This is one of the most common problems people have – how to start doing something they KNOW they should be doing but for whatever reason they’re not. After all, it’s not like this stuff is rocket science. You already know what to do: you just spend less, save and invest the rest, don’t go into debt and live happily ever after, right? :)
SO WHY AREN’T WE DOING IT??
Why do we keep spending and not paying attention to stuff???
I’ve only personally figured it out myself just a handful of years ago, but it all comes down to a simple question in life:
What do we care about??
Not what do we *think* we care about, or what others say we’re *supposed* to care about, but what do WE – deep down inside – care about? What makes us truly happy??
We’ll get to more of this in a few, but first here’s an email I just got that spurred this post:
I need some serious advice. I have been following you for some time now and I LOVE your blog and LOVE the concepts that you have shared… However, I don’t know what the disconnect is for me… I spend and don’t save.
I want to do better.
And here was my gut response to him – unedited and polished – straight outta gmail:
it seems like you just haven’t figured out your “Why” yet. Like, what the point of it all is for YOU.
What do you want out of your life? what are your hopes and dreams? What would you do today if you were rich and didn’t have to worry about the $$$? What do you CARE about?
You gotta focus on those and really figure out what’s bubbling inside of you… Most people know how to save money and pay off debt yada yada yada, yet they never do anything about it. You gotta figure out what drives you and then pull the trigger from there.
The good thing is that you’re already online and reading about $$$ so now you just gotta take action! :)
It sounds so simple and cheezy (because it really is) but it’s not always so easy to come up with the answers. At least the first times around.
I remember when I started this blog I thought it was all about being hot $hit with money and becoming a millionaire so I could live the good life forever and just party all the time. Which is still what I’m striving for to a degree (except for the hot $hit part – I don’t care if I’m hot or cold as long as I get to the finish line ;)), but I no longer care about the *title* of being a millionaire or early retiree, etc.
I just want the freedom.
The freedom to work on whatever I’m passionate about, the freedom to travel far and wide or stay at home all day in my pajamas, the freedom to hang out with my kids and not be so attached to a screen 24/7, and the freedom to LIVE FULLY without thinking about the money anymore.
Which is funny if you think about it… Our whole lives we’ve been trying to figure out how to GET and SAVE more of our money, when all we really want to do at the end of the day is not worry about it at all.
And that’s exactly why we need to step away every now and then and really remind ourselves what the point of it all is. Because believe me – it’s not about the money or accolades our statuses. It’s about following our hopes and getting rid of all that garbage that comes with being so broke and stressed all of the time… That’s not a desired state for anyone.
So yes – congrats to everyone here reading and wanting to learn more and be better with managing their money, but if you don’t figure out your own “why” it’s going to be hard to keep straight and motivated. You gotta know what stirs you inside and keep reminding yourself of it.
Do this for the rest of the day: pretend you’ve got a couple of million in the bank. How would you spend your time this weekend? What would you work on or not work on? What would you do for the rest of the year?
You figure that out and you’ll be wealthier than you’ve ever been before…
And then you go out and get your millions :)
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Wow. What a powerful post. I couldn’t agree with you more. What we’re all really striving for is the freedom that money gives us. I often think how Mr. Money Monster and I will feel when we hit our financial independence goal in 2021 (fingers crossed!). And what I imagine most of all is freedom :) Our daily lives won’t change much, but it sure will be nice knowing we don’t need to work for anyone if we choose not to. Woohoo! But let’s be honest, getting there is half the fun!
Keep Kicking A$$!
Mrs. Money Monster
It’s definitely a fun challenge, I agree :)
Love that you know the exact date too!
Everyone always needs to answer the “What is in it for me?” question. It is easy to figure out what you will get out of spending money, whatever the direct action of spending your money is (physical item, experience, etc). This question is just as important when trying to become a saver rather than a spender. You nailed this idea in your response. Even if you want to become a saver, if you don’t have an idea of what you ultimately want out of it, making the switch becomes that much harder.
I’m with you on this though – I want the freedom that FI can bring. Have a good weekend J$!
To be honest it’s a pretty tough battle for me as well to not spend and save. I think most of us deal with this issue, so it’s important to know our ‘triggers’ and work around them. For instance: I have stopped going to the store for all kinds of stuff, we go once a week and purchase items based on a list. Sure, we do buy extra-stuff (yep, am not yet mastering all my triggers), but we try to buy what’s really needed (and failed to add to the list previously) and we don’t do it often.
