By Abbey L. Henderson, CFP®, RLP®, CPCC®
Saving money is kind of like exercising, isn’t it? It’s something everyone agrees is important, yet it’s so hard stay motivated! Financial discipline isn’t a skill we’re born with and we’re surrounded by a society that promotes instant gratification, so it’s easy to make excuses. But that only makes you feel bad, because you’re not saving money like you know you should. There has to be a better way!
The key to enjoying exercise is finding something you enjoy – whether it’s gardening, walking the dog, or tennis. Making it fun helps you stay on track. Can the same principle work for saving money? Can you actually make financial discipline enjoyable?
The key to financial discipline isn’t denying yourself and cutting back on the things you enjoy.
Just like exercise, it’s about finding your joy to stay motivated!
I always tell my clients who are struggling to save that they need to have a vision for their future, rather than goals. Goals can be boring and uninspiring, but a vision of your future gets you excited and motivated to take action.
Let’s say your goal is to put 10% of your paycheck into your retirement plan. But you keep getting sidetracked by purchases you want to make now, so it ends up being more like 5% each year. Imagine instead that you have a clear vision of what you’ll be doing during your retirement – you’re finally writing your novel, you’re spending four months every year in Costa Rica, you’re moving across the country so you can spend everyday with your grandkids. These joyful things will motivate you and give you the financial discipline you need to stay on track. When you identify what brings you joy and how you want more of that in the future, it’s much easier to take action to support your vision.
How can you develop the financial discipline to make your vision a reality?
Instead of focusing on what you’re losing (your sacrifices), focus on what you’ll gain (your joy).
A good place to start is to review your expenses and pay attention to areas where your spending isn’t aligned with your vision. Most likely there are things you’re paying for that bring you no joy. I’m not talking about necessities like your mortgage, utilities and health insurance. These expenditures may not be exciting but the safety and security they give you definitely help you live with joy. I’m talking about “stuff” that we pay for without any thought.
You may have heard of what David Bach calls the “Latte Factor” which symbolizes the high cost of small, periodic spending. Now for some of us buying a coffee does bring us joy so don’t take this example too literally. I like calling it the Joy Factor instead. Most likely there are expenses that don’t make you happy – whether it’s paying hundreds of dollars a month on cable when you don’t watch TV, insuring and storing a boat you never use, subscribing to magazines you never read… you get the idea. Exercise your financial discipline muscle and get rid of expenses that bring you no joy. You’ll feel less burdened and free to save for what really matters.
Could you use some support in developing greater financial discipline based on an inspiring financial vision? Start exploring your financial life planning options here. It will help you clarify your values and vision, and give you a clear roadmap on how to get there. Or feel free to schedule a complimentary Financial Life Plan Discovery Session with me to learn how to make your vision a reality.