On numerous occasions, I have started blog posts with the phrase, “Don’t misinterpret what I am about to say…”
That is usually followed by something like, “We drive Kias and make in the top 10%,” or, “In 2018 we paid off $70,000 in students loans.”
Basically, I am saying please don’t think what I am writing is a form of arrogance or a humble brag about our financial success. But then again, if someone does misinterpret what I am saying, does it really matter?
In other words, it really hit me recently that MONEY is just a TOOL that equals choice, and so who really cares what choice you make with that tool anyways?
Here is what I mean.
Money = Choice.
Just a few months into my blogging journey I will admit my writing style was a bit… well blunt. I would just say how I felt and how I thought others should view the subject of money.
I think my intent was usually really good, but my amateur level got me in a little blogger trouble from time to time. Like when I wrote this article basically saying we don’t have kids (yet) because of money. OMG Becky!!
The reception on Facebook was quite surprising. By the way most of the comments populated my news feed, you would have thought I told people Santa Claus is real (Hope I didn’t ruin anything for you).
While I think most people just read the title then made a comment based on their perceived viewpoint, I quickly learned a few lessons:
- It doesn’t matter if you decide to be (Or not to be) financially secure in life
- You can do what you want with your hard earned money
- Money is a tool that shouldn’t make us happy, but it can & does help.
Why do you work for money most days?
Ask most people why they do what they do and they will give you a few answers, usually along the lines of gotta pay the bills, I love what I do or it’s just what I fell into.
But the real reason people do what the do… is to make money. And money equals choice. The more you typically have, the more choices you can make.
While some will disagree and say things like, “I do what I do because I love it,” chances are if there wasn’t a paycheck attached they wouldn’t be doing it 40-50 hours a week. Maybe like 5-7 hours, and those type of things are called hobbies.
There is nothing wrong with liking or loving what you do, however at the end of the day we do what we do to make money so we can afford the life you want to live.
Think about it, doesn't money decide…
- Where you live based off location to work, what you can afford?
- What you drive?
- Some of what you do for fun?
- Where you travel?
- What and where you eat?
- How many kids you have?
So if money equals choice… what kind of choices should we making about money then?
How to make better money choices in 4 steps
I flirt with a fine line when I say live the life you desire, because then (going back to interpreting) many will misinterpret for what I called the YOLO approach to money.
You only live once, so there is no point in worrying about money.
The above is not a good money choice. Certain individuals might misinterpret or disagree with how we think paying off student loans is more important than investing, but this is like comparing apples to oranges – either way you’re still getting your daily fruit.
Many times, as adults we find ourselves settling and justifying money woes by saying things like, “Well you know, we only live once.”
Correct, that exact reason why you should make better money choices is so that you can live the life you want to live, because we do only get one life… instead of just settling. So here is how to make some better money choices:
1. Make it a purpose to save $1,000 just because.
Whether you have a fat emergency fund or you don’t even have a $1 in savings, just get yourself a quick win and save $1,000.
The quickest way to do this is to reverse budget and pay yourself first. Figure out how quickly you can save $1,000 and take it from each check.
Just make sure you place the savings in an online bank that isn’t attached to your checking so you won’t touch it.
This seemingly small personal mission will in turn create a savings habit, and remember it takes 21 days to start a habit – why not set a big goal to save $1,000 in 21 days?
See #2 below.
2. Set 1 financial goal that scares you.
Don’t be afraid to set big goals. You might not hit them, but that’s the point.
The key to setting financial goals is to make sure they 1.) stretch you and 2.) hold you accountable. While yes, you can start with some simple financial goals, however I would recommend setting at least one goal that scares you!
Just set one BIG goal like paying off all of your student loans in the next 12 months or use one of these ideas:
- Pay off your car in 6 months
- Save $10,000 in 6 months
- Pay off all of your student loans in a ridiculous amount of time
- Invest 20% of your money
See also, How We Paid Off $70,000 in One Year
3. See how you can earn extra money.
I once read that the average human makes some 35,000 choices in a day. Most of these choices are the thought processes that guide our activity.I would say most of those choices revolve around hitting snooze and what to eat. The others?
However, it is usually choices based on lack of money, not on ways to make more. So in a sense, it is sort of up to you as to how much money you make. I wrote a cool article on how to make $500 fast, and truth be told it just requires a little creativity.
How to: Take something you’re good at outside of work or at work and see how you can offer it as a service outside of work.
4. Stop going into more debt.
Believe it or not as we age we actually accrue more debt! This is surprisingly scary considering the current student loan situation.
It is finally time to stop being undisciplined and stop going into debt. Remember, money is a tool that equals choices. Going into debt means you’re using a different tool (Debt) to make choices that you shouldn’t be making.
Consumer debt, shopping sprees and newly financed cars will make you happy for about 2 weeks. However, there are a million other great things you can do with your money that will really make you happy.
Simply do the math:
Let’s say you really enjoy traveling and eating out. Is taking out debt for clothes and cars really helping you make the choice to travel more?
12 months X $500 car payment = $6,000.
12 months X $225 car payment = $2,700.
That is $3,300 per month (Or $275 per month) that you can use to travel or eat out, if that is what you enjoy.
Remember, money is just a tool that equals choice.
Here is what money doesn’t allow you you do though, money shouldn’t make you a different person. Here is what I mean:
Money should make you a BETTER person.
Here is the one choice money doesn't give us… the choice to be dicks.
It's sort of funny, but I think over the last few years I've become more humble having financial goals and going after them vs. when I was wasn't.
In other words, I was sort of like most people, I thought I was doing A LOT better than I really was. Because of this unique phenomenon (Maybe I didn’t appreciate money) sometimes the idea of money pursuit comes with terms like greedy, money-hungry, never happy and so on.
However, when you take a step back and begin to analyze money as a whole, the road really goes both ways.
Sure there are people with lots of money who are jerks, but there are also people with not a lot of money who are too and vice versa. Yet, when you adopt a philosophy that the more money is a tool that creates choice, you can (And should) do great things with your money.
Think of all the good things you could do for your family, friends and whatever it is you're passionate about. When you take the eyes off yourself and put them on others you will accomplish more.
And remember, money is just a tool!
Q: What are some positive money choices you can make today?
Josh writes about ways to make money, pay off debt, and improve yourself. After paying off $300,000 in student loans with his wife in less than five years, Josh started Money Life Wax and has been featured on Forbes, Business Insider, Huffington Post, and more! In addition to being a life-long entrepreneur, Josh and his wife enjoy spending time with their chocolate lab named Morgan, working out, being outside, traveling, and helping others with their finances! I got serious with money when I used Personal Capital to track my finances.