I’ve spent most of my adult life with a poor attitude toward money. I believe I inherited this trait from my parents, whose financial standing was in a permanent state of flux – eventually leading them to declare bankruptcy when I was 11. Unable to balance their checkbooks themselves, they had little advice to offer.
Also notably absent from my childhood was any sort of financial literacy program in high school. This fact baffles me today because that class, focused on teaching kids how to monitor their income and spending, would’ve been one of the most practical and beneficial courses in the entire curriculum.
This lack of education has led me and many of my peer millennials into living paycheck-to-paycheck. Within days of receiving our pay, the money is almost completely gone. We then spend the remaining time counting down days until payday comes again. The cycle repeats.
Become More Conscious of Your Spending
Just because we weren’t handed the tools for effective money management doesn’t mean we can deny our own responsibility. Once you become aware that you have a problem, you have a duty to yourself to fix it – or at the very least, ask someone knowledgeable for help.
Before you can learn how to efficiently manage your money, you’ll have to change your attitude toward it. A simple shift in perspective can be a boon to stability and prosperity. Because it’s so easy to spend money frivolously, the first step is to become more conscious of where exactly our dough goes.
Here’s one trick that’s helped me learn how to save: Keep a small journal for logging all of your daily expenses. Write down every dollar you spend, when you spend it and on what. By forcing yourself to document all of your expenditures, you will naturally become less prone to make impulsive purchases.
At the end of every week, you should break down and review the total amounts you spent on each category of item – e.g. necessities like groceries, bills and gasoline, and nonessentials like junk food or movie tickets. Keeping a tally of where your money is going over long periods of time will give you insight into your own behavior and help highlight areas where your money can be put to better use.
Overcoming the Need for Instant Gratification
Our generation is infamous for relying on instant gratification when making decisions.
The technology and social media we’ve grown up with has conditioned us to be less patient and not future-minded. However, by shining a light on what’s going on inside our minds, we can understand and overcome this tendency.
Take me for example: After many frustrating years of living paycheck-to-paycheck, I took a step back to analyze the thought patterns which prevented me from saving money.
I realized that the less money I had, the more I was compelled to spend it. When funds were scarce, I felt an incredible sense of urgency that I must spend the money on things I enjoy before it was completely gone. This sounds backward and stupid because it is. My lust for spending at the worst possible time was the very reason I was short on cash in the first place.
Thankfully, the opposite reaction was true as well. Once I had recognized the pattern, I resisted the temptation and was able to slowly accrue some savings. The bigger my bank account got, the more I felt compelled to save. It becomes like a game, to find clever ways to avoid costs and see how high you can make the number go.
Look Out for Your Future Self
Another revelation: People who rely on instant gratification don’t consider the needs of their future self. We can’t see or touch or speak with our future selves, so they don’t feel real to us. They are real, though. They will exist and their comfort and quality of live is directly affected by the decisions we make today.
Learn to treat your future self as you would your own best friend. Be thoughtful and considerate of their needs. Do favors for them. Instead of running out and buying a new phone you don’t actually need, put that money away and say, “This one’s for you, future me. I want you to enjoy it.”
Make sacrifices of your present comforts so that your future self can live an easier, happier life. When you finally become that person, you can look back on your past self with love and gratitude for making the effort.
To build a better relationship with money, we must first build a better relationship with ourselves. By asking for help, taking a harder look at ourselves and using the abundance of tools available to us, we can achieve stability and prosperity.