Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was my financial freedom.
Here’s a few actionable tricks that I use every single day to make sure I am closer to being RICH than I am to being poor.
Be specific, and be intentional.
When setting a goal, it feels natural to make a proud declaration such as “I will get in shape this year!” Let’s be serious, though. What defines “in shape” and how will you know when you’ve actually reached this objective?
Before I go to the gym, I may say that bench presses are my goal today, but once I hit the weights and feel that resistance against my body… suddenly the fact that I even showed up today is a success and I am ready to call it a day after 15 bench presses.
Abstract goals are ambition killers because they rely on your own objectivity and bias to determine when the goal has been met. When I decide to set a financial goal, I also set a definition of what success will be.
Good: “I want to save money this year.”
Better: “I want to save $1,000 this year.”
Best: “I want to save $250 in the next 90 days, and keep doing this until I have $1,000 saved.”
Did you see what I did there? Three different things happened very quickly, so let me give you a hint… I didn’t set 1 goal; I set 8 different goals with 9 definitions of success.
- Save $250
- Reach goal #1 in 90 days.
- Save $250 more.
- Reach goal #3 in 90 days.
- Save $250 more.
- Reach goal #5 in 90 days.
- Save $250 more.
- Reach goal #7 in 90 days.
- Enjoy $1,000 total saved.
By setting a definition for success (meeting each goal) and changing my approach, the overwhelming and abstract idea of saving money became a series of smaller challenges that had a clear-cut, black and white definition of success attached.
Either I saved enough money in the correct amount of time… or I didn’t.
When you’ve got 365 days to reach a goal, the temptation to put off actually making progress until later is immense, but when that deadline is dropped to 90 days… you’ll suddenly find the motivation to get your behind in gear!
This psychological trick works for nearly everything in my life from decluttering my garage, to drinking more water, to planning and paying for vacations. A mountain doesn’t seem as high when you realize you don’t have to sprint all the way to the top.
Any time I want to reach a new goal, I define what success will be…and I go for it!
Who’s your exit buddy?
In order to reach new heights, you’ve got to reach higher than you’ve ever been comfortable reaching before.
When I began my debt free journey in 2016, I got my husband’s support…but I knew that I would not have his effort.
This financial crusade was MY project and passion, not his. He was willing to take action as necessary to help keep our family unit operating strongly…but he wasn’t going to nerd-out with me when I shared every little detail, thought, or realization along the way.
He wouldn’t ever be able to give me the reaction or praise for reaching my small goals, finding inefficiencies, or keeping me motivated when success is further away. Not because he wasn’t supportive, but rather because it simply wasn’t his passion.
To stay accountable, I did something well outside of my comfort zone… and you’re reading it. I started ManVsCash.com and began declaring my intentions, realizations, tricks, and small victories along the way. An Instagram page, Facebook page, twitter profile, and podcast (Cash Talk) soon followed…and I stumbled across a community of people online who shared the same passion as me.
This community of like-minded people have encouraged me when I felt defeated, geeked out over small victories, and have shared their own experiences and tricks that may help me succeed.
We have been there to mutually share in our passions.
My husband truthfully doesn’t care about the 8 different ways I could save $25 over the course of a month to reach a quarterly financial goal because it’s not his passion, but my accountability partner’s care.
Finding something, anything, to hold you accountable is a crucial weapon in your arsenal. Whether it is a blog, journal, workout partner, coworker, neighbor, forum, or community.
It’s easy to disappoint yourself, because you know why you’re doing it. When you have to disappoint somebody else, you’ll instinctively find many ways to avoid the negative confrontation. I have found that I’ve stayed on track by simply thinking “what would my friends in the debt free community think if I told them I did this?”
Accountability is an undervalued motivator. Use it.
Are you operating a switchboard, or a computer chip?
There are more than enough things in the world to weigh my mental capacity down with.
My job, family, friends, chores, errands, politics, and health concerns take up more than enough of my operating capacity on any given day. So, when I find an opportunity to make something a little easier, I’m going to seize it.
I have everything financial automated with an emphasis on convenience so I don’t have to worry about it.
A few things I do with my household finances are:
- Keep two checking accounts: One for bills (with no debit card), and one for spending (with a debit card).
- Keep multiple savings accounts: Somewhere along the way, we got this idea that we can only have one savings account and one checking account. Not true. I have a savings account dedicated for each savings goal: Vacations. Car repairs. Emergencies. Gifts/Holidays. Dog expenses…you name it!