Carrying cash only has also helped a lot, it’s easier to see when the ‘stack’ is getting thinner. :D
Yes – triggers are important to watch for! That’s how I broke my “bored shopping” habit too years ago… by literally not going into stores anymore, haha… amazing how that works ;)
Truth. Once you’ve found your ‘why’ everything else falls into place. But you must have a why, frugality for frugality’s sake is uninspiring and therefore unsustainable.
The first step to change is recognition that change is needed, the second is desire, and the long and tedious performance of the actions comes last. So even if savings isn’t yet a habit, I’d argue that anyone who has read this far is well on their way to seeing the change take hold.
But all this goes to show that we are dealing with PERSONAL finances. It is easy to discuss the theory behind saving, investing, early retirement, etc. but without having your reasons figured out for yourself there isn’t much that all this theory will do for you.
Happy Friday the 13th everyone!
I’ve been reading this blog for a while now and have just began implementing a budget with my fiancé. He’s a spender living pay check to pay check and I’m a saver so needless to say this hasn’t been easy. He supported me when I asked him to do this but after each pay check he would inevitably blow his money as fast as he got it. Finally we sat down and I told him why I wanted to save , i wanted to be able to volunteer with my time. He actually thought about it and came up with reasons he would like save and since then he’s been doing so much better. Thinking about the WHY makes such a huge difference.
BEAUTIFUL!!! Your fiance just got a helluva lot more sexy ;)
Ok, I’ll do it! (Pretend I have a couple of million dollars and can do whatever I want with my time, that is.) Honestly I spend so much of my time thinking oh-my-gosh-I’m-in-so-much-student-debt-how-can-I-get-out-of-it-as-quickly-as-possible that I honestly don’t spend nearly enough time thinking about why exactly I want to pay off the debt and what I would actually do with my time if money weren’t an issue.
I suppose the easy answer is to say, oh, I’d hop on a plane and go for a trip around the world! But I think I probably need to think about it a bit more deeply than that. My suspicion is that it might involve starting some sort of big creative project…but I’m not even sure what that would be. Hmmmmmmm.
Luckily there’s no right or wrong answers here :) But I wanna know what it is when you narrow it down!
You might like this: http://www.healyourlife.com/play-the-prosperity-game
Here’s part of what it says:
“In the Prosperity Game, you begin by establishing an imaginary checking account. In other words, there will be no actual bank involved, but you will make deposit entries and check withdrawals just as if it were an actual account. You could use an old checkbook system that is no longer in use, an accounting program in your computer, or you could even manufacture a complete system by using a notebook as your checkbook register and blank pieces of paper for your deposit slips and checks. It is of value to make this process feel as real to you as possible.
On the first day, deposit $1,000. And spend it. In other words, make a $1,000 deposit entry into your checkbook register, then write out checks to spend those dollars. You could spend your money all in one place, using one check, or you could spend it for several different things, using several different checks. The point of the game is to have fun thinking about what you would like to purchase, and to enjoy the process of actually writing out the checks.”
I’ve been doing it. I printed out a check register and fake checks from a google search.
HAH! Fascinating!! And you see it working so far? Making you feel good w/out actually spending? :)
Amazing, I’ve felt changes happening since I started it. It’s interesting to figure out what you would spend money on if you had a lot of it free and clear and could buy anything.
I’ve never been a huge spender–I bought my first pair of jeans in three years earlier this year, and that was because I needed them. I haven’t had cable since I moved out on my own. A lot of times, I really don’t know what to do with it.
Sounds like a good problem to have :)
This was the best post for a Friday morning read! I so agree with you “I just want Freedom” also. I want to decide what my “freedom” is everyday just like you. I may not have enough money to travel the world and have the huge house and new cars every year…but that is not what is important to me. I want more time to do what I feel is important to me…spend time with family & friends and make a difference In the world by doing positive things!
yayyy I’m so glad you enjoyed it!
You’re 100% right J! You finally helped me see the “why” and now I can’t stop thinking about becoming FI. Or at least out of debt to start :)
It’ll just make it that much sweeter for you when you hit it :)
I love it! When we focus on what we’re working toward and the progress we’re making, we aren’t thinking nearly as much about what we’re giving up.
If I had achieved financial freedom, I’d travel more and maybe take some interesting classes that budgeting doesn’t allow right now, but otherwise I’m pretty happy with where I am.
Sounds like you’re doing exactly what you should be at this point of the process then :)
I’ve tried this and maybe it will help someone.
