, I’ve worked as a mutual fund administrator, banker, and stockbroker and was Series 7 and 63-licensed, but I left all that behind in 2012 to help people learn how to manage their money.
My goal is to help you gain the knowledge you need to become financially independent with personally-tested financial tools and money-saving solutions.