I run into this situation with clients somewhat regularly. Something having to do with money is the obstacle keeping them from truly living the wild and precious lives they want. There's not enough money, they have a giant mortgage, moving to the place of their dreams (often near water) or going back to school would cost too much, etc., etc. Of course, there are plenty of facts to support their concerns. Some clients have some kind of major debt on top of everything else. And while I wish I did, I don't have a magic wand to wave around to make debt disappear, replaced by giant cartoon bags of money with dollar signs on the outside! (That would be cool, wouldn't it?)
What I can offer are some tools to turn the whole money puzzle around. About ten years ago, I figured out what to do over a series of years and months. A "perfect storm" of books and resources all seemingly magically showed up at about the same time, and I was ready to dive into their wisdom.
Years later, here are the five biggest takeaways that I've figured out that made a difference for us. They might do the same for you!
1. Pay attention. Most spending that we're sorry about later happens when we purposefully stop paying attention. We really don't want to know. Have you ever taken a receipt for a meal or an outfit or a cart of groceries and not even looked at it? Either tossed it away or shoved it back into your wallet? Have you said aloud or to yourself, "I don't even want to know how much that cost." Well, there you have it. Like a scientist doing an experiment, you have to start paying attention to the data and collecting some information, or you'll have no idea what's happening and you can't make a conclusion or analyze your results, or make changes that will work better for you in the future.
2. Stop trying to impress people. I know, I know. You think you don't do this. You're a well-adjusted person who makes choices based upon what you want. You don't care a bit what other people think. Well, perhaps your evolved self doesn't care, but I can almost guarantee there's at least some very tiny part of your brain that's keeping a pretty interesting tally of where you fit in a never-ending comparison game with others. With their cars, or their homes, or their vacations. Or the quality and value of their holiday gifts. Once you really figure out what you want and get off the status hamster wheel to nowhere, you might be really surprised at the number of cartoon money bags accumulating around your feet!
3. Avoid "budgeting". Setting up budgets and deprivational systems that don't take into account the surprise root canal or cat vet emergency or hole in the roof or sink that won't drain or stolen bicycle or car that died completely - these systems are almost always doomed to fail. (By the way, all the examples above happened to us in the past eight months! They will really put a wrench into any budget, let me tell you!) There are other great options (see #1 above) that will work just as well as budgeting and won't make you feel like you've failed when the unexpected expenses for the month add up to more than you'd budgeted for all of your food and incidentals combined.
4. Make it a game. Solving your money issues is so much more effective when you can have fun while doing it! Contests with yourself or family members, charts, challenges, stickers - you'd be surprised how well these types of methods will work. How much fun can you have with just $5? Try that one today!
5. Figure out what's enough for you. You have to master #2 to really pull this one off. This is my favorite and most important step and it will completely turn around your money situation. Figuring out what's enough seems so simple, but you have to realize that there are outside forces all around you sending messages of lack and need, creating wants you didn't even know you had. It's called advertising, and no matter how smart you are, it works. On you.
These are just a few of the things we've learned (you can see they're common sense and don't involve anything creepy or complicated like a pyramid scheme or buying foreclosed properties.) And we have no debt whatsoever. Even our house is paid for. We have enough liquid to live on for a year or more if we really needed to. We have retirement funds. We have a really happy life with plenty of trips and vacations (This year, a conference in Arizona, hiking on the AT for a week, three different beach trips, a mastermind coach weekend, a road trip to the mountains of Colorado, a trip to see family in Baltimore, a fall camping trip, and a New Orleans staycation getaway!) Our fridge is full of delicious and indulgent food. You get the picture.
And we did this with a very moderate amount coming in - at first two teachers' salaries and now just one teacher salary and one entrepreneur income. You don't need to be making six figures or even half that to transform your relationship with money. Give these tips a try and see what happens!
And check out The Indulgent Path to Money Management - a course I offer both virtually and locally a few times a year - if you'd like more support in living a happy life with the money you have.