I want to pay off student loans and other things. I do want the freedom you speak of. I’ve started thinking of my dollars as bricks. I need bricks to build my foundation with, so I can have that freedom. The more bricks I can keep, the faster I can build my foundation. I’ve found myself not wanting to give my bricks to people. I really want to keep my bricks. (This works a lot better when you have physical cash.)
I like this! :) Thanks for sharing.
You should physically make a brick (out of paper) for every $100 you pay off or save and plaster it on the wall. Then as time goes on it’ll be filled up and motivate you to move from room to room :)
For me, I had to go the opposite route and figure out why I was spending! Turns out there was lots of fear and self esteem issues under all of that spending. I doubted my self worth, and buying myself things was my way of proving to myself that I was worthy. I feared being poor, and being able to buy (or should I say “borrow”?) what I wanted convinced me that I wasn’t poor. Learning that all people are wonderful, worthy and loved by God helped me to stop needing approval from other people and to stop needing “stuff” to prove to myself that I was successful. Great post, J$!
Fascinating!! WHY you spend is ofcourse very important as well. And you’ve come along way!! :)
What a fun exercise. If I had a few million in the bank, I would be on a First Class plane to visit my brand new nephew! I’m not sure what my plans are for the rest of the year, but I can at least get through the week :)
Simple, powerful, and straight to the point. I know my why, but I need to focus more on it. Thanks for sharing this email exchange with us and helping to keep it real.
Nailed it… Freedom
I can remember sitting down at my desk to start work early one morning last year and just staring at my monitor without really seeing anything. What hit me was the realization that I had no control over how my time was going to be spent for the bulk of the day. I was, in essence, a slave. I had to have this job. I had bills to pay. I had made my goal of six figures before 40, yet I was still a slave.
Now I have a goal… Freedom
Oh man… you’re giving me goose bumps over here! good for you for catching on to it when you did! imagine if it happened a decade or two from then?
I love this thought experiment! If I had millions in the bank, my weekend would look pretty much the same. I’ve decided to start constructing at least part of my weeks to mirror exactly the life I want (if not now, then when?). Since I’m still doing the 9-5 thing, it’s my weekends that normally get put exactly how I want them. This weekend will be dinner with family, side gig work, playdates with some of my kids’ friends from school, and reading some great books – this is exactly how I want to spend my time this weekend, regardless of my bank balance. If I had millions though, my week would look different. I’d be doing some domestic travel with the province. I have family and friends that I would really like to visit right now. I know exactly why I’m pushing myself to better my finances. I want the freedom to makes my whole week like my weekend. :)
Well said, my friend. Well said :)
I think many people find themselves asking this question over and over simply because taking the first steps toward change is the most difficult part, and people give up before they even get started as a result. Any big change is usually breaking a long established habit, and that’s not easy to do.
This is going to sound off the wall but the “why” often has nothing to do with money really. As you say, it’s about what the money enables, what it allows.
I was reading “The Top Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die” by John Izzo yesterday and the interesting epiphany for me was that its principles make it easy to live a life of abundance because when you feel wiser about yourself and what you want, you stop looking outside yourself for the answers. You don’t need to buy more and better stuff. You enjoy what’s already around you. That makes saving money a no-brainer because it was never about the money to begin with. You could say it’s the best “personal finance” book I’ve read all year. ;)
Tell us what the other secrets were!!!! :)
LOL! Sure. Here they are:
1. Be true to yourself.
2. Leave no regrets. (And forgive yourself for those you already have.)
3. Become love. (Love yourself, your family, and humanity in general.)
4. Live the moment.
5. Give more than you take.
The above secrets came about from distilling interviews with over 200 people known to be happy, wise people over 60 years old. The first one is the one that is highly correlated to your dissection of “why” above. Incidentally, money saved is also an enabler of helping us continuously check into our why: who we really are and what we want out of this weird and wonderful life of ours.
I love #3! “Become Love”…. man that is good (and beautiful).
I had a big conversation with a client recently about this. She told me her goals but then she wasn’t fixing her behaviors. We realized that her goals weren’t really hers they were just what she thought she should have. Since she didn’t feel passionate and connected to her goals, she wasn’t making the changes she needed to. It’s tough when you don’t have focus and buy-in to your financial future. We are still working on identifying her goals but in the meantime, I have given her short term goals so she can start to feel the success of achieving good things financially. We are hoping those good feelings will lead to other behavioral changes.
