Are you discouraged by your finances?

By glblguy

Frustrated

One of the top 10 new years resolutions each year is something related to finances: getting out of debt, saving more money, starting a budget, investing more, etc. Many of you reading this article set one or more of these as your new years resolution(s), I did. While I don’t like resolutions, I do set goals. Ours was to continue our progress to get out of debt.

Setting the goal is the easy part, making it happen is the real measure of your commitment. Let’s face it, life throws us curve balls and we have to jump a few hurdles and maybe climb a few hills to reach the goal. Life is seldom a straight, clear and easy path.

Arriving in the mailbox of many people over the next few weeks is the first curve ball, credit card bills. Millions of people around the world used their credit cards to purchase, on average, $800.00 in Christmas gifts. An even more scary statistic is that more than 4.4 million people still owe balances on their purchases for Christmas 2006! If you are one of the many people receiving a credit card bill that you can’t pay off right away, it’s easy to get discouraged. Many people walk around in a constant state of financial hopelessness. Feeling that being in debt and living paycheck to paycheck is the norm.

So let’s assume you survived the shock of the credit card bill, you jumped that hurdle and remain focused on the goal. Then your car dies and requires a new motor (this happened to Paidtwice recently). You get through that and the heater goes out on your home, then your child needs braces, etc, etc. If you are anything like me, it seems I no sooner get past one hurdle, and another is rearing it’s ugly head.

I’m sure you can see how easy it is for people to just give up on their resolutions, feeling as if they are never going to reach their goals. Here is the bottom line and the ugly part of debt: It’s incredibly quick and easy to go into debt AND it’s incredibly long and hard to get out. It takes all of 10 minutes to buy that new car or that new LCD HDTV, but it can take you months and even years to pay it off.

Fortunately there are some things you can do keep you motivated, track your progress, and keep you from being discouraged:

Create a Debt Snowball and update it frequently

A debt snowball is a simple tool that helps you to organize your debts and pay them off. It uses the metaphor of a snowball due to concept of rolling payment amounts forward as each debt is paid off. You may start by paying $200.00/month on the first credit card and minimum payments on the rest, then once the first one is paid off, you add the $200 to the minimum of the next payment. You repeat this process, “snowballing” the payment you make on each debt. You can read more about creating and managing a debt snowball in my article How To Get Your Finances Under Control – Step 6 Get Out of Debt.

The wonderful thing about a debt snowball is it’s a visible way of seeing your progress. As I payoff our debts I cross them off. I can look at my debt snowball right now and out of a list of 8 or so items, 4 have been paid off. So I’m 50% of the way there.

Each time I get discouraged and feel like I’m not making any traction, I can look at that debt snowball spreadsheet and SEE that I really am making progress.

Track your net worth

Tracking your net worth is another tool you can use to track your progress. I don’t particular care how much I am worth in comparison to others, nor do I really care what my total net worth is, I just like to see the % going up. Last year, primarily through paying off debts, my wife and I increased our net worth by more than 170%. I calculate my net worth monthly and use Microsoft Excel to chart it. Not sure how to calculate your net worth? My article How To Determine And Track Your Net Worth will show you how.

When I get discouraged, I can pull up my net worth chart and visibly see my net worth growing. Sure, every so often it dips, but the overall trend is in an upward direction. It’s a great way to look back and see the overall progress you’ve made.

Celebrate

I firmly believe it’s important to celebrate your achievements. We’ve been working hard to payoff our Chase card, and if everything goes as planned, I’ll send the final payment here in the next week or so. When I do, we’re celebrating. I am not sure what we’re going to do, but all 8 of us will being going out to dinner, or to Nascar speedpark, or something. Celebrating your accomplishments helps to keep you focused on the goal, and gives you smaller short term goals to work towards. Celebrating helps keep you from getting discouraged. Don’t forget to celebrate your wins, even the small ones.

