We’ve all been there. Maybe you’re there right now! I freely admit that I feel this way on a regular basis. You feel like you’re making good financial progress and then suddenly you are sidelined with a setback. Or you’re working on hustling to pay down your loans, and then you hear of someone who’s making faster progress and you’re discouraged. When you’re frustrated and want to do more financially, it is a hard place to be.
It doesn’t help to play the comparison game. We all have different financial circumstances. So much depends upon where we live, the size of our family, the amount of debt we have, cost of living, income, and the financial choices we make.
I am not you and you are not me. My family is not the same as yours. We are all at different places financially working on different financial goals.
Even when we know that for a fact, it’s easy to get frustrated when others are able to make financial progress faster than we are. I don’t have to look further than my own family to see that.
For example, I have a single brother who is an actuary. He lives frugally and is very responsible with his money. Due to his income, he is always going to be able to save and invest more than Andy and I ever will. I’m not jealous of that fact (because I love him dearly and am so immensely proud of how hard he works) but there are times when I wish I was able to invest more like he does.
It is so easy to get caught in the financial comparison game. Don’t do! Just don’t. Here’s what I have learned to do instead when I am frustrated and want to do more financially.
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Have you heard that old saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”? That is certainly true of us and our finances. We can’t pay off years of college loans at once. We can’t tackle house projects and save more in our retirement and pay off debt at the same time. Dave Ramsey uses the term baby steps for a reason! Have patience and do the next thing.
Focus on what you are doing instead of what you are not.
It’s easy to get caught up on all the things we’re not doing. The result is that we find ourselves full of wishes.
I wish we could be maxing out our retirement funds. I wish we have enough saved to tackle several house projects at once. I wish we were debt fresh. I wish we could go out to dinner without worrying about our budget. Does any of this sound familiar?
Rather than focusing on the fact that we don’t have a 6 month emergency fund in place, I choose to focus on the fact that (after several years of working towards it), we finally have a 3 month emergency fund in place.
One of my big dreams is to fully fund our Roth IRA’s every year. We are far from doing so. Rather than focusing on that, I am choosing to look at the fact that we are contributing small monthly amounts again. Plus, my husband and I did contribute money before we had kids when we were both working so that money is accumulating interest now.
Rather than focus on all you are not doing, make the choice to focus on what you are doing.
Set clear and specific goals.
What do you want to do financially? Are you working towards paying off debt or tackling a project? What do you want to achieve financially next? Give yourself a clear goal with costs and guidelines.
For example, we need a new roof that will cost us around $5000 in the next couple years. We need to start putting $100 in savings a month for this purchase.
Another idea is to make a list of financial projects / goals in the order you want to achieve them. There’s nothing too little or too big to put on this list. It gives you a starting place and a place to dream. Here are some of our current financial goals.
- Build household repairs savings back up to $1000.
- Add $50 a month to savings.
- Contribute $25 a month to retirement fund.
- Build up our HSA again to the full yearly deductible amount.
- Save $5000 for new roof.
- Add $100 a month to new car fund.
- Add $100 a month to household projects fund.
- Big goal – Max out retirement funds ($5500 a year per adult or $458 a month).
- Big goal – Pay down principle on mortgage with at least $1000 a year, extra payment.
- And so and so on.
If you are new to the whole idea of financial planning, Dave Ramey’s baby steps are a great place to start.
Revisit your budget.
When you’re frustrated about money, sometimes the last place you want to look is at your budget. Rather than looking at the constraints of your budget, give it a careful look again. Can you find an expense to cut? Can you allocate your savings differently? Even if you find that you can’t, looking at your budget allows you to see that you are truly using every single dollar.
Find new ways to save and do more.
Perhaps you found some money to move around in savings. Maybe you are going to try earning some extra money selling things on Craigslist or with another part-time job.
Whether you save more or earn more, take that money and set it aside to tackle your next goal. Here are some ideas on how to find extra money to pay down debt, but it can work for other financial goals as well.
Give thanks for all you have accomplished and have been given!
When your financial goal list looks long, it’s easy to overlook all of what you have already done. Be honest with yourself. Give thanks for the projects you’ve already accomplished.
As a Christian, I believe we are called to be good stewards of what God has given us. That is true no matter how much we earn. Although we can’t tackle our financial goals as quickly as I’d like, I know I am blessed to stay home with our two children. We are debt-free except for our mortgage. My husband has a job with insurance for our family. Even when our income was cut by 46% and pennies got even tighter, we are still joyfully thriving. I thank God for these blessings.
On days when I wish we were able to pay our mortgage off in the next 2 years, these are the things I do and remember. What do YOU do when you find yourself wishing you could do more financially?