I think all of us can agree — money, in general, can be really frustrating sometimes. Over the past eight years since starting my site, I’ve talked to so many readers who are just grinding to get ahead, and they still feel stuck (even if they are killing it).
It’s super easy for “gurus” and personal finance experts to sit on top of the money mountain and shout down with our finger wagging, “Make sure you invest! Don’t spend more than you make! Pay off debt!”
It doesn’t take a money expert to know this is good advice, but the reality is that putting good advice or even common sense into action is way easier said than done.
Everyone has a different path to get to where they want to be financially, and the truth is that discipline is key to making it work for most people. Because you have to train yourself and be disciplined to stay on course, I’ve put together a list of strategies that have helped me over the years.
1. Figure Out Your Style
This is huge! There are so many different ways to approach budgeting, investing, debt payoff, etc. The key to picking a good path and actually following through is to do it the way that you want to, not what other people think you should do.
I liken it a lot to learning styles for kids (I have to give the former teacher’s perspective). We’ve all heard about different learning styles — visual, aural, physical, kinesthetic, etc.
When I was teaching, it always amazed me how effective a simple shift in teaching strategy could light a kid’s mind up almost instantly. The same goes for money management and hitting goals. We’re all just big kids, after all, right?
If you’re a spreadsheet nerd and love getting your hands dirty with every financial detail, incorporate as much of that approach as possible. If you’re like me and need automation to survive, find your favorite app or website and use it religiously.
I’m fairly certain that there’s no wrong approach if it’s helping you get ahead.
2. Remove the Negative Money Influences From Your Life (Or at Least Limit Them)
Admittedly, this is really, really hard. There are so many factors around all of us that influence our money decisions.
“Why are you putting that much towards your debt? You need to live life, you know.“
“You’re a fool for investing in dividend stocks. Real estate is so much better.“
“Your car is really old. You should get a new one.”
If someone in your inner circle is bad about hitting you with statements like the ones above, then you may need to limit your time with them or possibly remove them from your circle altogether. I realize that sounds harsh. But if they’re causing you to overspend, go into debt, make decisions that go against your values, or make you feel bad about the good habits you have, then they might be a bad influence on your financial life.
They may not always be someone you need to avoid, but if you are really struggling to make good financial decisions, then you need as much positive support as possible, not negativity.
For most people around me that I disagree with, the strategy that I’ve found to be the easiest is just to tune them out completely. I listen to my mentors and trust my research and gut, and that’s pretty much it.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t ever listen to people, but you need to be picky about what type of information or pressure you allow to influence your financial decisions.
3. Surround Yourself With Winners
After talking to thousands of people now, one factor seems to pop up more than most. People who are sticking to their investing, saving, or debt goals are actively participating in a positive financial community.
Honestly, it could be anything — Facebook groups (like my free M$M FB group), church groups, friends that are just really into investing…whatever.
No matter how many bloggers, influencers, and YouTubers are out there talking about money, it will always be taboo for most of our society. People are embarrassed about where they are right now, keep their salaries to themselves, and probably try to push a lot of their finances to the back of their minds.
The only reason that I’ve been able to get ahead financially and with my business is by talking about it with other people. That’s it.
In the last point, when I said you need positive influences in your life, that’s what I mean when I say “winners.” It doesn’t mean you’re surrounded by millionaires or the most financially savvy individuals. It’s about being around like-minded people who care about improving their financial lives and helping others do the same.
This one is huge. There’s just something about being around people with similar goals that will motivate, encourage, and support you with yours.
4. Take a Second To Recognize How Far You’ve Actually Come
This is something I have to tell myself daily, and I’m sure a lot of you are the same way. I beat up on myself if my business isn’t growing the way I want. And I would get discouraged and frustrated with myself if my savings and investment accounts weren’t where I wanted them to be.
But then, I think back to when I was a 22-year-old with $40,000 in student loans and no job. Things have changed a ton in the past 13 years, and sometimes I have to take a step back and remind myself of that. I paid off that debt. I have a house, a family, and a thriving business. I even look forward to getting up and working — a place I didn’t realize I would ever be!
Take a few minutes to think about your life just a few months ago, last year, or several years back. Depending on where you’re at in your financial journey, there’s a good chance you’ve had some dramatic changes.
It’s also really common to have some serious ups and downs when you look several years back, but don’t let the low points deter you from where you’re going. Recognize the progress you’ve made. And use those low points as learning opportunities or motivation to keep working toward your goals.
It’s so much easier to stick with your financial goals if you take a second every once in a while and just be proud of yourself and how far you’ve come. Most people don’t care about their finances at all, so you’re in a pretty elite group just by actively managing your money.
5. Find Ways To Give Back
I’m at a point in my life when I can comfortably give back. Even before I was where I’m at right now, I was finding opportunities to donate here and there or sponsor programs that I think are important. Even giving an extra big tip when you’ve had good service at a restaurant is a good feeling.
It drives me to want to increase my income more so I can spread the money around to more people who need it.
Even if you’re unable to make a financial contribution, I highly recommend that you go out and do some solid volunteer work. I’m sure a lot of you do already, and you probably know that it helps to keep you grounded and grateful for what you already have.
That investment in gaining a better perspective makes goals like paying off student loans or maxing out your Roth IRA this year feel so much less intimidating.
The bottom line is that the fact you care so much puts you much further ahead than most people. That’s a huge advantage, but stay vigilant. There will be ups and downs along the way, but the tips above can help you get back on track to achieving your dream life.
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