Life can be overwhelming, and when you are overwhelmed, you let things go.This is a scientifically proven fact: people who are already under stress find it more difficult to maintain their willpower. This definitely translates into our financial lives. Even people who don’t enjoy retail therapy find that they are more likely to spend when they are tense, and it is a heck of a lot easier to justify that restaurant dinner or new sweater when your life is tough.
One of my life’s larger purchases is like a case study on this subject. Some time ago, I was expecting my fourth child. My husband was deployed, and I needed to buy a larger car. In typical Kate fashion, I researched the heck out of this car purchase. From various manufacturers to piddly little options, each choice was considered carefully and logged on my charts and notes. By the time I actually purchased the car, I had created a pretty nice ride. Leather seats, automatic rear hatch, and a DVD player were all included. In retrospect, they were mostly good choices, but what surprised me is how easy it was for me to keep upgrading. However, it shouldn’t have been surprising at all. I was under stress, and I didn’t have a lot of resources to curb myself. Heck, I had to get a babysitter just to go car shopping. I deserved leather seats. I needed a DVD player. Right?
The frustrating part about this truth is that financial problems are one of the largest causes of stress. If your money is not on track, your stress level goes up, and then your ability to make good choices goes down. It’s a vicious cycle. So, what can you do to fight this problem?
Believe in Yourself
Have confidence that you can overcome your current financial challenges. It probably won’t happen quickly, but if you stick to it, it will happen eventually. Be strong, and be positive.
Make a reasonable plan
Take an accurate assessment of your financial situation, and work out a realistic way to make improvements. Be sure to make your goals attainable, and break them down into smaller mini-goals. For example, if your goal is to be debt free, you might start by focusing on paying off one credit card. If you create a plan that you will never be able to keep, you’ll just increase your stress more when you fail.
Celebrate small successes
Do whatever works for you, within reason. Perhaps you love to eat out, but you are cutting back until you get your spending sorted out. Plan an inexpensive restaurant meal when you reach a certain goal, such as paying off a loan or credit card debt. (Be sure to search for coupons and special offers to keep costs down.)
I’m a sucker for charts and other visual rewards. Just crossing a block off of a chart is plenty of celebration for me. Some people prefer physical rewards, such as a new dress or cell phone. Other people prefer to enjoy experiences. Just try to keep the good feelings growing without spending too much money.
Keep your mind focused on the desired end state
Paint a mental picture of how your life will improve when you reach your goals. Try to be detailed in your vision. Maybe you can’t wait to go to the grocery store and buy the nicest steak available. Maybe you dream of getting a pedicure once in a while. Maybe you want to buy a motorcycle. Having very specific ideas for the future help you overcome the temptations of today.
Keeping your eye on the prize of financial stability and freedom is always a good motivator, especially when you are dealing with a lot of other stuff in your life. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes it feels like I jump from one crisis to the next. Having some large goals, plus a way to track and celebrate them, helps me to remain focused on making the right choices. Uses these simple tips to help you stay on the course to meeting your goals.
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