When my payroll comes in, here’s the path:
Spending < Bills < Savings
My paycheck is deposited into my spending account. From there, a set amount every paycheck is automatically transferred into my bill account to cover my bills, and my savings accounts automatically grabs their deposits. This leaves my spending account with a predictable and allotted amount of money to use for gas, groceries, eating out, leisure, etc.
This approach eliminates about 80% of the stress of managing money because I’m not trying to balance my paycheck against my bills and savings goals… my credit union does that for me. Rather, I’m just making sure my spending account has enough money to last until payday.
You can set up automatic transfer in your banking’s online portal, or by visiting them directly.
Automating what money comes into your life is part 1 of a 2 part success tactic.
What happens next took some acceptance on my part, and it’s something I didn’t do until two years ago, but I’ve never looked back… Auto-Pay the bills. Sure, mentally it feels like you’re giving up the power by setting up your bills on auto payment, but I asked myself this question first… “Is there ever a month that I DON’T pay my mortgage?”
Every week, money comes in…and money goes out. All I have to personally worry about is the money I choose to spend myself. That’s it!
I have tweaked my finances many times over the years, but this is the foundation that has worked for seven solid years with no hiccups.
If they aren’t paying your bills, don’t pay them any mind.
There’s some weird negative connotation when people find out you’re budgeting.
They believe that you are “restricting” yourself, and I have been told many times that they don’t budget because they like buying stuff, eating out, and having fun. In a nutshell, I am told that they like to “enjoy” their money.
Honey, child. These kind of people don’t know how to enjoy money…they know how to enjoy debt.
By getting serious about having a handle on my finances, and without making sacrifices on the things we enjoy, we’ve been able to:
- Take multiple trips to Washington DC…in cash.
- Go on a cruise this fall with 10 of our friends…in cash.
- Traveling overseas to visit my family…in cash.
- Buy all of our family and friends holiday gifts, birthday gifts, and wedding gifts throughout the year…in cash.
- Buy a pergola for our back patio…in cash.
- Buy my husband’s car…in cash.
…to name a few things.
I can flex a little and make the bold claim that they know how to enjoy debt…because I used to be them!
There was a time when I bought that brand new car and showed all of my friends but didn’t rush to show them the $20,000 auto loan that went along with it.
Gone with my overspending are the days when I compared myself to everybody around me.
I am making an intentional approach to enjoy the things I currently have, and enjoy time with the people that I love. Chasing after that “brand new car” that everybody was buying only landed me with a shiny, but now aging car and a payment that keeps me away from the people I love.
Driving a shiny car to work, only to park it outside and work 8-10 hours a day to keep up with those car payments feels a lot like winning a 6 foot stuffed teddy bear at a carnival and walking past all the rollercoasters and water rides you can’t enjoy…because you’ve got this oversized teddy bear that you’ve got to keep up with weighing you down.
Do I want to hit the malls and stunt in a new wardrobe? Would I love to swipe my credit card and just travel somewhere new? Do I yearn to trade in my Honda and buy that Lexus? More than you realize.
However, it’s just not worth it.
Let those people all around you drown in their debt trying to chase an image. You do you, boo boo. You’ll be happier in the end for it.
Loyalty is for dogs.
Loyalty is not worth as much as it used to be.
Have you ever heard the story about the person who has worked for a company for years, but recently found out that a new-hire makes the same or more money than them?
Just like staying with the same company causes your wages to stagnate… buying services from the same providers without ever shopping around causes you to trade in savings for complacency.
It’s funny how we will drive all across town to save $.20 a gallon on gasoline, but we won’t shop for the best rates on our financial products.
I keep my primary checking and savings accounts with one single credit union that I have been a member of since I was 18 years old and have never paid fees at. However, my mortgage, emergency fund, auto loan, and investments are all with different companies. Why? Because they offered the best rates.
My favorite example of this is the account that my emergency fund is deposited to. I had it stored in a bank that I was very familiar with and was earning that .10% every quarter for doing so.
However, a few online searches later, I found a credit union in another state that offers 5% monthly on deposits of my size. Never before have I transferred money out of my account so quickly. A few online searches turned my dividends of $.04 a year to $10+ a month.
My mortgage was refinanced last year and I saved $60,000 in interest, dropped my rate 1.50%, and shortened my repayment term by 12 years. The same story can be said for my car loan.
Whether it’s financial products, insurance, cellphone and cable rates, major purchases, or a tank of gas for your car. You work hard for your money. Shop around and make sure you are getting the most for your dollar every single year.
We all need money to survive in this world, so why do we act like a fool once we get it?
There’s a quote that my husband and I say around the house.. “don’t &%$# with the money, because if you do… money won’t &%$# with you.”
Translation: Take your money seriously, or you won’t have any.