Money is a tricky topic. On the one hand, money is power, but on the other hand, money is not the goal. It can be challenging to have a balanced approach to money.
Money is one of those things that tend to attract extremist views. Since it’s such a loaded topic, there are so many emotions attached to it. There is so much guilt, shame, and desire all wrapped up in this topic. Money is so important to our lives, so when we start working on “fixing” our finances, it is easy to go into a tailspin trying to make changes.
Some personal finance personalities encourage this type of thinking and behavior. Their whole business model is based on encouraging people to go scorched earth on their finances. They scream and shout and shame people into eliciting strong emotions (and then sell them things). The reason why this is so incredibly popular is because it WORKS. We respond so well to these types of tactics because money is complicated and emotional.
You need to have a balanced approach to money to live a financially secure life and yet not get caught up in the pursuit of wealth for wealth itself.
Creating A Balanced Approach to Money
It’s overwhelming to start. Whether it’s a project of saving money (Have you signed up for the $1000 savings challenge yet?) or paying down debt, or just getting a better handle on your finances, this is particularly true when you have a lot of big expenses that pile on one after the other.
It’s tempting to start looking at your budget and just SLASHING things from it. When you are looking to cut costs, you may want to analyze your grocery bill and go to all the different stores to get all the deals, coupons, and points.
Diving in headfirst and committing totally to a new lifestyle usually doesn’t work. Becoming extreme right away works for a short amount of time and then fails spectacularly. This type of behavior is part of the reason why I don’t recommend No-Spend Days. If you are feeling overwhelmed with your finances and your goals, then here is my advice. Take it or leave it as you will.
If you are attempting to change your financial life you want to see results that will actually change your life, then do this:
Focus on One thing
Pick one thing to focus on right now.
Start with one thing. Not all the things. Don’t go all scorched earth on whatever it is. Decide to cut or focus on one thing only.
For example, if you are cutting subscriptions, then don’t cut all of them all at once. Cut one entertainment subscription and then wait until you cut the other one. Get used to living without it before taking another step. Cutting all entertainment at once will probably backfire. We want to take actions that will create a lasting lifestyle and financial change. Otherwise, you will just rack up the debt or use all your savings just as quickly as you managed to pay it off or save it up.
This is not a hard and fast rule. As with most things in personal finance and behavioral changes, you have to do what works for you and your circumstances. If you have multiple subscriptions to something that you never use, then cancel them. You probably won’t notice. But don’t try to cut all your favorite things at once, even if you really can’t afford them.
This idea brings me to another piece of advice: add something back in.
What?!?! Yes, you heard me. It’s time to add something back into your life, not something that costs money but something free or frugal.
Nature abhors a vacuum.
So if you cut out Netflix, then now is the time to renew your library card and get out some movies or books! If you cut out eating out in restaurants, now is the time to institute a date night or a game night with friends and family. If you cut out the gym, now is the time to add a daily YouTube work-out or a run outside. See the idea?
Cut one negative thing from your life but add in one positive thing to replace the underlying need. Cut out buying lattes but make yourself delicious coffee at home.
A Dime Saved Replacement Strategy:
The Replacement Strategy is a balanced approach to dealing with money. Don’t just cut things out of your life- replace them with the things you want.
Don’t cut things- replace them with something free or frugal. Depriving yourself of something you enjoy is not the way to achieve happiness. Remember, the point is not the money. The point is LIFE. Why live life if you can’t enjoy it?
Now, of course, enjoying life does not mean spending money you don’t have. It means making targeted choices that preserve both happiness and money. Replace money-sucking activities and items with free or frugal things that bring you joy. Get entertainment- for free. Hang out with friends- but not in expensive bars. Get exercise- in a cheaper or free setting.It’s all about balance and about living life responsibly and joyfully. It is about accomplishing goals without being subsumed by the process. Click To Tweet
You should be preparing for the future without giving up on the present.