Have an accountability Partner

I think I first heard this term at our church with regard to living a more Christ like life, but the term applies in your personal finance life as well. My primary accountability partner is my wife. We have agreements with each other to not spend over certain amounts nor to spend outside of our budget without consulting each other first. We do our finances together, make commitments to each other and hold each accountable. This is a STRONG tool that helps to keep you focused and frankly to keep you from making the same stupid mistakes that got you into your bad financial situation in the first place.

Not married? Use your boyfriend or girlfriend. Don’t have one? Use a friend or close family member you trust. Many of us personal finance bloggers use our blogs to hold ourselves accountable. For example, my wife and I considered buying a new Chevy Suburban 2 months ago. One of the first thoughts in my mind was, “What would my readers think? I mean you tell them never to buy new cars. You’re in debt and telling them to aggressively get out and you’re considering buying a new $40,000 vehicle!“. We didn’t buy one of course, but I consider you one of my accountability partners…thanks for talking me out of it!

Wrapping Up

It’s so easy to become discouraged and give up. Don’t give up when that first hurdle comes your way, or the second or the third. Just keep focused on the goal. Sure, those hurdles may slow you down, but you are still heading toward the finish line and you WILL get there. Maybe not as quickly or as easily as you would like, but you will. I would encourage you to use these simple tools to stay on track. They work for me, and I’m sure they’ll work for you too.

What tools do you use to stay encouraged? Do you get discouraged with your finances? How do you keep yourself focused? Add a comment!


19 Responses (including trackbacks) to “Are you discouraged by your finances?”

  1. Randall Says:

    Not discouraged so much as impatient. Setting up everything you’ve listed is great, but then just ‘waiting’ for the results is the frustrating part.

    Even working extra and such only makes the money come in so fast.

    I’ve had to learn to cultivate patience when it comes to finances.

  2. John Says:

    Good post, especially about celebrating and having an accountability partner. John

  3. Mrs. Micah Says:

    This morning I woke up @ 5am with a horrible dread of Wachovia (I have to call them today to get some stuff straightened out). Had to get snuggled until I felt better. Some days I find them quite discouraging.

  4. glblguy Says:

    @Randall – I agree. I’m not a patient person by nature as it is. I’ve learned the cultivate it as well.

    @John – Thanks John

    @MM – Banks in general can be discouraging. Just be persistent and escalate to their management and keep going as high as you need to.

  5. Anastasia-Jane Says:

    2 things that have helped me…
    I track each bill as it comes in and as it is paid. I just love updating the next month with a lower balance. It also helps me make sure everything is paid and to never have a late fee. The other thing is I have taken a plain old binder and put a bunch of notebook paper in it. I write down each purchase made no matter how small and staple the receipts to the back of the page. This helps me see where the money is going, keeps my receipts in order and I just love it when I have a $0 day… It also keeps me accountable as well even if it is just to myself..

  6. glblguy Says:

    Anastasia-Jane – Great suggestions. Tracking your expenditures like that can be very insighful and help you control your budget.

  7. Ron@TheWisdomJournal Says:

    Thanks for a great article. I DO get discouraged sometimes, but I’ve found that reading blogs like yours and some of the other personal finance bloggers helps me get over it pretty quick.

    It’s important in my opinion to also develop good habits so that making these good decisions becomes second nature.

  8. glblguy Says:

    Hi Ron! You’re most welcome, thanks for the compliment! I agree, reading blogs and seeing that other people are going through the same kinds of things you are is comforting. It always helps to see their successes…at least it drives me.

    I also firmly agree on developing good habits…I’m getting there, but man those bad habits like to rear their ugly heads far too often.

    Thanks for the comment…off to check out your blog :-)

  9. Cheapster Bob Says:

    I’m actually optimistic about my finances at the moment as I have no debt outside of service bills (utility, DSL, cable etc.) and even have my car paid off.

