If there was any New Year that brought with it the desire to do better with money, it was this year. 2020 was a nasty wake-up call for most of our wallets. Most realized what worked with our money in good times didn’t actually work all the time. For that new revelation, we should be thankful!
Warren Buffet says, “When the tide goes out, you can see who was swimming naked.” Well, the tide flew out, exposing quite a few financial skinny dippers. If that was you, the pain is still fresh enough. Use that pain as a motivator. If you change these five things this year, you will be on track to make 2021’s financial situation better than 2020’s.
When a quarter of U.S. jobs were disrupted during the COVID-19 pandemic, we were reminded that debt really is a millstone around our necks. 2020 proved that not having a shred of savings is a bad plan. The pandemic cemented the reality one job is dangerously close to no job . This bad posture leaves us exposed when our hours get cut back, our client orders dry up, or we get laid off entirely. On the flip side, some had no payments, a healthy emergency fund and diverse income streams in 2020. For them, 2020 was a solid financial year. This can be true for you in 2021, but it will require changing your mindset and acting diligently. You probably don’t believe it, but you can win with money in 2021.
Romans tells us we can’t conform to this world. This world is full of car payments that live longer than our pets; credit cards ensnare people with their ‘have it all and have it now!’ traps. And don’t forget student loans, where the average payment is nearing $400 bucks per month.
Conforming to the ways of the world guarantees financial stress.
So how do we change our money by not conforming to this world? We have to renew our minds. That means we must get rid of the bad stuff and put in new, good stuff. You have to change yourself in order to expect anything different to happen with your money.
1. Where there is no vision, the people perish.
Winning with money begins with a vision, and that vision starts with your dream!
No more going to work Monday planning to just make it through the week with no vision beyond Friday. That attitude was for 2020. Once you intentionally think about what your vision is for your future, you will have your “why.” This vision will fuel you to keep pressing on even when the disciplines behind personal finance get really tough. Habakkuk 2:2 says, “Write the vision, and make it plain.” Yours might be: “Save $10,000 this year toward my house down payment.”
2. Plan ahead, don’t just track transactions.
There is a bevy of apps promising that simply logging in and letting them track your expenses will get you on the path to accomplishing your vision. If you tried any of them you probably realized, nothing changed. Why?
Tracking what has already been spent without having a plan first is useless. You need to make a budget. The same can be said when we’re trying to lose those Christmas pounds – looking up the calories after we’ve eaten the pie is not going to help.
It’s crucial that you implement the monthly habit of planning how you’re going to spend, save, and give away your money. To some people the word “budget” brings up terrifying visions of straight jackets and money fights, but that’s a misunderstanding. Budgets give our dreams the guardrails and accountability necessary to make them happen.
For example, if you want to save $10,000 this year toward a down payment for a house, you know to budget $833 into savings every month, $385 transfer every other week, or a $192 transfer on Fridays. You will not wake up one day and accidentally have saved $10,000, in the same way that you won’t wake up one day fit enough for a marathon, or ready to do surgery. It takes diligent, intentional preparation, and that’s what a budget is for our money.
Even Jesus loved budgets. He said, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first calculate the cost, lest he get halfway up his tower and be unable to finish?” Don’t get halfway up your tower and be unable to finish.
3. Consistently return to your goal.
Winning with personal finance is not “set it and forget it,” and people listening to Jesus would have understood that. Proverbs 16:3 says “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” Staying on track when lunchtime comes around is hard when all you can hear is hunger pain demanding Chick-Fil-A. The motivation necessary to denying yourself eating out every day instead of putting your hard-earned dollars toward your car will only come if you keep your goal front and center! Do you want go out for lunch, or move out of your roommate’s house and finally have your own place?
Keep your financial goals in your mind, in your conversations, and on paper and return to them often.
4. Get rid of distractions.
Most entertainment and social media are nothing more than distractions. On your instagram feed, the people with the largest followings are called ’influencers’ for a reason – they wield an enormous sway over the people who follow them. Those influencers trying to get you to buy makeup products, and fishing gear, and the latest clothes – they are distracting you from your goal.
You must make sure your feed is free of the influences that will drive you away from your financial goals. Start the year with an “unsubscribing and unfollowing” cleanse, where you silence the voices that distract from your vision. Unsubscribe from email lists, unfollow Twitter, Facebook and Instagram brands, and …
Certainly, the strongest way to fortify yourself against these ever-pulling distractions would be to go on a social media fast. The bottom line is any movement away from distraction is a good thing.
5. Surround yourself with good influences that will help you win.
The Bible says there is safety in the company of wisdom, (Proverbs 11:14) so surround yourself with vision-oriented friends. Immerse yourself in the feeds of people who are winning with money. Look into investing in a financial coach, books, or classes. These good influences for one will help center your mind on the things that will bring you good results. Michigan State University researchers demonstrated that peers were more important than teachers in a student’s attitude about school, showing that who we surround ourselves with is a determining factor of our own success.
How do you renew your mind and stop conforming to the financially flawed ways of this world? Have a vision, and plan ahead by using a budget (Jesus loved budgets!) Return to goals often, get rid of distractions and immerse yourself in an environment of good influences. These tactics will reinforce diligence instead of derailing your goals. Putting them into practice will go a long way toward ensuring 2020’s bad financial habits don’t follow us into 2021.
Kati is an author, speaker, and financial coach teaching about the intersection of money and faith. Her passion was born out of first-hand experience of shame from money mistakes. After paying off six figures of student loans, she and her husband figured out handling money the hard way. They live in Louisiana with lots of kids, all of them theirs. Visit her website at katihyer.com.