The New Year brings excitement for some, and dread for others as they despair over another potential year of failed goals. I can’t tell you how many years Rick and I spent making a New Year’s resolution to be better with money, and then proceeded to have ZERO success.
It took awhile, but eventually we learned some tips and tricks for making sure our financial (and other) goals truly have a chance of being obtained. Although total success may not happen, following these tips can help ensure you end 2018 better off financially than you did 2017.
Achieving your financial goals is going to require a mindset shift, especially if you’ve struggled with failure in this area in the past. So try this.
1. Set Big Goals
There are a few different schools of thought about this, but I’ve found that for us it works best if we set lofty goals. Not unobtainable goals such as “Save $1 million this year on our $100,000 income”, but more like “Pay off twice as much debt as we did last year” kind of lofty.
Sometimes when you set a goal that will seriously push your discipline limits, it can light a fire under you that makes you achieve more than you would have otherwise.
This has largely been the case with us. And honestly, many times we don’t meet those goals. HOWEVER: we do better than we would have without them because the loftiness of the goals gave us a drive to try harder.
2. Understand that Money Management Isn’t Just About Discipline
One of the things I had to learn (and that made a major league difference in our results) is that sometimes it’s tough to change your financial situation with simple discipline.
In our case, much of our financial mismanagement came about because we were using money and spending as a way to cope with unresolved hurts and emotional damage.
When you’re steeped in emotional pain due to past traumas, you may often find yourself spending money before you even realize it or spending subconsciously as a desperate attempt to subdue pain.
One way to get out from under this learned behavior is to start questioning yourself when you go to spend money. Ask yourself:
- Why do I want to spend money on this?
- What am I feeling right now?
- Is there some emotional reason that is making my want to spend, such as fear, anger, hurt?
Once you’ve identified a need to cope via spending, you can start working through the feelings and resolving them via self-talk or communication with others.
Replacing an unhealthy habit with a healthy one helps too. For instance, if you find yourself running to the local big box store when you’ve been confronted with unhappy feelings, go for a walk instead. Or watch your favorite comedy.
Start learning to identify what you’re feeling and be sure you’re not using spending as a coping mechanism that is undermining your financial goals.
3. Write Your Goals Down and Revisit Them Often
I was absolutely amazed at the results we achieved regarding our financial goals when I took the advice of a good friend and:
- Wrote our financial goals down
- Revisited them at least once a week
- Analyzed our income and spending at least weekly to figure out a way to help achieve those goals
After we started keeping our goals front and center – and figuring out little things we could do each week to move toward achieving those goals – things started to happen.
For instance, if we had a goal to pay off $1,000 in debt in a given month, we’d analyze our upcoming expenses each week and see where we could eliminate expenses to put more money toward our goal. Or where we could earn more money (by side hustling, selling stuff or working overtime) in order to move toward our goal.
Keeping the goals in the forefronts of our minds and taking steps to achieve them weekly or more often helped ensure we were at least making progress.
4. Work on Your Self Worth as You Work on Your Net Worth
This is another vitally important step in obtaining your financial and other resolutions. Many times we fail at our goals because there is a little voice inside us saying “You really don’t deserve this.”
A revamping of the mind is in order; a resolve to train yourself by replacing negative subliminal messages with positive ones. Positive affirmations can be a powerful part of this journey. Tell yourself: “I deserve financial security. I deserve debt freedom. I deserve sufficient wealth”
Look too at the money messages you were (consciously or otherwise) told growing up. One of the messages I got from our family while growing up was “Wealthy people are born that way. You have no choice what type of financial life you have.”
While that may be true occasionally, I learned from 15 years of working in banking and mortgage that the majority of us create our financial situation via our choices.
Believe it or not, those dimes and dollars you spend daily on seemingly harmless items such as the daily coffee habit can add up to big money over a period of time.
In fact, the majority of our one-time $60k-plus consumer debt load was nickel and dime purchases. No trips overseas. No new furniture. Just a boatload of random $5, $20 and $50 purchases of things we didn’t truly need. Ouch.
Often times we subconsciously make bad money choices because we’ve somehow conditioned our minds to behave according to what we believe about ourselves.
In other words, if you believe you have no control over your money situation, you may be subconsciously spending for the purpose of fulfilling that belief. Of course, there are always exceptions! If you find yourself in a difficult situation, you can apply for an online loan that doesn’t affect your credit score or financial goals in any way.
Once you re-train your mind to believe that you deserve financial security, it becomes easier to make choices that line up with creating a more stable financial picture for yourself.
You’ll Likely Need All of These Steps
After years of tried-and-failed financial goals, Rick and I came to the realization that we really needed to be doing all four of the things mentioned above if we really wanted to reach our financial goals.
