How To Spark Change

Change is hard. Changing our habits is even harder. Change takes effort, energy (both mental and physical) and often requires a lot of courage. I believe that making financial changes may be some of the hardest changes to make (similar to changing our eating or exercise habits!)

Henry Cloud said “We change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes change-same2greater than the pain of changing.” I repeat this quote to myself daily, sometimes several times a day as I remember why I am making the changes. In my previous post I talked about pain – enduring small pain now to avoid greater pain in the future. This often involves change.

 Things needed to change

My change happened when the pain of staying the same was much more than the pain of changing. We were in over our heads. We had credit card debt, student loan debt, car loan debt, a mortgage, and just couldn’t pay everyone what they demanded. Our grocery budget was tight, there was no money left to spare. I will always remember the day: I had just done a load of laundry and was hanging my bath towel back in the bathroom after being washed. I looked at the towel. It was once a white towel. Now it was off-colored and stained and the edges were worn. And I could not afford to go and buy myself a new towel! I had two little girls to feed and started to panic. I couldn’t even buy myself a new bath towel. We were one paycheck away from disaster if a lay off happened, or a disability, or even a repair as minor as a broken dishwasher or flat tire on the car. I vowed then and there to change! I wanted to be in a better situation for myself, but even more so, for my children.always do what you've always done

This is when the pain of staying the same overwhelmed me and I longed for change. I don’t believe change will happen until we become “sick and tired of being sick and tired” (phrase borrowed from financial guru, Dave Ramsey). It has to be an intrinsic desire for change. No one can make us change. Not real, lasting, life-altering change. This has to come from the inside, from a purpose and a reason and a drive to make the change(s). We’ve all heard the quote “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” (attributed to a few different people).

I knew that if we kept doing what we were doing, we weren’t going to get where we wanted to be. That was the day I decided to change.

 

A Plan

change1After feeling the strong desire to change, how do we do it? Jacob Lund Fisker, in his book ‘Early Retirement Extreme’ says it most perfectly: “Dissatisfaction may be high and the vision of an alternative may be high as well, but without a plan, this can only lead to frustration. There must be a strategy or at least a plan, and it must be practical. To get things done, it’s much better to have a plan than to have passion, at least insofar as you act on it.”

He tells us that those wanting to change have four variables to consider:

  1.  Dissatisfaction with your present situation.
  2. Strengthen your vision of your future situation.
  3. Build a plan to get from the present to the future.
  4. Lower the perceived cost of the plan.

In the next few posts we will talk about number 1 – Dissatisfaction with your present situation. We will learn about the time value of money, compound interest, what your debt is really costing you, as well as what the cost of delaying savings is.

 Assignment

Think about your financial situation. Are you happy with where you are? Do you have a plan to improve your situation? Do you know what your situation is? (if not, read my post about calculating your net worth first).  How would you like your financial situation to be?  What do you want to change?  What are your beliefs about your ability to change?

Read Sister Wendy Watson Nelson’s Devotional address about change, which goes far beyond finances: https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/wendy-l-watson_change-always-possibility/

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A little pain now, or a lot later?

 Should we avoid pain?

It was time for my baby’s six month check up appointment and routine vaccinations. Two of my older girls got to come along to the appointment as well. When it was time for shots, my older girls became concerned and asked me why the baby had to get shots. They love their baby sister and get upset if she ever cries or is in pain. They didn’t want her to get hurt by the shots.  I explained to them that the vaccines will help prevent some very serious diseases that can be very painful, and very scary and life threatening. A little bit of pain now to prevent a lot of pain later.IMG_3319

This made me think about personal finance. We need to be willing to go through a little bit of pain now, to avoid big pain later. For example, living on a tighter budget, avoiding debt, driving the old car another year or two, doing a staycation instead of going to Hawaii, resisting the urge to pull that credit card out or apply for that loan, or spending the money that is supposed to go to savings. These choices we make now will prevent a future of more painful consequences like being overextended, house poor, foreclosure or even bankruptcy, or having no buffer or emergency fund or savings when an emergency occurs. By being a bit uncomfortable now, we will reap the rewards in the future. That may be the distant future, or maybe a future that isn’t so far.

Small discomfort now vs. big discomfort later

Being able to learn self-discipline, when it comes to personal finance, is a valuable skill to learn early in life. I like to give my kids an allowance, to allow them to make money choices when they are young, when the consequences are small. Then, when the big choices come, and the big temptations are available, hopefully they can remember lessons learned in their past, and make better decisions.

One example of this scenario is student loans. Student loans are very easy to get, very easy to justify (it’s for education and education is a good thing!), quickly add up and then become difficult to pay off. What took a few months or short years to acquire can take a lifetime to pay off. However, choosing the smaller discomfort now of working while attending school, applying for grants and scholarships, attending a less expensive school or community college, will help you avoid the much greater discomfort later of paying back those large student loans, laden with interest!woman piggy bank

Naturally, we move away from things that are uncomfortable and gravitate to things that seem desirable. No doubt that is one of the reasons why credit cards have become so popular. It is uncomfortable to say no to something that we really want. It is pleasurable to indulge right now and not have to wait for the things you think you want. However, avoiding the small prick of pain now (waiting until you have the money to pay for the purchase), can set you up for much greater future pain (large credit card balance and payments, and enormous amounts of interest, for example).

Love yourself enough to allow discomfort

As I tried to explain to my kids, the shots do hurt right now, but that they will spare their baby sister much more pain later, they began to understand. And, because I love her, I will allow her to go through this small pain now, to be sure that her future is much less painful.

I realized that I need to love my future self enough to endure some small ‘pain’ now which will help me avoid much greater pain in the future.

It’s better to want than to owe!

There is a phrase I like to tell myself every time there is something that I want, but can’t pay for (and I’m tempted to pull the credit card out). It comes from a blog post by Natalie Bacon, on her blog, The Finance Girl. She said “It’s better to want than to owe.” (Her great blog post can be found here: http://www.thefinancegirl.com/how-to-create-financial-margin/)hand holding money

Indeed! I have been on both sides of the want or owe coin. It really is better to want than to owe. Wanting is much less painful than owing!

Challenge:

Take a look at your financial habits. Is there anything you are doing now that is helping you avoid ‘pain’ or discomfort now, but that will cause future discomfort? What can you do to change these habits? Pick ONE to work on. Decide how you can change the behavior now to have a better outcome in the future. (For example, pack a lunch to work one extra day a week, and put the money you would have spent on lunch into a savings account, or towards a debt, instead).