My single step personal finance challenge

By glblguy

follow the line

Photo by: magical-world

Mrs. Micah started a challenge called the first step challenge. The challenge: Find one step you can take to make your financial system better or more organized. I am a huge fan in the old saying “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

There is no big “fix-it” switch

Too often people realize they need to change and begin to think through how they want to change and what they want to become. But the challenge seems too big. Looking at what they want to do as a whole is just too much.

For example, more than a year ago I decided I wanted to be debt free. Looking at the more than $200,000 in debt I had (including my mortgage) that task seemed overwhelming. How in he world was I going ever come close to paying off $200,000 in debt when I could barely manage my finances from paycheck to paycheck?

We tend to look for the easy way out. We seek out the one big switch we can pull to just make it all better. When we realize there isn’t one big switch, we get discouraged and convince ourselves that we can’t do it…and all too often, never do.

Baby Steps

I’ve written before that changing your finances is a journey and is more about direction than perfection. If you never take that first time, you’ll never get anywhere. If instead you take that first step and never take another, at least you are one step further than you were before. What I’ve found though is that the first step isn’t hard, and neither is the next, or the next. Dave Ramsey captures the essence of “steps” in his famous baby-steps process for getting out of debt.

If you want to make a positive change to your financial life, determine the next step you need to take and make it happen. Don’t wait, don’t procrastinate, do it right now. If you can’t do it right now, write it down. Studies show that by writing something down, you substantially increase the chances that you will actually do it. Increase your chances even further by telling someone you are going to do it. Speaking of telling someone…

What am I going to do?

I had to really think on this a bit, as I’ve made a great deal of changes to my financial life over the past year and a half. The next one step in my journey is to commit to updating my budget daily and consistently. I’ll go for a week and update our budget every day and at other times not update it for a week. This causes a number of issues, but mainly confusion on how we’re doing budget wise.

I’ve also found that the longer I put off updating it, the more I want to put it off as it takes more time. You might find this a bit surprising, but I really loath updating our budget, tracking expenses, paying bills, managing my debt snowball, etc. I can think of a million other things I would rather do. Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe they are critical to my success, I just don’t like doing it. I love writing about personal finance, but just don’t get into the gory details of doing it. It really takes a great deal of personal discipline and some loving reminders from my spouse to keep me motivated sometimes.

Are any of you like that?

I challenge you

Continuing the challenge, I challange you: Find one step you can take to make your financial system better or more organized.

If you have a blog, blog about it, if not, add a comment either here on my post or over on Mrs. Micah’s. Make sure you tell your friends, and challenge them too. Point them to our blogs and have them add a comment. Remember, if you write it down and tell someone, you’re FAR more likely to make it happen. Consider Mrs. Micah and I your accountability partners.

10 Responses (including trackbacks) to “My single step personal finance challenge”

  1. Julie Says:

    My single step pf challenge will be to organize the physical space where I process bills and other financial info. I know I have bills lurking about this desk waiting to be paid, but right now I can’t even squeeze my son’s sippy cup onto the surface. If I had to find an EOB or statement right now to prove I’d taken care of something, I likely couldn’t (and wound up paying car taxes in a county we had moved from last year because I couldn’t find the cancelled check or receipt) so I know this is something I need to do and more importantly keep up with.

    Good post. Thanks!

  2. MITBeta @ Don't Feed the Alligators Says:

    I wrote about this as part of my Financial Independence Day article.

  3. MITBeta @ Don't Feed the Alligators Says:

    By the way, it sounds like you need a better system for managing your budget. A budget that labor intensive is a recipe for failure. You may want to investigate the Stackback budget technique as a better way to manage your budget on more of a weekly or monthly rather than a daily basis.

  4. Patrick Says:

    I’m a big fan of breaking down complex issues into simple elements too. But I’m also inherently lazy, and I wouldn’t like to do a daily budget. But if that’s what it takes for you, then go for it! We all do things a little differently. The key is discovering what works for you. Good luck! :)

  5. ConnieB Says:

    I’ll take you up on your challenge! Let’s see…what can I do to make my financial system better organized?

    I think I am going to invest in some decent PF software. I have been putting it off and keeping everything in a binder, but I really need something more.

    Thanks for the challenge!

  6. glblguy Says:

    @MITBeta – I don’t do it cause I have to, I do it because I am detailed like that. I like to know exactly how much I have in each budget category. It doesn’t take long, maybe 5 minutes, I just keep forgetting to do it.

    Now that Quicken online is out, I might give it a try. We’ll see.