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5 Tips For Sticking To Your Plan

August 14, 2017

I work with the youth at my church.  Some months ago, I set a goal to work with the teenage girls on their program emphasizing service, personal development, and spiritual growth. It is essentially the same program I worked on as a teenager, but I never received the award at the end. Why? Because I lazily didn’t get around to completing the final paperwork, despite all the encouragement I was getting from my youth leaders. It would have taken probably an hour total, but I was far too busy working on my summer tan at a pool much, much less nice than the one above. I was a poor pre-college student but my apartment at least had a pool and lots of sun and I was happy!

I did get a dark, successful tan that summer but learn from me and don’t let something so meaningful be at the mercy of something so superficial. And unhealthy, but I digress. Anyway, just this past weekend and 17 years after I should have, I received the Personal Progress award and am pleased as punch.

The satisfaction of accomplishing something worthwhile you have set out to reach is so motivating. Ironic, isn’t it, that motivation is something you earn by doing? I like that so well I'll repeat it.

Motivation is something you earn by doing.

Motivation is actually not a prerequisite emotion to the doing. Goals are the practical milestones of a life on-purpose and the feeling you get when you accomplish them is what motivates you to set another or take the next step.

With this as a backdrop, allow me to share five principles that will help you stick with your financial goals and your plan to get there (“a budget”). Remember, budgeting is not an end in itself, rather it is a means to an end. Or several ends. Ends that are awesome!

1. Do set yourself up for success.

Do so by using the right tools, involving a coach or mentor, and creating structure around implementing small but critical financial habits. You may create reminders-from-your-better-yourself-to-your-lazier-self in your phone to remind you to reconcile your budget to your checking account. Or decide when you are going to enter transactions or where you are going to consolidate receipts for entry. Be specific! I had a reminder in my phone every Sunday at 3:00 to work on Personal Progress; without that trigger, I easily would’ve continued wanting to do it, thinking about it, and feeling guilty that I wasn’t working on it.

2. Don’t sabotage yourself.

For example, do not go to Target every day if you know you are prone to overspend there. If you have budgeted $1,000/week for Target, go ahead, but I’m guessing that in your budget you told yourself that there is something that you want more than whatever $1,000 at Target can buy. And when you do go to Target, make sure you go with a purpose and not because you’re bored. If you are bored and purposeless (bad combination!), your money will do a remarkable job of spending itself. You can keep from self- and budget-sabotage by not putting yourself in situations where the situation or your emotions or the situation + your emotions make it easy to cave.

3. Do remember your why.

Put up posters, reminders on the fridge, a note on your desk—anything to remind yourself that the learning curve is worth it. When I was paying off debt, I frequently (as in a couple times a week) would pull it out of my frequently-written-in-journal just to review my plan, how far I’d come and get my eye again on the prize of being debt-free. It sure wasn’t fancy—just a folded sheet of 8.5×11 paper—but the content, scribbles and all, was powerful for me.

4. Don’t blame the budget.

If your situation is particularly tight and the budget just surfaces it or highlights “the tightness”, don’t blame the budget. It is not your budget’s fault that your situation is what it is. It is just helping you organize your situation and get everything out in the open where good things can happen. Blaming the budget is never the answer—it is not to blame for your spending habits or income problems. It is rather the beautiful mechanism by which you are going to improve your situation. It’s your friend, not foe:)

5. Do remember that a budget is for everyone and will change often through your life.

Every single person on the planet should have some form of a plan for their money. It’s not just people making less than $100,000 who should have a budget. A budget is just deciding how much of your money is going to go toward X, Y and Z and not an enforcer of a frugal lifestyle. Your budget will evolve as your situation improves (regardless of where it is today, it can always be even better) so your current situation is not your “forever”. This is especially important to remember for those who find that the reality of their life is strapped. If you are cutting back to get your expenses less than your income – that’s awesome, but not the way you’re going to live forever assuming you have ambition. And I think you do:)

Post in summary:

Goals (financial or otherwise) are good, motivation is earned by achieving goals, Target has a bad rap for being a place where people spend too much money, and there are principles that if respected help us achieve our goals.  So, what’s your current goal, financial or otherwise? What are you doing to make progress toward it?