Once we made a plan that included all four of the above steps, things started changing big time for us. Despite having a super high DTI (over 65% at one point) we started making progress. OH. That reminds me.
You Have to Commit to Keep Moving Forward
It’s vitally important when you are setting lofty financial goals that you’ve failed at in the past that you focus on your achievements no matter how small.
I was looking over our debt reduction numbers (we track every dime of spending, monthly debt balances, net worth, etc. religiously) and I saw that due to a number of varying circumstances there were many times when we would fall far short of our goals.
In fact, some years our total debt actually went UP instead of down. When that happened, we’d take a serious look at how we’d gotten off track.
We’d take responsibility for our mistakes, and push aside guilt over financial setbacks that were unavoidable, such as when we needed a new roof for our house.
Then we’d learn from our mistakes and move forward, letting the past live in the past. We’d encountered such serious setbacks at times that our all-time high debt load came two years after we started our journey, and the number was $14,000 higher than our original debt number. That was painful.
Two years of sacrifice and hard work only to end up in MORE debt than we started with. We thought seriously about giving up. Or filing bankruptcy.
Instead we chose to move forward, start again, and praise ourselves for every success, while taking responsibility for the screw-ups.
Today we are flying. Despite a high DTI and an under-$100k income, we’ve dumped well over $30k in debt since we hit our all-time high 2 years and 2 months ago.
This achievement hasn’t been without serious work, and some serious sacrifices. But you know what? It’s been worth it, knowing we are changing our family’s financial tree and setting them up for financial freedom.
How do you ensure you’ll overcome obstacles and achieve your financial goals?
I think for me keeping things front and center has been a big part of why my finances have improved. That’s why I still have a “manual” excel spreadsheet budget. I need to check in ALL the time and keep it in the forefront of my mind. I also check my net worth a lot. Not because I expect big changes. Again, just a reminder of what I’ working towards.
Always great to hear from you, Tonya. 🙂 LOL, I do the manual Excel spreadsheet and check in all the time too! No wonder we get along so well. 🙂 I hadn’t been checking the net worth because I was so disappointed with our lack of progress, but I checked it over the weekend just to see how 2017 went and was pleasantly surprised, so I’m sure I’ll be checking that number more often too. 🙂
You are right about emotional pain/trauma and spending money being related. I don’t know how much money I spent shopping when I was in an unhealthy relationship in my early 20’s. Shopping made me feel better (for about 5 minutes) but it never lasted. It never does.
Hey, Mackenzie!! Hope you had a great holiday! SO true about it never lasting. For me it was such a knee-jerk reaction. Pain comes, money gets spent. Being emotionally healthy is such a peaceful place to be, isn’t it?
Very sound advice, Laurie. I particularly like number one. Two years ago I had a goal of reaching 10 muscle ups by the end of 2016. This was a very audacious goal since at the time I was only able to do one. Well, I’m sorry to admit I failed. I only managed to do 9! If you aim big you’ll likely fail bigger than if you had succeeded aiming modestly. Great freaking post. Let’s hope that many people heed this wisdom in 2018. Cheers.
Amen, Mr. Groovy!! There really is something to aiming big and failing bigger than if you’d aimed small. At least for type-A’s like me (and you, I’m assuming). Give me a big challenge and I’ll do my best to crush it. Give me a small challenge and I’m not really interested. 🙂
Great tips. I really need to set big goals and to write them down. I feel like a lot of times I don’t set big enough goals because I’m scared I’ll feel like a failure if I don’t attain them. And I definitely need to write them down so I’m reminded of the goals daily rather than just having those goals in my mind.
Andrew I went through the same thing for many years. Once I started writing them down, and made the goals big enough that it would take some lofty efforts to achieve them, I started achieving more. I worked too on not berating myself if I didn’t attain them – as long as I knew I put in a super solid effort. I encourage you to try it for a year – if I know you, you’ll do amazing work!!
It’s “great” to know that the main contributor to personal debt were the small purchases.
Although I paid my bill off on-time, one of the biggest lessons I remember from my first semester in college was the various restaurant purchases I made for $5-10 each.
I still worked fast food during furloughs and basically my entire check from that Christmas break was to rebuild my savings from the food court purchases. After that, I was more conscious to not spend as much so my summer earnings could be put into savings.
Number one seems counter-intuitive, but it’s proven true for me too. I remember my goal for 2016 was to do a daily plank, and to work up to a 5-minute-plank per Day in December. Well, I didn’t plank every day, but I planked more than I had in any other year. And I managed to achieve one 5-minute plank in December – a life-time record for me. As for our debt, my original goal was to pay it off in 5 years. As it turned out, we didn’t make it in 5. But we are going to make it. As will you with the kind of progress you’ve shared here. All the best for your big goals in 2018!
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