No matter what your situation, it's easy to fall into a perspective of self-pity about your finances. After all, how can you be thankful for your finances when your financial goals are so far away?
Goals such as paying off debt and reaching FIRE are often long and challenging. Roadblocks appear and mistakes get made.Staying grateful for your finances often requires a shift in perspective and acknowledgment that you are, in fact, making progress. Tracking your progress over time with ‘mini-wins' along the way can make it obvious that you are moving closer to your goals. And volunteering can help you see how far you've already come.
How To Be Thankful For Your Financial Situation
Even in the most challenging of financial situations, you can find ways to be thankful. Here are some ways to help you change your perspective about your money when you're feeling discouraged.
Track Your Progress
While most of us have downloaded the Personal Capital app to track our net worth and see how our investments are doing–have you really kept score of all the little optimizations you’ve made that are contributing to your progress?
Over time, we forget the many small optimizations we’ve made along the way. And the truth is they add up over time.
It's important for you to find a way to track your progress that helps you stay motivated and positive. For instance, what about creating a colorful chart? You can create it in Excel or Google form and make it the home page on your PC or other devices.
Or, you can get out the markers and pick up some poster board, displaying your progress in bold or inspiring colors on your home office wall. Some other ideas?
- Use an app like Goal Buddy to help you track your progress and encourage you
- Create a paper chain and remove a link with every step toward your goal
- Buy a goal calendar and set dates to reach mini-goals
With much of the country maintaining a paycheck-to-paycheck status quo, any progress toward financial goals is a big deal. As such, you'll face opposition from loved ones that don't have the same desire for financial stability.
And you'll face opposition from your own psyche and desires. Because of this, finding ways to track your progress that will help you stay encouraged is important.
Use whatever means necessary to track your goals in a way that keeps you motivated and appreciative of your own hard work.
Tally Your Wins
Tallying your wins is another important step in staying thankful for your hard financial work. When you first start working on a financial goal, getting excited about the changes you've made is easy. However, over time you may fall into a routine that gets so “normal” that you forget the changes you've made.
This is why tallying ALL of your wins is important. It's not just about the progress you've made on the numbers front–it's about the changes you've made that will help you reach your target numbers.
Therefore, it's helpful to make a list when you make changes such as:
- Breaking a regular spending habit that doesn't align with your goals or isn't of value (i.e. the daily coffee habit or drive-thru run)
- Taking on a new side hustle
- Getting a raise and funneling it into your investment account
- Lowering an expense and putting the money toward debt payoff
- Working overtime and using the money to reach your goals
- Finding a more cost-efficient way to live, thereby saving you money
- Giving up a creature comfort short-term so you can reach your goals faster
- Saying “no” to a spontaneous purchase
Whenever you make strides to lower your expenses or move toward your goal, write down the win and refer back to your list of wins often. Use the list to reflect on the changes you've made to help you reach your goals.
Because financial goals often take years to achieve, it's easy to forget all you do to change your behavior to help you reach your goals. Tallying those little changes and wins will help you to be grateful for the “new you” you've developed over time.
Change Your Perspective
Sometimes financial gratitude is simply a matter of simply changing your perspective. It can be draining and overwhelming to focus on all of the things you can’t do, or what you’ve had to give up to move the needle towards FI or debt payoff. While sacrifice and change may be par for the course, your efforts can be re-framed as gains instead of losses.
For instance, giving up cable TV means you have more time to take on fulfilling hobbies. Cooking at home may not be as traditionally exciting as dining out, but you are picking up useful skills in the kitchen. Figuring out how to change your own oil or reroute your shopping habit to a more productive hobby may stir the pains of change. However, learning these skills can also improve your life. As an example, maybe you can use your new skill or hobby to make some side hustle money.
By taking on a “bootstrapping mindset” and stacking up optimizations, you’re making strides towards FI. At the same time, you're taking on new skills and practicing what you preach. This means you'll have a greater impact on your circle of influence. People will notice if you've given up eating out or stop going to the salon. When they ask why use it as an opportunity to share your goals and spend time with loved ones.
As an example, you can schedule mani/pedi nights at home with girlfriends. Or watch the big game at home with buddies instead of at the bar. Have everyone BYOB and bring something to eat.
Use your new, more frugal lifestyle to find new ways to do the same fun things. If something you’ve given up or changed still feels too hard to cut, you might need to find a way to work it in as a value-based expenditure that meets your goals in the middle. For instance, maybe you go to the bar with buddies once a month instead of once a week. Or maybe you get a professional manicure at a less expensive salon.
In our situation, eating out was my big obstacle toward reaching financial goals. When I chose to take the kids out to eat less often, our enjoyment of restaurant trips increased tenfold. Given time and a change of attitude, the sacrifices you make will only increase your gratitude.
Look Outside Of Your Situation
Another way to increase thankfulness for your finances is to simply look around. You won't have to look very far to find people that would give anything to be where you are financially.
Spend some time feeding the homeless or packing meals for children in third world countries. Volunteer at a food pantry or at a center that provides beds and meals for the homeless. Volunteer as a mentor for kids in less-than-optimal family situations.
Help a single mom learn how to budget and have money to feed her kids and pay the rent. The fact is that there are always people in a far worse financial situation than you. Helping those less fortunate than yourself can do wonders for helping you increase your level of gratitude.
Stay Connected With Your “Why”
Are you in a FIRE or debt payoff slump, or is your progress is being met with consistent challenges that make forward motion difficult? Try circling back to why you started. And if needed, print out your whys on paper to connect with them consistently.
It may seem a bit “woo-woo” to create a vision board made with printouts and magazine clippings, putting up reminders of why you started on this path. However, doing so may be helpful in reconnecting with your gratitude as you face challenges.
Print out pictures of your kids, a place you want to geo-arbitrage to, or a fake million dollar bill. Revisiting your whys will be a quiet but impactful reminder of the life you’re building when you feel the struggle.
You could also try re-listening to podcast episodes that motivated you at the beginning of your journey. Or, you can discover new podcasts or articles that motivate you. Try connecting with your fellow FIRE walkers in the ChooseFI Facebook group. Steps like this can help you feel connected and reinvigorated with your lifestyle.
Volunteering, connecting and sharing with people within the communities you dwell in can help you feel grounded and invested. Your motivation will naturally wane over time, so do what it takes to help you feel most connected to your “why.” Spend some time regularly getting reacquainted with it.
Feeling discouraged about reaching FI or getting to debt-free is perfectly normal. However, having an attitude of gratitude will help you climb out of that slump faster.
Though the progress to your goals may be slow, the time you put in will be worth every effort when you reach your destination. Choosing gratitude along the way will simply make the journey more fun.
How do you stay thankful when working on reaching long-term goals such as FIRE or debt freedom?
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