Finding motivation when your financial discipline is waning

Written by
Peter Dunn

I think it's important that you know that I don't lie to you. I don't. Everything on this blog is true. I don't tell you to do one thing, and then go off and do another. I think is what makes my personal finance advice unique.

I pay myself a salary, and I live on it. While I "make" more money than my salary pays, I don't use that money to live on. What does this mean? This means that sometimes I want things that I can't afford, even though I can really afford it. Confusing, right? It's actually pretty simple. I have set up my monthly cash flow situation to reflect the audience that I serve. In a phrase, I have manufactured financial challenges that I have forced myself to deal with. Sure, go ahead and accuse of me manufacturing martyrdom for no reason. But I feel a great deal of responsibility to you and your goals. I don't think that I can be your guide with "a house on the hill." Why should my financial success as a personal finance expert drive me further away from the audience that I'm trying to serve? It wouldn't make sense.

I had a weak moment recently and found myself throwing my hands up the air in surrender. I had been saving "extra" money for a bicycle, and was quickly approaching my goal. But then life happened. I had to sink some money into my rental home, and I had a business project that I chose to sink money into. These two events pushed back the estimated date of purchase of my new bike. I was pissed. I can afford the bike, but I wanted to save for it from scratch. Something had to give.

We often set purchase goals and fail to reach them on time. We then have two choices:

1. Ignore the failure and buy the item despite the financial ramifications.

2. Put your head down and keep on grindin' until you hit your goal for real.

In the situation of my bike purchase, I wanted to choose choice #1. But thank God that I took myself to "my happy place", and was able to choose choice #2. Yep, that's my secret. I have a happy place that can serve as my financial Jiminy Cricket.

Do you think great actors like Scott Baio are able to cry on demand without using special tricks? Of course not. They take their high-powered actor brains into a happy place. Or in this case, a sad place. They think about when their hamster got gout. Or they think about when New Kids on The Block broke up. Whatever. You need to use these sort of tricks to get your motivation back on track. When I waver in my financial decision making ability, I think of my daughter Ollie (pictured below). I think about how I want to teach her the right thing to do. I think about how important it is to say "no" not only to myself, but to things that compromise my ability to save for her future. But more importantly, as she grows older, she needs to know that money doesn't grow on trees.

You must find your "happy place." It doesn't really matter what it is, but it needs to refocus you towards your financial goals instantly. This takes an intentional effort. Do it now. Just think about what gets your attention quicker than anything else. Is it your kids? Is it your desire to save for a down payment on a new home? Do you imagine yourself debt free and happy? Any of these things are great for pushing you past discipline issues. Without this trick, you are swinging wildly in the financial winds. Financial success is rarely accidental. It's almost always a result of true intent. Find your happy place.

Step up your financial wellness game.

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