If you’ve been keeping track of where your money goes, you may be surprised at how often you buy coffee, gum or a mid-afternoon snack.
A spending journal starts to make you aware of where your money is going. (If you haven’t started using one yet, all you need is a notebook, a pen and the will to do it.)
“Insanity,” according to a quote often attributed to Albert Einstein, “is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Are you tired of being financially insane and ready to make some changes?
If you’ve been unconscious about your money for quite some time, it’s probably going to take a bit of time to develop some new habits. Don’t get impatient with yourself. Impatience will only distract you from the task at hand. For example, you have to learn to:
- Distinguish between "needs" and "wants"
- Communicate with your friends and family about your new awakening and the changes you’ll be making
- Recognize the effect marketing and advertising has on you, and resolve not to be influenced
- Create a balanced budget and tracking your expenses on a daily or weekly basis
- Recognize the importance of saving — both for emergencies and for the long term
- Do the hard work it will take to come up with a debt-repayment plan and then execute that plan
- See not only today’s immediate needs, but plan for things you will need and want in the future
- Lead by example and show your children how to take charge of their money
- Seek help if you feel overwhelmed or lost along the way
Change is never easy. There will be times when you fall off the rails. You’ll lose track of a receipt and kick yourself. You’ll skip the comparison-shopping because you just don’t have time. Or you buy something that’s not in your budget because, well, you just do.
You’re only human, so you’re bound to make mistakes. The key is to right your rocky boat quickly to get back on track. It is also important, if you want the change to stick, that you be able to identify at least one benefit you’ll gain by changing how you deal with your money.
Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s latest book, Money Rules, is published by HarperCollins and will make you say, “Really? I didn’t know that!”