How To Stay On Track
Lets be honest: This whole debt reduction / saving money / getting our finances together thing can be difficult / boring / exhausting. Perhaps, there are some steps that we can take to stay (or get back on) track – even as we push through those difficult / boring / exhausting days.
1. Start with a solid game plan and a defined goal.
- Your first goal will depend on your starting point. You may need to get current with all of your creditors. You may need to build a small emergency fund. You may need to pay off you consumer debt. Whatever you goal – put it on paper, date it, and determine your plan to achieve it.
- It never hurts to print out some copies of your goal and put them up in prominent places around your house. I keep a copy of my goals inside the front flap of my Bible. When I’m studying the Word or spending some time in prayer, I can take a look at my goals, and focus on the next steps I need to take.
2. Block out the nonsense and the noise.
- Here’s the deal. Just as soon as you set your mind to get out of debt, a buddy will call and ask you to play golf or friends will call and ask you to get together for lunch. While we don’t want to avoid fun all-together (more on that in a bit) we do need to learn to change our behaviors. Remember, those of us who struggle(d) with credit card debt do so for a reason. We bought things we couldn’t afford with money we didn’t have. When you feel the pull to go out and spend, remember you ultimate goal, block out the noise, and stay focused.
- The above is easier-said-than-done. It never hurts to have an accountability partner or good friend with whom you can share you goal, someone who will not tempt you to spend but who will actually help you reach your destination. Surround yourself with like-minded folks and you’ll be ahead of the game.
- After reading this post, I came back to add this paragraph. When you first get started with personal finance management, you might feel overwhelmed. You might also feel intimidated. Don’t worry. These feelings are normal. Learn to breathe, take things step-by-step, and feel comfortable about the steps you are taking.
3. Learn from yesterday’s mistakes and move forward.
- It’s going to happen. You will blow your budget, you will bounce a check, you will buy something you don’t really need. Understand that you are human, that life can (and will) throw you a few curve balls, and that obstacles will find their ways into your path. When I was getting out of debt, I missed my goal date by more than four months. Instead of getting (overly) discouraged, I regrouped, re-focused, and moved forward.
4. Reevaluate your goal and be realistic.
- This one is so important. As you move forward, one of two things will become apparent. You will either (a) need to be less aggressive with your goal setting or (b) become more aggressive. If you are easily reaching your goal, well ahead of schedule, you may need to reevaluate and change your goal date, by moving it forward. If you are really struggling, and feeling completely overwhelmed, it may be time to move a goal date back by a month or two. The key is to keep up a steady, solid pace of progress.
5. Take time to celebrate.
- I’m old school. I still like to give the good old high-five, especially to my kids when they do something awesome. Since I’m a push over, I consider almost everything they do to be awesome, so I’m used to giving lots of high-fives. From time to time, give yourself a high-five. Go out for a nice dinner. Buy a book you have been wanting. Splurge a bit and do something nice for the kids or your spouse. The celebrations need not be elaborate. Find simple ways to keep yourself motivated.
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