By GEORGE KAMEL
As humans, we’re wired for growth. But (and it’s a big ol’ but) we’re also prone to laziness, apathy, impulse, stress and guilt. And right about now is when most of us have let our January resolutions fall by the wayside—especially the financial ones.
You see, on the road to accomplishing money goals, there are a thousand distractions, shortcuts, opinions, excuses and traps along the way. Maybe you had committed to paying off some debt, getting on a budget, working a second job, or eating out less. But then you had a flat tire. And the HVAC system bit the dust. And inflation went through the roof. And the stock market went into a free fall. Maybe you’ve slipped back into old money habits or feel like this just “isn’t your year” to hit those money goals.
But here’s the deal: Personal finance is a marathon, not a sprint. And if you keep your eye on the prize, you can still reach your goals—you’ve just got to keep moving. I’m hereby declaring a second New Year, my friend. You can still do this!
How to take back control of your money by 2023
1. Refocus your money mindset
Want to know what makes one person successful with money and another give up? It’s simple: It’s their money mindset.
Henry Ford once famously said, "Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right." What you believe about money, yourself and the world shapes how your life will unfold. Every single day you have the power to make decisions that will move you toward your goals financially or set you back. It’s up to you.
Making a budget every month, living on less than you make, and avoiding debt won’t matter if you don’t believe it’s even possible for you. So many people hit the snooze button on their finances as if they’ll just wake up one day and be able to retire with dignity (and money). Maybe they hope to take their finances more seriously later in life. Or maybe they think winning with money is only possible for “rich people.”
If that’s you, you’ve got to change your mindset. Your parents can’t make you care. Your spouse can’t make you care. And as much as I wish I could, I can’t make you care. It’s on you to change your mindset.
2. Evaluate your money habits
Creating better money habits starts with taking an honest look in your financial mirror—aka your bank account. Tracking your spending will help you figure out what areas you need to shave down in order to create margin with your money. Enter: the budget. It’ll help you tell your money where to go instead of wondering where it went!
I use an app called EveryDollar that makes it super easy to create a zero-based budget every month. That doesn’t mean you have zero dollars—it means your income minus your expenses equals zero. You give every dollar a job—you don’t want your dollars unemployed!
Once you’ve listed out your expenses, find some areas where you’re overspending. Maybe you switch from the fancy gym to a cheaper fitness app you can use at home. Maybe you cut a few subscriptions on top of that and pick up a side hustle. Then you could get creative and do a no-spend month and have a friend change your Amazon password so you can remove the temptation to digitally window shop. Making those small, sacrificial tweaks will help you gain margin and momentum, which will fuel your progress.
Now, part of staying motivated when you’re trying to create a healthy habit is to remember the outcome of your goal. Whatever it is, visualize it and keep it front and center when you’re tempted to give up.
3. Commit to a plan
If one of your goals is to pay off debt, it’s easy to feel discouraged and unmotivated when you don’t have a plan for how to do it. That’s why I love and stand by the debt snowball method. Here’s how it works:
Step 1: List your debts from smallest to largest regardless of interest rate.
Step 2: Make minimum payments on all your debts except the smallest.
Step 3: Pay as much as possible on your smallest debt.
Step 4: Repeat until each debt is paid in full.
Now, before you start arguing about the interest rates, hear me out: When you stick to the plan (without worrying about interest rates), you’re going to be jumping for joy when you pay off that smallest debt super quick. That excitement is what’s going to motivate you to keep going—all the way to that debt-free finish line. Millions of people have gotten out of debt using this method—including me. And you can do it, too.
You’re over halfway through the year now, people. It’s time to refocus your mindset, take a hard look at your habits, and stick to the plan. Whatever money goals you’ve set for yourself in 2022, and wherever you’re at with them, don’t let your foot off the gas now. This is the home stretch. Don’t abandon your money goals (but please feel free to abandon cart)!