I have a problem with self-discipline. Admitting your problem is the first step in recovery… or so I’ve heard. A little over a year ago, I began my career as a freelance writer. Job-wise, I’ve been pretty fortunate, and these days, I’m making a decent consistent income. I’m moving in a few weeks to a new apartment, and with that move, I needed to re-budget my income, as the new apartment will be cheaper and include a washer and dryer, therefore, reducing my bills to about $200 less than what I currently pay. Last night, I completed my budget (which isn’t easy when you receive 7 paychecks in a month) and discovered that I have a very poor habit of overspending.
I’ve never had an issue with being financially irresponsible before. Since becoming an adult, I’ve always stuck to my budget and kept my spending habits in check, except this year. Is it because I’m a freelancer with an odd payment schedule? Is it because I live in Texas and things appear cheaper than when I lived in Los Angeles? Is it because I work from home and when I finally walk into the light of the real world I get so excited about joining the living that I just spend, spend, spend? Whatever it is — it has to stop.
So I have a plan — a plan that will get me back on the track of self-discipline and allow me save more and spend less ( especially on stupid stuff). I’m going to lay out my plan so others with poor financial self-discipline can get back on track too!
The first step in any financial self-discipline is budgeting. Head to Pinterest and find a good budgeting system or a free budget printable. They’re not hard to find. If you prefer a more in-depth explanation on how to budget or helpful tips and ideas for budgeting, check out some of these cheap how-to books on Amazon:
Thanks to rebudgeting, I was able to see that I’ll have upwards to $500-$600 a month to save or spend however I see fit. Can you imagine what I could save that for? I can.
2. Make financial goals.
Here’s the thing — we are adults and we need to have adult goals, especially when it comes to our finances. Having financial goals can not only help you work toward those “adult goals” but it can also keep you in check when it comes to spending.
My goals are pretty simple. I want to travel to three places next year, Bali, Yellowstone, and Costa Rica, and to do that, I’ve estimated that I’ll need to save $2,000. I also want to start saving for a house and a new car, so I’ll need to put money away each month for the down payments. Lastly, there’s some things that I need for work — desktop, printer, new cellphone — and stuff that I want for my house/personal use — bike rack for car, frames for pictures, DIY crafts to make side tables, decorative stuff. And I want to just build up my savings and have a good cushion in case of emergencies.
All of that doesn’t come cheap. However, by writing down these goals and budgeting for them each month, I’m able to ask myself, do I really need the most expensive meal on the menu at that restaurant or would I rather save that money for Bali? Bali, please!
Though your financial goals may be similar to mine, here’s a few others to consider: taxes, paying off debt such as credit cards or school loans, 401 K or a retirement plan, starting your own business, medical bills, saving for a family or wedding, etc. Once you have these goals in mind, budget any extra money that you have left over after bills to go toward these goals!
To remind myself of these financial goals, I’ve printed them out and am going to frame them and keep them by my desk. It’ll be a not-so-subtle reminder of what I actually want in my life.
3. Track spending habits
The only way I can make sure that I meet my financial goals and remain financially disciplined is by tracking my spending habits. There’s a ton of free apps out there that can do this for you: BillGuard, Dollarbird, Fudget, LearnVest, etc.
I could use these apps and I might eventually move toward them, but for now, I’m just going to use Google Sheets. In Google Sheets, I’m going to record how much I get paid each month. I’d like to know for sure that my income expectations are exactly as I’ve estimated. I’ll also be able to see exactly how much extra I have each month that can go toward savings and my financial goals.
I’ve allotted myself $200 to go toward “fun spending.” I’m going to put $200 in one of the cells in Google Sheets and then subtract from it each time I spend money. Once, I get to $0 — that’s it for the month. I’m hoping that by seeing how much I spend on a meal or going out with friends, it will encourage me to sit back and ask if I really need that extra $8 glass of wine or a $3 coke at a restaurant versus water.
4. Just do it — be financially self-disciplined!
My last and final step in financial self-discipline is to just get out there and do it! It’s going to take some work, but eventually, I hope that this will become second nature for me as it once was.
Besides, I’ve got some pretty amazing goals to keep me motivated. Who doesn’t want a nicely decorated home, new car, and a relaxing vacation in a tropical paradise?
When I’m financially self-disciplined, I can have it all.