When I read posts like this, I’m always reminded of the Johnny Cash quote:
“Success is having to worry about every damn thing in the world, except money.”
At first, I really liked the quote. But the more I thought about it, I started to wonder if Mr. Cash was really saying that success = money. Now I’m back to really liking it again, haha. I think his quote is on point with your post: while success isn’t necessarily defined by money, success does carry the benefit of not having to worry about money – which is the freedom so many of us seek.
I like your advice to the e-mailer. What are you REALLY trying to accomplish? Once you determine that, then the savings (not spending) part should fall into place.
Hah! I was thinking I would love the quote as Mr. Cash is a favorite of mine, but nope… for some reason adding the “every damn thing” seems like that successful person would be pretty stressed out, haha… Although listening to his music definitely helps you feel better :)
I also think it’s important to be able to visualize your goals. For us, we visualize being debt free with significant assets. That would allow us to be able to travel wherever and whenever we want, send our daughter to college, and give much more freely to charity. Being able to visualize those awesome goals helps get us through on days when we are experiencing a case of the “wants!”
Which is why I want to see all my hundreds of thousands of dollars in cold hard cash in my room! So I can actually understand what it really is!!! :) (But not when the market crashes and $30,000 of it gets taken away by the stock police, haha…)
Good post J, however there seems to be vast similarities in financial blog posts I’ve been reading for years; no one ever addresses the foundation or ‘model’ of our financial practices. Have you or anyone else out there ever considered that maybe it is how we’ve been taught to manage our finances is the problem? The tail is wagging the dog.
Everyone cares deeply about there finances. I’ve talked to thousands of homeowners and found their finances are their #1 priority, outside family and faith. I’ve also analyzed 1000’s of economic profiles as well and I have found one common thread; the model by which they bank and borrow is the root of the problem. For example; our monthly net income is our most valuable financial resource, it is the only financial resource we have to accomplish our financial goals, but we deposit it into valueless checking accounts while our debt is calculating interest costs at the highest possible level. So while our income sits idle and providing no value our debt is syphoning what it can in the form of interest. This should sound very familiar to everyone because this is the ‘model’ by which we follow. What if and what would your financial life look like if 100% of your income could be saving you interest 24/7? You don’t have to change how much you care about your finances, you have to change the model of how you manage your finances…as it relates to the conventional model of banking and borrowing. If you want to change results you have to implement a model that renders the current model irrelevant. I’m just say’n.
Sure, that prob plays a part but if you’re spending all your money anyways what would you really make off that money sitting there? A few bucks? I think it’s more about people SAYING what their priorities are in this case (money) but then not matching up with their actions.
It’s like when I say that being healthy and eating/exercising well is important, but then I go pick up Wendy’s and eat it while I’m sitting here on my ass typing this response out to you right now (which is literally what I’m doing ;)). I’m telling myself I want to be healthier but I’m not caring about it enough to change my actions and have just completely fooled myself into thinking I am.
I do agree with your point about having the foundations earlier on and how we’re raised and those around us influence our financial management, but at the end of the day it all comes down to how badly you want something. At least in my opinion. (And catastrophic events excluded)
Yes! I always say we were doing alright, but we didn’t start to do great until we had a future plan mapped out that we were so excited to achieve that it impacted our daily choices!
As always, a great article. Your posts always make a difference with me. Last night I was telling my BF about your blog and found myself talking like I know you personally. But anyways, here is my blog post in response to this —> http://www.mommalovesmoney.com/motivation-save-money/
LOVE THAT! Haha… And is exactly what I want it to feel like here :) Like we’re all having a coffee or beer and discussing our thoughts on money… It’s the next best thing outside of doing it actually in person!
The why is really important, it will keep you inspired in those times that you actually want to give up.
I used to watch Suze Orman’s weekly show on CNBC and she would always say, “When you feel less than, you spend more than.” This really resonated to me. If I catch myself browsing online, I stop to ask myself what I’m feeling at that moment: Bored? Jealous of something a friend has? Or actually in need of what I’m looking at. It’s important to look at the emotions behind the spending.
I really wish that someone had told me when I was younger that I could buy my freedom instead of stuff. A little late to the game but still hoping for ER by the time I’m 50!
INCREDIBLE QUOTE!! Totally tweeting that out right now, haha…
For me it was turning it into a hobby, opening a blog, etc… that triggered everything (in addition to become really pissed off with my job, of course…). I guess the blog makes me accountable for succeeding, trying new ways to save, etc…
This bit particularly resonates with me:
“Our whole lives we’ve been trying to figure out how to GET and SAVE more of our money, when all we really want to do at the end of the day is not worry about it at all.”
