I get it, you’ve read hundreds of articles on how to get yourself from where you are now, to where you want to be. You’ve spent precious time looking at how to plug the holes in your financial bath tub, and valuable energy trying to figure out how to build a solid financial foundation on which to build a future for your family. If you’re anything like me, you might be underestimating the power of small changes, so here are five small tips I used to help switch lanes on the road to financial freedom.
First of all — a word on focus
Before I get to the point, I wanted to discuss what the point actually is. I use the word focus rather than goal because I believe this journey is one with constantly changing goals, and that rather than trying to achieve goals that have a binary outcome, I prefer to focus on the core reasons for being on the journey, the journey of achieving our financial goals.
So grab a cup of coffee, head to your special place and sit with yourself. Have a think about what it is that your focus is financially, what do you want? Don’t downplay it, don’t over complicate it, just listen to yourself.
When we talk about money aspirations, financial freedom and all the other things wrapped up in the often uncomfortable subject of money, we can muddle what we want, with what we think we should want. Don’t. Ultimately for most people money relieves stress, so it’s removing stress that is the focus. Removing stress as far as possible so that we can live prosperous and happy lives.
Whatever the core focus is for you, and whatever extras you bolt on around it, that is absolutely fine, allow yourself to want that. I wrote about what I want here as an example:
Why I Want My Own Aircraft
Why you shouldn’t feel guilty for your dreams and the importance of embracing the inner you.
So with your core focus in mind, let’s get to it.
1. Understand you likely have some conversations to have — then have them
You’ve already had that first conversation with yourself about focus, now it’s time to sit down with your significant other (if you have one of course) and discuss it. Find out what their focus is, and discuss exactly how you both want that to transpire in life.
You’re not done yet — You probably aren’t reading this unless you have the niggling understanding that you are likely responsible to some degree for your current situation. Personally, I was pretty irresponsible with money by my own current standards for a long time, I also had some strange ideas about my responsibilities as a husband that led me to try and provide a life for my wife that quite frankly was outside our reach, and wasn’t in truth what we wanted at all.
Try and grab twenty minutes a couple times in the next week to have these conversations with yourself. Identify what you know you probably could have done better in the past, write them down, say them out loud, then forgive yourself. Everything before today is sunk costs, it’s history — we need to leave it there. Once you forgive yourself, bin the papers, burn them or do whatever, but acknowledge previous poor decisions shouldn’t bind you to poor decisions in the future, nor do they reflect in any way your “worth” or ability to prosper going forward.
2. Read Carol Dweck’s Mindset
I know you want to be making strides towards identifiable results, but I really believe in this book. It’s essentially a book on how to think yourself into having a growth mindset. I identified a number of areas that were exactly me in the book, and it’s one of those keepers on the book shelf that really does have an impact.
To give you an idea of why I think it’s important, this book helped me realise I didn’t have a debt problem (although my debt needed sorting out), I didn’t have an income problem (my income is good), and I didn’t have an opportunity problem (there are plenty of opportunities out there every day). This book made me realise I had a self worth problem. It helped me stop looking back, and start looking forward — which is exactly where we need to be focused if we are end up where we want, wherever that is for you.
3. Budget, budget, budget harder
Sit down and, swallow hard and devote the next 3–6 months to strict budgeting. If you have a lot of debt this might not be enough to sort that particular problem out, but in a 6 month timeframe you will have a really good handle on where you stand.
Now, budgeting is a whooole other topic, there are many many diffferent ideas on how to do it and they are all equally valid. Personally, we used Dave Ramsey’s Debt Snowball and their free budgeting app Everydollar (I’m not affiliated in any way):
Whatever you decide to do is up to you, have a look at different options and see what suits you, forcing yourself on a methodology that isn’t in line with what you are trying to achieve or is delivered in a way that doesn’t inspire you wont help you in any way, you need to be engaged with the process.
Granted this isn’t exactly a small step — it’s potentially a huge change, what I’m advocating here is getting on board with the plan, this small part of a much bigger change is what will help inspire you to implementing that plan.
4. Declutter the house — sell it all!
This is a tried and tested method for earning a few extra bucks, and in a lot of cases — a lot of extra bucks. We were amazed at all the stuff we had hanging around, and more amazed at what we were able to generate out of selling it. Don’t dismiss this as a non starter, it’s a genuinely beneficial step and has the added benefit of clearing space in the house.
This had such a powerful effect for us we even started questioning how minimal we could go without affecting or happiness, you quickly start to question lifestyle choices and their impact on your bigger future.
All this just from selling an old camera or stack of old clothes. Ebay, Etsy and Facebook Marketplace are all great options. If you want to take it a step further, check out Gary Vaynerchuck’s flipping challenges on youTube — it’ll open your eyes as to what’s possible, and the potential money to be made with reselling thrift. It may not be sexy — but who cares about sexy if you’re making money?
5. Don’t buy coffee — take it with you
I used to read advice that said give up the daily coffee and you could save hundreds a month and think, “thanks but that’s hardly going to make a lasting difference”. I thought this until I became a coffee hound and then actually implemented the advice.
Thing is, it isn’t just the coffee, it’s all the stuff around the edges that you tend to buy with it, a sandwich here, a pastry there. It all adds up. What I’m actually saying here rather than just stop buying coffee every day is start to plan out your life better.
What I’ve found over the last few years is that if you plan with anything in life it’ll save you money. I’ve become a planning convert — planning meals means the shopping list becomes easier to manage, which means you spend less on the spontaneous items that I personally was prone to grabbing.
Planning day trips means you take lunch with you, coffee included — which for us was a massive deal. We used to take our daughter for a day out, buy lunch then come home and curse our lack of planning. Packed lunches saves all this.
Getting started is the hardest part
One of my passions is trading. When people ask me how long I’ve been trading the financial markets I find it a really hard question to answer, if I think back to when I first thought I started, it would be 2008. See, the point I’m trying to make is that you can waste an awful lot of years starting something, when you haven’t actually started it at all. That was me, don’t let it be you.
For a long time I was working towards learning to trade because in my head I thought I was doing all the right things, but it didn’t turn into actual momentum in real life. When it came to getting ourselves financially on track, I was determined not to make the same mistake again.
What is important is making room in your life for the things I mention above, deciding to commit to the particular direction you want your journey to take, and taking on board that there are no quick fixes, and often times — the advice that is easy to pass off as inconsequential, or not specific enough, might just be more helpful than we give it credit for.
Above all, enjoy your journey.