Over the last eighteen months my wife and I have been making big strides in changing our financial future. For the first time in years the future looks bright. We still have a long way to go, but these five things have been critical in turning our ship around.
1. Non Emotionally Accept Reality
You can’t move forward unless you first understand and accept where you are. For us, that meant accepting we had a very warped idea of our financial situation. I had to realise that I’d been a loyal customer of consumer debt since my late teens, I’d always been servicing that debt and it was the main reason I had no purchasing power for savings, investments or rainy day funds.
Over the years my income went from amazing for my age, to pretty normal, back to really good. Despite this, we were still struggling to keep our heads above water. Sinking into our overdraft every month, using our credit cards for basic things, and failing to put enough money aside to look after things like the house. It was a simple case of our income failing to keep up with our lifestyle. Our lifestyle wasn’t lavish by any stretch, it was just irresponsible.
It’s a cliché, but it’s true to say that you need to admit there’s a problem before you can solve that problem. If you were like us, you know there’s a problem, you just feel dirty admitting it. I get that, I did. I was always on the lookout for get rich quick schemes or some way of investing my way out of debt, it doesn’t work.
What does work is acknowledging there’s a problem, letting yourself off the hook, and getting a full appraisal of your financial situation. Once you do this, you are fully able to take advantage of the raft of helpful resources out there to put it right.
As Robert Frost says:
“The best way out is always through”
There’s no avoiding it, you need to tackle the problem head on.
So easy it’s silly, but so many people feel it’s beneath them or straight up not necessary. I was the same for years, but it’s been critical in us going from treading water to doggy paddle and onto a decent front crawl. The aim of course, is to be floating on a lilo with a beer in hand.
Dave Ramsey is the king of the budget, and if you’re a follower or not it must be said that his advice and free budgeting software Every Dollar are invaluable if you’re not budget savvy. We were not budget savvy.
Budgeting Made Easy
EveryDollar is free budget software based on a proven plan that's helped millions of people get out of debt and save…
One of the best things about budgeting is that it gives an honest understanding of where you’re money is going. I bet you’re surprised. For us, it was alarming how much money we were wasting, scary in fact. The upside is a lot of that wastage was easy to cull and therefore we were able to claw back a decent amount of monthly cash.
Once you know where your money is going, you can reallocate. Making sure you account for all the money you get in the month is key, make it work for you, be honest about what you need rather than what you want, and experiment with how far back you can strip things back.
3. Kick Debt Into Touch
“Oh yeah, sure thing, I’ll just get rid of my debt, no problem” — I know, easier said than done. In fact, it’s hard slog to get debt out of your life. It does however get easier with every step, and you do feel amazing when you tick off each debt in turn.
Getting out of debt is a big topic, it’s not one I can condense into a single paragraph really. There are a number of methods out there in order to achieve it, and you need to find the one that works for you. We used Dave Ramsey’s baby steps, despite being in the UK, but there are other just as valuable methods out there.
The important thing is you acknowledge debt is an issue, that it’s robbing you of your purchasing power without which you can’t invest, and put a plan in place to get rid of it.
“Every time you borrow money, you’re robbing your future self” — Nathan Morris
4. Discuss Your Dreams
The road to financial freedom is sought by many, achieved by some, and hard for all. This needs to be at the forefront of your mind, and in order to stop it receding to the back, behind all the other things in life that compete for your attention, you need to be clear on your future goals.
There’s no point living frugally now to enjoy the future, if you have no idea what you want that future to look like. So I say have conversations with your spouse, or if you’re single with a friend or even just yourself about your wildest dreams. Don’t be afraid to shoot big.
My wife and I have these conversations all the time, so much so sometimes I think she’d rather just watch TV, but what I’ve noticed is that whilst some elements of those dreams change, some stay the same, and the more they are discussed the more solid they become in your mind and the more they feel attainable.
When I was younger my dreams were wild, now they are just as wild but they are focussed on much more grounded things. Family is key, security is too, after that it’s the ability to travel and enjoy the few hobbies we have. Whatever it is you aspire to in life, have the canvas of your mind paint it clear, and paint it big.
5. Get Educated
If you want to reap the benefits of an intelligent approach to personal finance, it pays to get educated. I don’t mean going out and getting qualifications in commercial banking, or passing your exams to be a financial guru, in fact I wrote recently on why I’m doing the opposite.
What I do mean is seeking out and learning from those who have been there and done, it. Reading around the subject of debt, personal finance, money, and all the other subjects that mesh together to give you a good understanding of how money and economies work, and how consumers and people in general think.
A lot of people feel guilty for wanting to understand and benefit from an understanding of money. Don’t.
We all want the best out of life, for our future, and for our families. Just because you want to act on that wish doesn’t mean you should feel bad about it. Leave others to feel the way they want to, that isn’t your fight.
I won’t list resources here as I think that’s a whole separate post, but the crux of the message here is find something that you feel comfortable with and devour it. See who that person you like talks to and go read their books too, listen to their podcasts, see what they stand for.
In the digital age most people forget that content (decent content that is) is just another form of education. Dave Ramsey is obviously someone I’ve found helpful, but there is a stack of stuff here on Medium Too. Just check out Ben Le Fort and his publication The Making Of A Millionaire.
Making of a Millionaire
Publishing Stories on all things related to money: Personal Finance, Economics and the Journey to Financial…
Be hungry, get fed. It’s done wonders for our outlook on things.
5 Simple Things, But Will You Do Them?
I’m not trying to add to the noise here, these things genuinely have massively helped us get on a road that leads to a destination we actually want to go to. Sometimes when we are looking for a solution to big problems we expect to need to complex things, but the beauty of this is that it isn’t complicated. It’s just a case of implementing simple things, over and over again.
We aren’t finished, we still have a long way to go, but these 5 things have helped us keep sight of the place we now feel we have decent chance of ending up.
If you want to read more on some of the steps we’ve taken to getting out of debt, here’s an article I wrote on our year of debt reduction.
Jamie is a Father, Husband and Rescue Pilot. He is driven by family, flying, and the journey towards self belief, and realising our goals.