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As I was writing my post about income for the Ultimate Budget Series, I started to think about why people need more and more income to “just get by”. There seems to be a common agreement among those who are struggling with money that their problems would be solved with just a little (or a lot) more money. It’s the same old refrain of “If I just had a better job”, or “If I won the lottery”, or “If I could just get that raise…” and this mindset is what is keeping middle class America broke (you can read what I mean by the word “broke” here). I don’t know if it a fear of responsibility, or just plain ignorance, but the last thing on their mind is to look at their own financial situation as ask the question, “Is there anything I could do differently to improve this?”
Figure Out What You Care About
I’ve written about this before in a much nicer fashion, but sometimes your finances need a jump start with a good ol’ fashioned slap in the face! And if you find yourself constantly struggling with getting through the month, but you don’t know exactly where all your money is going, you probably have a spending problem, not an earning problem. And most likely you have a budget leakier than the NSA (ZING!).
The first thing you need to do is figure out what you actually care about in life. Write down all those things you care about, and set that list to the side. If you’re having trouble figuring out what you care about, then you may have some soul searching to do, and should probably take a long walk and get to the bottom of what is really important to you. You MUST have some sort of priorities list before you can EVER improve your finances in a meaningful way, because you can’t tell your money where to go if you don’t know where you want to send it.
I Bet You $10
The motto here is “Just because you make money, doesn’t mean you know what to do with it”. And for those who constantly feel the need for more money, I bet you $10 that you spend money every month on crap you don’t care about. Seriously. If you wrote down everything you spent last month, I bet that you spent more money than you care to talk about on random junk that isn’t important to you at all! How do I know this? Because that was me 5 years ago.
When I first started tracking my income, I saw that I had spent over $600 on mall food in just one month. Now, we all need food to live, but I had already spent up enough food money at home to live on for the month, so the mall food was all extra. Is this because I have an overwhelming love for the shopping centers of America, culminating in an outpouring of cash to keep the food court afloat single-handedly? Hardly. Mostly, I was just being lazy and stupid with my money (and health!), and I didn’t want to be inconvenienced.
So I kept spending and spending on mall food, because it was so easy, and if I just ignored it, I didn’t feel the pain of how much I actually wasted. Once I saw it on paper, though, I realized I was ridiculously wasteful, and that I needed to stop that terribly expensive habit. Mall food wasn’t even in my top 100 “things that are important to me”, so I quickly removed it from my budget, planned just a little more for meals, and eliminated a $600 vice, just like that. And the key to the whole thing was finding out what was important to me. In that instance, it was getting married, and saving every penny for the wedding/honeymoon.
Cut The Crap
Remember the list of priorities I had you write down earlier? (just look up). Good. Now, look through all of last month’s spending, and beside every transaction, write down which priority that transaction falls under. If it isn’t one of your priorities, just label it “CRAP“. Once you get through the entire list, you will now see all of the unnecessary and wasteful spending that happened last month. It’s easy to find, just look for all the “CRAP” in your budget 🙂
How much money on crap that you don’t actually care about did you spend last month? $10? $50? More? Back in my day, I was spending the $600 just on mall food, not to mention the hundreds and hundreds of dollars on other junk I didn’t need (extra clothing, electronics, DVD’s and CD’s, etc…). Once I had my priorities in front of my face (my fiancé), I quickly went through and cut ALL of the crap out of my spending, which freed up a TON of cash flow.
Now, I could have whined and complained that I was undervalued at work, and if I just made $2 more an hour, I would have enough money. I could have pointed fingers and blamed and moaned and bellyached until my face turned blue. I could have talked about how it was impossible to get ahead and how there was no way I could save anything unless someone stepped in and gave me what I deserved (BARF!), but I did not do those things. Instead, I looked at what I had control of (my spending), I made some tough choices and cut my budget down to only the stuff I cared about. And you know what? I saved a few thousand dollars in a few months to help pay for my own wedding and honeymoon, and it. felt. awesome!
Why Keep Wasting?
So this is my question to you. Why keep wasting money on stuff you don’t even give a crap about? Why throw hundreds a month down to drain to feed your addiction to convenience? How about you realize that you are not a victim, but have the power to change you financial future by cutting the crap, and start putting your money toward what you really care about in life. Be honest with yourself here, realize that you have made some financial mistakes (I know I have!), and move on. Once you cut the crap, there’s a much brighter future ahead, and I think you’ll enjoy it 🙂