When you don’t specifically know what you want to do with your money, you tend to spend it randomly. So set clear and concise goals. “I want to spend less” is too general. But “I want to reduce my monthly spending by 10%” can lead to precise money-management steps you can track to measure your progress. Decide if your money is better off going to pay off debts or into savings by looking at interest rates to determine the cost of debt to the payout in savings.
Habits, even bad ones, aren’t easy to change. So don’t undermine your success by trying to modify too much too quickly. For example, rather than not eating out at all, cut back restaurant meals to once or twice a week instead. Save what you can, but really strive to constantly increase your savings. It may sound steep, but advisors recommend saving 20% of your income for retirement in your 20s, and 15-20% by your 30s.
Involve the kids
Poor money skills often stem from never having learned how to budget and save for what we want. If you have kids or teens, ask for their input on how best to achieve your expense-management goals. If you’re going on a trip, ask them to research budget-friendly travel options. You’ll not only encourage them to think of ways they can contribute to improving the family finances. Learning the value of money may discourage them from asking you to buy them stuff every time you go out.
Set clear end-dates
Every goal needs the urgency of a clear date by which you must achieve it. End-dates impose limits, limits require commitment and discipline, and discipline is essential for all kinds of success in life. Which is why staying power is so important…
Cultivate staying power
When staying on track gets tough, frustration sets in and we often give up. Don’t. Change requires discipline, and discipline comes with being a grownup. Besides, there’s no benevolent debt fairy to save your patootie if you keep miss-managing your money.
Pause before you purchase
Much of our spending stems from social pressure, ubiquitous advertising, or the assumption that whatever we buy will make us happy. And yet, the pleasure we find in so much of what we purchase fades quickly. So pause before you buy and ask yourself if this current temptation is essential to your happiness. If it is, choose another expense you can eliminate to offset this purchase, then go for it.
Review your progress
The best-laid plans are meaningless without follow-through. Start by monitoring your progress on a daily or weekly basis, depending on how difficult you find your goal. If you’ve decided to pack rather than purchase lunch, don’t wait until the end of the month to assess your progress if more frequent monitoring will make brown bagging it easier.