Originally posted on Huffington Post.
In any journey, the first step is usually the hardest. If one of your goals for the New Year is to find financial wellness, tackling existing habits is a great place to start. These small, simple steps will help you make real headway in your money goals and replace old habits with powerful ones.
Champion yourself around money.
One of the reasons that money is such a difficult topic is that we constantly beat ourselves up about it. Have you ever listened to what you tell yourself about money and your relationship to it? If you’re curious, keep a journal that tracks how you feel when you spend, when you earn, and when you tackle financial to-dos. You might notice a similarity between how you treat money and how you treat a new diet. When we beat ourselves into submission around a new diet, we end up rebelling and eating the entire bag of chips or the whole cake. Similarly, when we tell ourselves we can’t buy something, or that we are worthless when it comes to money, we end up making decisions that take us further from what we want most. In 2017, start your money journey with the understanding that you don’t need to battle with yourself. Muster up some compassion and forgiveness for wherever you are in your money life, and begin your new journey by looking ahead and taking powerful steps towards your goals.
Pay yourself first.
It’s ironic. We work really hard and then prioritize paying everyone else first. We usually view savings as the money left over after we pay our bills and spend on our lifestyle. But true to Parkinson’s Law—that things always take up as much space as we give them—our expenses chip away at our checking account, month after month, leaving nothing for us to put towards our goals for the future. This year, \switch the equation and pay yourself first. It’s okay to start small! Set up a small automatic transfer to your savings account from each paycheck and see how it goes. I recommend opening an online savings account that’s separate from your checking account. This way, the money is physically and mentally separate, and you can even earn a little bit of interest on it. As weeks go by, if you hardly notice the transfer, inch it up!
Deal with environmental toxins powerfully.
Environmental toxins are the people, places, and things that get the best of our spending. It can be the friend you always go shopping with or the store that you can’t leave without dropping $100. Environmental toxins affect our spending in the moment, but they can also put us in a tailspin that lasts for days or even weeks. You can see how this might be detrimental to our goals! We all have our own environmental toxins, and while we can’t always avoid them, we can deal with them powerfully and avoid toxic spending. First, it’s important to recognize that they exist. While this may sound simple, taking a look at what’s actually happening in our financial lives is a huge part of making progress. As you take stock of what triggers you to spend, and how you deal with (or avoid) things related to your money, try to do so without judgement or self-criticism. Your goal is to gather information, not to guilt yourself for mistakes. There’s nothing wrong or bad. It’s about figuring out where you are so we can get you where you want to go.
Share your money goals.
Money can be a taboo topic, and we tend to hush up about it—even if our money goals are a big part of our daily life. Your best friend might not know that you are saving up for your first home or your partner might not even know that you are working diligently to pay down credit card debt from many years ago. But this doesn’t work for a few reasons. First, if friends and family don’t know that you’re trying to save, it can be harder to avoid shopping and spending, and you may be influenced to make less powerful decisions about money. It’s not that they are doing this maliciously—in fact, if they knew, they would most likely be your biggest champions! In 2017, try letting go of your shyness and share your money goals with the people closest to you. They can quickly become your dream team, and I promise you’ll reach your goals more quickly and easily.
Spend meaningfully and intentionally.
We can only spend every dollar once, yet we often have no no idea where our money is actually going because we spend out of habit or on autopilot. With technology, we’re separated from the pain of paying: we hop out of Ubers without taking out our wallets, we hit buy when online shopping and then find boxes at our doors, and we swipe credit cards for everything from lattes to dinners out. Paying via these methods feels really different than handing over cash, and it’s easy to spend on things that don’t contribute to our happiness. The solution? Start a money journal and track what you spend and earn. As the year goes on, it will be easier to identify which purchases are just habit. Once you become aware of these, they’re easy to let go of fairly painlessly, which allows you to prioritize spending that’s meaningful and brings joy to your life.
Join me for a 10-Day New Year Money Challenge beginning January 1. We’ll kick off the year with one powerful step each day towards financial well-being. Deciding to change your habits is the hardest part! Our 10 days together will be fun, manageable, and transformative, one day at a time.