Adapt & Adjust
Last summer, Jill & I did the unthinkable. With the kids home from school in the middle of summer, we took all of their electronic devices away. Kindles, iPads, iPods, Xbox. Even the TV Remote. All. The. Devices.
Disclaimer: no children were harmed by the removal of their electronic devices.
Were we nuts? Maybe. Were we fed up? Definitely. No doubt, the first few days were rough. Probably more for us than them. We stuck to our guns and hung tough.
Then something changed. Arguing and fighting went from a roar to a low dim. They started to play…together. They found new ways to occupy their time. They played outside more. They adapted. And they adjusted.
After two weeks, they were fine.
A funny thing happens when we become accustomed to things in our life.
Last week I gave you a simple 6-Step Spending Plan. For some of you, that may be just what you need and right up your alley. For others who might struggle with finding ways to trim their spending or simply want to save more, this week is for you.
According to Dr. Brad Klontz, just about everyone has a complicated relationship with money. If last's week "simple" spending plan was too simple for you then we should take a different approach.
Step 1 - Where Your Money Goes
No doubt this is going to be a detailed experience. You'll literally have to pull all of your spending habits from credit cards, bank accounts, paypal, ApplePay, etc. If you aren't aggregating your spending in one place, Mint.com or QuickBooks are some good starting points. They do a good (not great) job of pulling all of your accounts and categorizing them. Orders from Amazon and purchases at Target can be tricky since they can include just about any spending category - from food to sports equipment to clothes.
Don't want to connect bank accounts? That's fine, too. Spreadsheets and/or a good old fashioned pencil and paper will work, too.
Either way, you have to track spending in order to know where your money goes. That's Step One.
Step 2 - Why
Once you understand where your money is going, now it's time for the “why”. And it's also the time for you to be real with yourself. I think we can pretty much justify any "why" question.
Ask your kid why they did something. You'll know what I mean.
And so when you ask yourself why you spent the money to buy "x" we can easily justify it:
"I needed it for [insert reason here]."
"It was on sale and I really needed/wanted it."
No judgement here btw.
Last week we started to explore the idea of want vs. need. Here are some examples:
Do you want or need cable tv?
Do you want or need food?
Do you want or need a vehicle? And if so, what type?
Our egos will sometimes push us to interpret a want as a need. From the clothes we wear to the cars we drive and the restaurants we eat at. I'm guilty as charged. Again no judgement here.
How do we further define our "why"? Borrowing from Ramit Sethi, consider establishing your own Personal Money Rules.
These are your rules, not someone else's. And they should help you define and guide you when it comes to spending money. Interestingly, not all of Ramit's Personal Money Rules are related directly to money. They do all correlate to money, though.
Okay, so now we've established Step 1 and Step 2: Where your money goes, and Why.
Easy peasy, right? Not so fast. Now we actually have to DO IT and then stay accountable to it. Earlier I mentioned how easy it can be to justify a "why" question. And that typically stems from our ability to easily lie to ourselves*.
We all do it.
Again, guilty as charged and no judgement here.
So we have to stay accountable to ourselves. Often holding ourselves accountable is the hardest part in all of this so that brings us to our third step.
Step 3 - Accountability
If you've been reading my blog for some time, you know I firmly believe this is a big (if not the biggest) component to financial success. Most of us will not reach our full potential without some outside accountability. Think team sports/coaches, personal fitness and workout partners or trainers, your career and mentors, education and study groups.
We are 42% more likely to achieve our goals if we write them down*. By establishing our “why” or our Personal Money Rules AND writing them down, we increase our odds of success. Yay science!
And since we know it's human nature to scheme and deceive ourselves, we again increase our chances to reach our full potential if we engage outside accountability - especially when it comes to our personal finances.
Accountability also leads us to our next step.
Step 4 - Consistency
Now we're humming along. We've figured out where our money is going. We've established our "why" and our Personal Money Rules. We've found some outside accountability. Things are great!!
And then life happens. Oops.
At this point, it might be easy to justify (there's that word again!) taking a different tack or trying something new or even scrapping the whole thing all together because it's just too hard to get back on the bike.
Being consistent is one of the biggest challenges we might face as human beings. It's okay. We're human. We make mistakes. Don't justify them. Accept them. Accept the inconsistencies of life. And get back to it. The results may not be immediate. Actually, they probably won't be. When was the last time you exercised and woke up the next day 10 pounds lighter?
Remember, persistence pays off. Applying Step 3 can help increase our ability to get and stay consistent.
I get it. This personal finance stuff can really be challenging. I see it pretty often. In clients' lives. In my own life. Life is NOT a straight line.
We constantly have to adapt and adjust. Just like our kids did when we took away their electronics last summer.
Disclaimer: no humans will be harmed by saving more money.