Being afraid is the most primal response there is. Fear is how humans avoid danger and how we make decisions about our well-being. However, too much fear can paralyze us and limit our ability to function normally. It can even be detrimental to our physical and financial health. Think about it–it doesn’t make sense to avoid the doctor just because you’re afraid they might diagnose you with cancer. If you don’t go and you have cancer, you STILL have cancer. Similarly, just because you don’t want to deal with your debt, you will STILL have debt. In both cases, addressing your problems sooner means that you can get help sooner and, ultimately, improve your situation sooner.
My point is–finances are stressful and require constant upkeep. But that doesn’t mean you can’t deal with your finances and enjoy your life at the same time.
I had to remind myself of this fact a few days ago when I was freaking out over re-certifying my income so my student loan servicer can recalculate my payment amount. I found myself incredibly anxious about our payments increasing, not being able to save as much as we usually do, and how that’s going to affect our budget and debt-payoff goals. And it didn’t help that every time I called FedLoan, each representative gave me a DIFFERENT response regarding how each payment plan works.
Finally, I made my selection, filled out my papers, and mailed them off, hoping I hadn’t just made the biggest mistake of my life (other than, you know, taking out student loans!). But all of a sudden, as I was sitting there worrying about my life, I thought–
STOP. YOU ARE GOING TO BE FINE.
At stressful times, when you think everything is going to hell, you just have to stop, breathe, and snap out of it. Just like you need a budget and goals for saving or getting out of debt, you need a plan for self-care. What are you going to do when you’re “left alone with your thoughts,” so-to-speak, and all the worry and doubt begins to seep in?
Self-affirmation needs to be an important part of your financial plan.
Self-affirmation isn’t just for people who are depressed or have low self-esteem. Self-affirmation is for everyone, no matter who you are or what your situation is, because we all need to approach life with confidence. Emotional stability plays a major role in achieving your financial goals. I can remember specific times while we were paying off $10K of credit card debt and I thought to myself, “We still have such a long way to go,” and I was tempted to splurge on something that I didn’t need because, at that moment, I was having a hard time seeing the big picture.
It helped to look at our carefully constructed budget and seeing the exact date we would pay off our credit cards gave me the dose of reality I needed to stay on track. Next, I reflected on the great things that already existed in our life and how fortunate we were even with the debt. That’s what keeps you going throughout your financial journey–reminding yourself what you’re grateful for already.
There are certain pieces of advice that have stuck with me throughout our financial journey. I remember them (and like them) because they are very straight-forward and give me perspective outside of my own self-pity that makes things seem worse than they actually are. Some of them came from friends, others came from family, and some were slivers of motivation picked up from various places along the way…
Don’t create imaginary worries for yourself.
I heard this from one of my dear friends who recently had a baby. Throughout her pregnancy, she worried about everything–from over-analyzing what she was doing while pregnant to how she would ultimately raise her child. One of the best pieces of advice given to her was not to create imaginary worries for herself. Deal with the issues happening in the present and plan whatever you can, but don’t stress about things that haven’t even become problems yet. I think there is definitely a parallel here with finances. It’s extremely difficult to see the big picture sometimes and you can get caught up thinking about worst case scenarios and contingency plans for the “what ifs.” It’s great to be prepared, but you cannot let the imaginary worries overwhelm your everyday life and prevent you from enjoying what you have. Deal with the present, make positive plans for the future, and don’t stress about what hasn’t happened (and probably won’t ever happen).
Start where you are, with what you have, because what you have is plenty.
Eric Thomas is one of my favorite motivational figures because he focuses on doing the best with what you have. If some financial guru says you “can’t be happy” or “can’t be successful” until you have X amount of money, they’re either a liar or completely incompetent.
It does no good to tell someone that they need to have a certain amount of money to be financially stable because, unless they are actually making that amount of money, that advice means nothing. To achieve your financial goals, you have to start with what you have. You may not have a lot of money, but you may have motivation and creativity. These are characteristics that can benefit you in the future, whether it means staying disciplined and budgeting well or brainstorming an idea that will increase your income. Whether you have an open mind, dedication, or an arsenal of crazy ideas, all you need to be successful is YOU.
No matter what you’re able to save, you’ll still have more than if you’d never saved at all.
I like to say that my dad is our financial adviser (because he basically is). My dad has never been one to compare salaries with anyone or tell me I needed to make a certain amount of money. What he does tell me is that I have what I have and I can still work with it, no matter how small the amount. Even if you can only save $10 or $20 per week, it doesn’t matter the amount, that will still be money saved. Over the long term, that could make all the difference. You’ll never have anything to lose by saving whatever money you’re able to.
Stop being emo.
I had to remind myself of this constantly after we finally buckled down and began paying off a chunk of our debt. Don’t ever get caught up in the NOW and lose sight of the FUTURE. Like I said, I used to get discouraged because of the small dents we made in our balance at first and couldn’t even fathom what paying off those credit cards would be like. Thankfully, I pushed those emo feelings aside and we began paying off more and more until finally we made that last payment (and sooner than I thought we would).
Now, I cringe at the notion that I almost got off track because I was impatient. Don’t open those long-term investment account statements when the market changes. Stop wondering if you should splurge on an extra night out instead of making that extra credit card payment. Realize when your emotions are getting in your own way and pause for reflection. You will never regret paying off debt. When you finally reach that finish line, you’ll realize it was all worth it!
Finally…MAKE A LIST.
No matter what your financial situation is, there are ALWAYS things to be thankful for. They can be financial things, they can be people, they can be personal characteristics–everyone has something to be grateful for. Sit down right now and make a list of self-affirmations for yourself. Sometimes the best motivation is reminding ourselves of all the good things we have in our lives that we tend to forget when we’re caught up in the stress of financials. Make a list of 10 Self-Affirmations and hang it somewhere you will see it every day.
Personal finances are just as much about emotional health as they are about saving and budgeting. You’ll be surprised how much motivation and strength can come from reminding yourself of what an awesome life you have and why you’re working so hard toward achieving your financial goals!