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You have come to a crossroads. To the right is a path that is easy, paved, and leads to a sunny meadow. Most follow this path. To the left is a curvy, dirt trail that leads to a dark, old-growth forest. Only a few footsteps mark this path. Which do you choose? Is this a little too intense for a Friday? I hear you! Spoiler Alert: The following tale isn’t a story about good conquering evil because it’s a story about the magical world of finances. It will contain good and evil.
Grab some hot cocoa and your soft blanket!
The Financial Villain
Living paycheck to paycheck. Occasionally over drafting a checking account. Spending copious amounts of money on stuff but wondering where all the money went to. This was me over a decade ago. I was a financial villain. Many start this way, unless you had an exceptional upbringing and financial discussions were standard practice. For the rest of the mortals, financial knowledge is a journey and like any journey, it begins when we have a strong reason for change.
My change happened in 2013, after I came back from Yellowstone National Park as a Park Ranger. I had no job and no income. Times were tough. I used this uncomfortable period as my big push into developing a budget. It was a terrible budget with columns, colors, and data everywhere. It was a colorful vomit of my finances and about as helpful. But it was a start that precipitated into a lean, mean, money-saving machine that it is today.
The Beginnings of a Story
For those who are interested in the budget part, I got you! Begin a budget with keeping track of expenses. Don’t analyze it for its faults. Don’t criticize yourself for the ten pounds of makeup you just bought, or the entire Harry Potter DVD collection, or the case of Prosecco you just purchased. I may or may not have experience with this.
Instead, start entering your receipts into a spreadsheet. This will create mindfulness about how your money is escaping. Plus, it’s a great way to look back and see how far you have progressed. Start a budget the easy way with just keeping track of your money. A hero takes small steps which is the same as small wins. Channeling the inner Budget Hero…..
The Rough Road to Victory
Destroying a Horcrux. Dropping an evil ring off in Mordor. Vanquishing Darth Vader. Every story, including a financial story, has to take care of business. Ironically, the most iconic stories involve getting rid of something awful. If you have debt or bad spending habits let’s pretend that is the evil that needs to be disposed of. Let’s do this more positively, in a way that a therapist would be proud of. We are about to turn our financial Darth Vader into a supportive bestie like Yoda!
At some point, which may be now, you will be comfortable with tracking your spending. As soon as you are comfortable that is when we need to make it uncomfortable again. It’s time to confront the spending villain. Look at your spending in a removed, detached sort of way. Pretend this budget is mine, not yours. What would you suggest, as my friend? Cutting out takeout meals? My subscriptions? Perhaps too much spending on clothing? Please, be honest and tell me how I should be a better saving human.
There. We have our weakness, we all have them. Want to know mine? Expensive outdoor gear, craft supplies, and Prosecco. I have been participating in my financial story for many years so I have developed a few hacks to prevent overspending. Yoda would be so proud!
A Hero’s Win
Why does a hero win? Because they have the best hair? Perhaps they have the whitest smile? They’re charmers, right? All. The. No. Hero’s win because they do what everyone else isn’t. They keep trying especially when it’s hard. They don’t let anyone shake their belief that they can’t because, basically, everyone is telling them they can’t. Except for their mom because moms are amazing like that.
The average American has $7,000 worth of credit card debt, $30,000 of automotive debt, and $46,000 of student loan debt. This was the average before Coronacaious. The average American is in significant trouble with debt. We all started there but that doesn’t mean we have to finish there. A story, even in finances, has to start somewhere. Let our somewhere begin now, with a budget as our plan to guide us into financial freedom. That’s how the story ends right? The hero has captured more freedom than he started with. Or perhaps, it’s just the beginning…..
Where are you at in your financial story?