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Advice from a seasoned Financial Education Specialist
By Ashley Reynolds
Money. It’s a big security point for many of us — without it, we can’t afford the basic things let alone extras that allow us to live life more fully. And yet so few of us really have a handle on our finances. Although it’s true that life’s not all about your bank account or the things you have, wouldn’t be nice to feel a sense of fiscal security?
Whether you dream of going on a cross-country road trip or opening your own small business, dreams take money. And developing financial courage is an important step in priming your bank accounts for a life of dreaming. Think about it this way, if you were confident in your spending habits and able to get your savings flowing, would you feel more comfortable taking that extra step towards your next big goal? I like to think so!
So what’s holding you back from gaining financial freedom? Amy Crowe, Financial Education Specialist at Summit Credit Union, has some answers to help you navigate the confusing world of personal finances.
“Many people are in the habit of not paying attention to where their money is going and don’t have a plan or budget for their money,” says Amy. “They pay the bills then spend money on things they want and need. Without a plan, they are not saving for the future or protecting themselves from the unexpected.”
“There is a bit of vulnerability as well,” she continues. “When it comes to gaining control of your money, you have to be honest with where you are financially and how you got there. When you do that, you might feel guilty or shameful. You get stuck on these thoughts and then continue to spend money emotionally to make yourself feel better – continuing the paycheck to paycheck cycle.”
Sound familiar? Or at least kind of? No worries. Amy shared with us some actionable steps you can take to regain control! Here’s how to get started at building up your financial courage.
Change your thinking. As Amy said, we often feel shame or guilt when it comes to the current state of our finances, and that’s just not a constructive mindset. Instead, shift your thinking! “Stop negative money thoughts and replace them with positive ones,” encourages Amy. You’d be surprised at how quickly letting go of that guilt can put you on the right path.
Track your expenses honestly. “Review where you are spending your money and shift your spending to things that are important,” advises Amy. This can only be done if you’re honest with yourself. Don’t underestimate the amount you spent on fast food last month or the number of times you ordered from Amazon. Really take a look at where you’re spending money and evaluate the necessity of it all.
Get curious. Now that you see where your money is going, think about why. Why do you spend X amount of dollars at the grocery store each month? Is there a way to streamline those expenses? “Identify why you are spending money where you are — are you too busy and don’t take the time to plan so you purchase more expensive convenience items?” prompts Amy. If so, it may be time to start planning ahead.
Create a budget. Once you’ve evaluated your current financial state and your common money-related decisions, it’s time to learn from yourself and create a budget that can help reign you in. “Plan to save and spend your money on the things that you value and that will protect you and give you options in the future,” says Amy. “As you work to change your personal finance habits and see your savings balance grow, you will gain more confidence.”
Most importantly, remember to give yourself time and try not to get too frustrated. Like any goal, building financial courage takes time and practice, and it’s something you’ll have to work at each day.
“Finding financial courage is a journey. It’s a daily conversation with yourself about your money choices and if they align with what is really important to you. It’s shifting from negative money messages to positive ones that can propel you forward and allow you to dream and live an authentic life,” concludes Amy.
So, what are you waiting for? Take the first steps today and watch your finances grow!
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You can learn a lot from other dreamers, even if your goals seem completely different.