    I simply educated myself well on personal finance via books at the library and great blogs like GLBL. I set up a system of rules to follow and within twelve months went from spending like a drunken Britney to living under my means.

    My advice is to keep your head up and to stick to the basics. You don’t have to give up your lifestyle you just have to be smart about where you put each penny.

    Here is how I look at my purchases. I see an item in a big chain store for 350 dollars. Instead of pulling out the plastic and spending what I don’t have I zip home, jump on ebay and craigslist, purchase the item for 250 dollars and smile broadly.

    I just made 100 dollars.

    That is how you need to think in everything you do concerning personal finance.

    Great post today. I’ll do some clicky clicky and give you the 3 cent rub while I’m here. :)

  10. dawn Says:

    I definitely get discouraged sometimes…
    I mostly get frustrated about past financial mistakes that hubby and I knew better, but messed up anyway. They are in the past and I know we can’t change the past, but sometimes that past creeps back and works it’s negativity on me. I try to focus on today and the better choices we have been making for the past 7 years, but I’ll tell you I do have those days where I just emotionally beat myself up for those past decisions. I think letting go of one’s mistakes can be so hard…

  11. glblguy Says:

    Hi dawn – Same here. I’m one that doesn’t like to make mistakes in the first place, and then when I have to pay the price for those mistakes day after day it’s tough. You have the right approach though, just focus on today. I’m like you, letting go is hard.

  12. glblguy Says:

    Hi Bob, that’s great! No debt, whoo-hoo!! Hope to be in your situation one day! Those cars drive much better when they are paid off don’t they?

    Love the “spending like a drunk Britney!” LOL

    Thanks for the compliments and the funny comment, you literally made me laugh out loud…All my kids came running over…”what’s so funny Dad????”

  13. speedy Says:

    I do get discouraged at times as well, because of the long time it has taken to straighten things out.

    But I do take comfort in the financial education I am acquiring along the way, and I do feel a sense of satisfaction whenever I pay a bill because I know I’ve got it covered.

    I also try to remind myself of the power of momentum. To me, straightening out my finances is like trying to turn a large battleship. Once I realized that I was going the wrong direction, I set out to turn the ship. It is taking great effort and a lot of time to completely turn the ship about, but once I have turned it and am going in the right direction, then I can make some good progress and it will be very very difficult for anyone to stop me.

    Just because I see only blue water in every direction doesn’t mean that I am not making any progress. I am making progress, it just will not be obvious to me how much progress I have made until I can catch sight of land.

    Momentum is everything. If I can keep doing everything I need to do each week and each month, I will succeed.

  14. glblguy Says:

    @speedy – great comment, and love the blue water analogy. It certainly feels like that sometimes. Thanks for such an insightful comment speedy.

  15. ammbd Says:

    very often, very discouraged.

    learning to let go of past mistakes is relatively easy compared to learning to deal with the impact those mistakes have had & will continue to have on my kid.

    but, reading thru the finance blogs helps me remember that others have made similar mistakes, feel similar discouragement and still keep working on repairing those mistakes while doing their best to avoid repeating those mistakes.

  16. glblguy Says:

    ammbd – Excellent point and something I struggle with as well. I actually wrote something about this in a prior article concerning why “gazelle intensity” isn’t for me. The exact reason was my children.

    It does help though to know that you aren’t alone and that others are going through similar experiences. I think the key here is the recognition of the problem and the determination to fix it. That is what will get us to be where we need to. I guess sometimes the journey is far more valuable than the destination.

    Thank you for your comment, and welcome to Gather Little by Little!

  17. shaleh8 Says:

    I am so encouraged by your articles, and I am truly glad. I am a high wage earner and I have been struggling with internal issues and thinking that the same people who I dealt with the last five years would cheer me on but I ended up being my own worst enemy by not being disciplined enough to say no to myself and learn to do without so I wouldn’t burnout. All of this to say I thank God from whom all blessings flow that He gave me another chance to get it right today.

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