Let’s be honest. For most people, thinking or talking about money ranks right up there with getting a root canal. Most people would rather talk openly about their sex lives with a stranger than actually share the status of their finances. While there are a variety of emotions, backgrounds and experiences that we each have around money that contributes to an uneasiness to discuss it, feeling guilty and insecure about our money generally boils down to an overall lack of clarity as to what’s going on with it and a lack of education as to how to fix or get it on track once we have identified the issues. Ultimately, there’s no sugar coating it. If you want to start making smart choices with your money, you have to take action. Your finances won’t fix themselves just like you won’t lose weight by doing nothing or earn that college degree by slacking off in the back row of class. If you want to get rid of your money guilty and insecurity once and for all, follow the below steps to get yourself on track.
Determine the areas you want to make progress in.
Money. It’s an all-encompassing word. It covers everything from budgets, to net worth, to spending patterns, insurance coverage, retirement and more. It’s no wonder it’s overwhelming to think about getting it all under control. How does one even know where to start? Our instinct is to dive right in and tackle it all, but your best bet is to handle this as you would any other large project or undertaking. Break it down into bite size pieces. Where is your attention needed most? Do you need to get better at tracking your spending? Has it been a while since you’ve checked in on your investments? Do you have too much money sitting in cash? Should you be saving more? Have you set up your retirement accounts? Is there a better strategy you could be using for your credit card pay down? Pick 2-3 areas that you want to make progress on and commit to working on those over the next few months. Once you’ve gotten those areas on track, you can move on to others.
Create a goal for each area.
Once you’ve determined the areas you want to work in with your finances, set goals for yourself. Nevermind the general goals of “I want to pay off my debt” or “I want to start building my emergency fund.” That’s the same as saying “I’m going to lose weight.” Great – but how much weight are you planning on losing? And by when? It’s pretty hard to celebrate a win when you’re limiting yourself from the beginning by not having a place to measure progress from. Skip the hassle of creating big picture goals for yourself and drill down into what it is that you specifically want to accomplish in each area and when you want to do it by. Your goals should be quantified and measurable so you can actually celebrate your progress along the way.
Schedule your money time.
A good way to start kicking your guilt to the curb is to start paying more attention to your money. Schedule time each week to sit down and review your goal progress and evaluate areas there may be room for improvement. Set a recurring date on your calendar and include an agenda in the notes section. Your agenda may include the following:
- Review expenses and savings. Which categories are you above and under on?
- Track progress on goals and paying down debt.Did you add to balances, pay down debt, or stay even for the month?
- Make adjustments.Where do you need to change to stay on track?
- Celebrate wins.
Establish Your Values and Priorities.
Money guilt can stem from a variety of factors, but what typically brings on this guilt is the fact that we’re not using our money to live a life we value. We know that by not tracking our spending or saving for retirement or even that big vacation, our money isn’t going towards those things we value or prioritize in our lives. There’s a famous quote from James W. Frick where he says “Don’t tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money and I’ll tell you what they are.” Think about your finances. Is it the tangible or intangible things that motivate you? Do you get excited about possessions or experiences? What are you saving for right now?
- How will reaching your goals make you feel? Secure? Free? Powerful?
- What’s the ultimate reason behind your desire to earn more, save more or experience more? How does it translate into your life?
Keeping your “why” in mind will help to keep your finances in line when faced with the tough decisions. Money is a tough topic to tackle and it’s okay to be uncomfortable with it. What’s not okay to do is stick your head in the sand. Take small steps, schedule focus time, set clear cut goals and you’ll likely find that the more attention you pay to working through and out of the issues, the better and stronger you’ll feel about your money. This post originally appeared on DailyFinance.com