I find it even more true today, now that I’m aiming at financial independence. I badly want to not care about money, and this means caring about it more than I ever did before. Complete paradox, and I wrote about it recently too: http://howtoretireearly.net/are-you-obsessed-with-money/
Blogs definitely help speed up the process :) Especially when you’re completely transparent with your #’s!
For us it is about the freedom. I always like to think about it as buying our life back from the system. It becomes the loudest voice in my head everyday. What am I doing today to reach my goals? What am I doing today to better myself? What didn’t work and what do I need to change? Your advice is spot on. You need to find your WHY. Once you find your why then you find your motivation to accomplish what you want, whatever it may be, financial or otherwise.
Good message J and that dude should get some goals like today. Having a why is a good starting point. Hopefully Ill reach a million 1 day, and still never buy a Ferrari or care about all that luxury crap. When you understand money and the value it will bring in life, you sort of grow up with how you handle it.
I still want to DRIVE a Ferrari at least once in my life to see what the big fuss is about :)
For me it is about the freedom which I have had a chance to experience for the last 2 years since I retired in my late 30s. My last step was paying off my condo a little over 2 years ago. I remember every time I wrote that check and put it in the mail I would wait for it to post to my account and I would imagine that I am pushing the bank one step back out my front door. I would come home from a long day at work and would think, today I bought back 5 square foot of my home, when I paid down more mortgage I would imagine my bedroom is paid for now, then the living room and the kitchen and so and that would keep me motivated to save like crazy. When I wrote that last check and I got the letter in the mail that I own my home free and clear, I shut the door for good on borrowing ever again. Imagining good things has great power, giving your life away a dollar at a time is nothing but that, giving your life and freedom away. Thanks for the great post J, I really enjoy reading your posts.
DAMMMMN!!! LOVE THIS!! Such a great way of thinking! Congrats on reaching that beautiful freedom!! YAYY!!!!!
I think visualizing the freedom it brings is a good way of getting in gear when it comes to saving vs. spending.
This used to be my problem. J Money, what I do is I set my goals and stay away from activities where there’s a chance to spend or I look for activities or a side hustle that I could focus on so I can stop spending and start saving.
I was and still and not a Saver… But, the best advice that I know you have all heard before is to ‘Pay yourself First’. It is what truly changed my life, I know it sounds so simple. When you are paying your bills, make one small bill to yourself and, Don’t hold it in the same account that holds your spending funds =)…
This is a great post, J Money! You’re right that it’s all about freedom. I realize that I’ve been in auto-pilot for earning and saving, but not really brainstorming my purpose. It’s time to take some time for considering what makes me happy and putting a plan in place to make my life better reflect that.
I was enjoying the post until you got to the part about pretending you’ve got $2 million in the bank. That is exactly what I have saved for retirement during my career. Plus another million I inherited last year. Yet I’m still working a demanding job well over 40 hours a week. I have hundreds of employees and dozens of daily problems and opportunities at a job that swings wildly from being terrifically entertaining to being downright unpleasant. I’m in my very late 50’s and don’t need a salary to live well the rest of my life, but I am not sure I know how to do retirement. Yeah, its a first world problem of the highest order, but I’m guessing I’m not alone.
Fascinating problem indeed… do you ever read early retirement blogs? I feel like they would help out A LOT. Especially in the “what to do” department as they’re always sharing the projects and ideas they’re working on (much to the jealousy of us still working – hah).
Here’s a list of my favorites if you want to give them a shot – I highly advise it:
It’s not an unsolvable problem so long as you actually want to solve it :)
My personal experience has been that, while I was dealing with depression, it was difficult to care for myself in any way, whether it be eating right, exercising, saving money, caring for personal relationships, housework. (I had the insidious apathetic don’t-care-much-about-anything type of depression rather than the very sad, need-to-get-help-now type.)
Now that my health is so much better (resistant starch+probiotics FTW!), I’m so much more interested in traveling, learning to invest, pursuing a side hustle, volunteering, etc. I really believe that if you don’t have a decent degree of health, then it will be difficult to have other things that rely on the energy and desire that come naturally with being healthy.
I hope I never recover from this addiction to your blog though!
Such an insightful comment, Redra! And killer name too – I love it!
I hope you’ll stick around indeed and keep adding to the conversation :) I’m glad you’re feeling a lot better now!