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6 Ways to Get Financially Motivated

11 May 2009

Last Monday I asked whether or not you were ready to tackle your personal finances.

Here’s the truth. Keeping track of your personal finances – setting goals, making a budget, sticking to it – is hard work. Its not even a lot of fun or enjoyable most of the time. You’re not going to want to do it once a week or even once a month. But you should. In addition, staying motivated is incredibly difficult. Especially after you screw up and buy something you shouldn’t, or when you try really hard but don’t see any progress.

Staying motivated is tough. Here are six ways I motivate myself to achieve my financial goals.

Look At The Past

1. Use a Spending Record

Using my spending record, I look and where I spent my money over the last month or two. This usually achieves one of two results. I either am encouraged, because I can see how much progress I am making, or I am angered, because I see how much money I’ve wasted. Sure, I get hungry at work and want a sandwich, but six or seven sandwiches over a month can really add up, and all of a sudden I’m not saving money, I’m wasting it. By recognizing areas of improvement, I increase the chance that I’m going to take action.

2. Write out Your Foolish Past

Want to get motivated? Write out how you got to where you are today. Trent from The Simple Dollar did just this, outlining his road to financial Armageddon. So take some time, get out pen and paper or open a word processing document, and remember. Remember your stupidest financial mistakes, the mindset that you used to have. Take stock of all the problems of the past. Why? “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Look At The Present

3. Compare Your Purchases to Your Past and Your Future

Whenever you are about to buy something that is not essential, pause for a moment and consider whether this purchase is something you would have bought in the past, and whether or not you wish to continue purchasing it in the future. In your past, you made poor financial decisions. Could this purchase be one of them? In the future, you want to achieve great things, spend less money, earn more income. Would the person of your future purchase this item? If not, if your future self wouldn’t, then put it down now. Comparing your present self to your past and future selves will allow you to see what direction you are headed in.

4. Find and Emulate a Role Model

Who has what you want? Whether its financial freedom, a sense of thrift, or the job of your dreams, find who has what you want, and copy what they do. Every day, remind yourself of this person, and take one small step to becoming more like them. Do you want to spend less money? Find someone who spends less money than you, and emulate them. They have nothing special, there is no magic formula. They are just doing actions that help them achieve their goals – so copy them, and you’ll achieve your goals too.

Look At The Future

5. Plan Long-Term Goals

If you are expecting to completely change yourself overnight, you will fall short. Then you will lose motivation, and give up. So don’t expect yourself to become a frugal and thrifty genius overnight. Don’t give up that goal – but set a reasonable expectation of progress. Don’t plan on cutting $1000 from your budget overnight. It’s too difficult a goal. Instead, shave $50 from your budget this month, and another $50 the next. Small victories will help you stay motivated over the long term.

6. Remind Yourself of Your Goals

What is your goal? What are you saving for? There are plenty of techniques that can be used to remind yourself of your goals, and by remembering what you’re saving for, you’ll be less likely to spend. You can sleeve your debit cards, or put a picture of your dream vacation spot on the fridge. You can read about your dream retirement as a retired millionaire, or simply repeat a mantra of “I want to be debt free” every morning. Remind yourself of your ideal future, and the saving will become easy.

How do you keep yourself motivated?

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About the Author

Bank Guru

My real name is Banking “Guru” Smith, yes my parents were bankers and believed that I one day would become a famous banker just like them. I enjoy a double-double coffee, super long lines at the grocery store and annoying CSR’s (Customer Service Representatives or more commonly known as ‘Tellers’). You will usually find me working behind the scenes, I let Sensei generate all the attention. I also forgot to mention that I invested in Madoff, think I will ever get my money back?

Comments (4 )

Matt Jabs Wrote:

All your tips are excellent. Another thing to do to prevent burnout is to use the snowball method…paying off smallest debts first so you have something concrete that you have accomplished.

Another thing I do is to treat my financial sacrifices just as I would with food. Watch what you eat 6 days a week but give yourself a cheat day. One great thing about this is that a lot of the time you’ll find that you don’t even want the cheat day…but it’s still good to afford yourself the option. If you do too much too fast you risk burnout.

Thanks Alan.

Matt Goulart Wrote:

Thanks for sharing those tips, Matt! I’ve tried doing "cheat" days before, but they never work out for me. I either decide to "cheat" on my "cheat" day or after I cheat I just keep on cheating! I know that it works for some people though, so it definitely could work.

I definitely agree that if you try to do too much too soon you can burnout. I do that all the time, with working out, finances, etc.

Matt Goulart Wrote:

Haha… mm… chicken. My fiancee is a vegetarian. She did not appreciate this post as much as others have. Thanks Peter!

Bible Money Matters Wrote:

Are you saying it’s pointless cause we’ll all just end up as fried chicken anyway? (ok, I know that’s not the point – just love the pictures though.)

Great article and great points all around. I especially like the goals portion talking about how we constantly need to be updating and reminding ourselves of our goals Without the reminders they often have a way of just disappearing!

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