You may be thinking, what the heck are they talking about?
I’m not chasing my money.
I may not have tons of money, I may want more money, but I’m definitely not chasing money.
Well, hate to break it to you, but if you’re one of the millions of Americans who lives paycheck to paycheck, you ARE chasing your money.
In fact, statistics show that 78% of you are chasing your money, and you’re probably not really gaining on it no matter how fast you go.
What do we mean by chasing your money?
Think about your typical month. Money comes in, you start spending, and pretty soon it’s all gone.
Where did it go?
Uh oh, now I need to borrow to make it to the end of the month. Now, I’m putting myself in debt to make it through until the cycle can begin again next month. Before long, you’re in the red, living paycheck to paycheck, and unable to gain on your debts.
You’re chasing your money.
But why are so many of you chasing your money?
Money isn’t .
It isn’t all that complicated.
However, it is one of the biggest challenges faced by most every day, only second to traffic jams (just kidding, but seriously). The good news is that unlike a traffic jam, YOU are in control of your money.
Think about it. What a privilege. You may not be in control of much in your life, but your money is one thing you CAN control.
You may be asking yourself, if I’m in sooooo much control, why am I having trouble with my finances?
Unfortunately, there are many outside factors and systems that influence us when it comes to money and spending. These external pressures affect our ability to manage money wisely because they play at our weaknesses. Ever heard of trying to keep up with the Jones’? Or impulse buying something strategically placed or on sale?
Temptation is everywhere, and that combined with the limited financial education of most makes for a perfect storm of debt.
But there is hope. Despite the bombardment coming at you from every angle there are some things you can control. Let’s tackle a few steps you can take to better manage your money, so you can stop chasing your money and start reaching your goals.
1. Make a Plan for Your Money
The first step to ending the chase for your money is to make a plan for it.
Again, YOU are in control.
Know how much money is coming in and have a plan for where that money is supposed to go rather than having to figure out where it went.
People with financial problems are always wondering where their money went.
This is past tense, folks. It already happened.
Your money is gone, departed, expired, taken, wasted, exploited, disappeared, spent, gone.
And the worst part? You probably don’t have money left to pay for a lot of the things you must pay for. Like we discussed above, this situation will lead you to use credit to pay for things.
Now you are in a chasing mode.
You want to be debt free and live within your means, but you’re stuck in this cycle of using credit to pay for everything.
You’re robbing Peter to pay Paul.
If you’re in this chasing cycle, DO NOT ignore it.
The only way you’ll ever catch your money is to deal with it. You must decide you’re sick of the chase and you’re ready to stop digging yourself a deeper debt hole. Until that happens, you’ll be enslaved to your debtors.
If you’re ready to finally catch your money, you must make a plan for it by building a budget.
We’ve written a couple articles on building a budget, but there are two basic parts to it:
- Prepare a monthly budget. Know your permanent expenses and essential variable expenses. We say essential because we mean food, clothing, heat, and medicine. Not Starbucks, designer clothes, pedicures, or fancy new nails.
- Monitor your budget. Every week you should check on your spending and evaluate how you’re doing. Did you buy any unbudgeted items? If so, why did that happen? Now you’ll need to take money from some other area to make up for that unplanned expense.
Many people are intimidated by the idea of building a budget. Many people are scared to know where their money is going.
Trust us, out of sight, out of mind is not the way to go when it comes to finances.
Make a plan for your money so you can take charge of where it goes.
Build a budget.
2. Exercise Fiscal Discipline
Many people build a budget, but they go awry when they don’t stick with their budget.
All day, every day, we do not leave home without our wallet or purse, which carries credit and debit cards, along with good old-fashioned greenbacks.
The funds are right there at your fingertips.
We make and spend money daily, and with cash and credit right there it’s no wonder people have a hard time sticking to their budget.
You have good intentions, but every time you step out that door you enter a world where everyone is after your money.
Every nook and cranny of the world is trying to sell you something every day. Advertisers send you messages, pictures, and the most dangerous, affirmations.
Affirmations. You need this, you deserve this, your life will not be complete without it.
Affirmations that flow through the wide rivers of consumerism. You find them everywhere you look. They are on billboards and flyers, radio and TV, in email and newspapers, and stuck to every available space on every webpage you ever look at. Heck, they are even on the side of the little Volkswagen Beetle you just passed!
Trust us, they will do anything and everything to get your money. Their goal is to find a way to draw money from all the streams, rivers, and tributaries of ordinary people to create a giant ocean of wealth for themselves.
We all fall for it, some more often than others.
The trick is to understand what is going on, and to resist. Resist the advertisements, resist the need to impress your friends and the world, and focus on your true needs.
Is it a want or a need?
Everyone splurges once in a while, but if you want to stop chasing your money you need to clamp down and say no
Exercise fiscal discipline. Stick to the budget.
3. Change Your Mindset
Have you read our very first article?
If you haven’t, you should.
It’s an introduction to a concept we both deeply believe in, and a huge step toward understanding and beating the financial rat race.
If you’re stuck in the money chase, you likely need to start shifting your mindset from consumerism to frugalism.
As we mentioned in step 2, EVERYONE is after your money.
Our world is built on consumerism, and everything around us has been built to try and get you to spend your money. You have literally been conditioned to spend money.
This ideology is also why credit is so readily available. Part of consumerism is ensuring you have access to the means to spend money, never mind whether you actually live within YOUR means.
How do they do it?
Remember affirmations? Yep, you need it, you deserve it. Keep up with the Jones’, impress your friends.
You’ll get more likes and followers on Facebook and Instagram in those jeans.
So, how do you shift the mindset?
The key is to begin looking at those ads with a different set of eyes, not the rose-colored, attention-seeking ones they want you to use.
Easier said than done, right?
You’ve been conditioned your whole life to yearn for bigger and better things. To want the latest gadgets and technology, the fancy car, the designer clothes.
You want the ooohs and awwws from your family, friends, co-workers, and people you’ve never even met on social media.
You’ve been conditioned to get your self-worth from these things, and from the reaction they bring. Tricked by corporations into thinking these things will make you happy.
And all the while, the banks, retailers, car dealers, and all the rest are grinning from ear to ear.
You look cool, but is it cool to be in debt up to your eyeballs?
It’s really not a good look, despite those designer jeans.
YOU’RE BEING TRICKED!
Don’t believe us? How about a few examples.
First, think about car commercials.
$1500 cash back on new models until the end of the month! HURRY, because this deal won’t last!
But wait, if they’re selling the car at cost and then giving you cash back, aren’t they losing money? How do they make it up?
Figured it out yet?
They may promote these deals, but you can bet they will make up for that $1500, plus some, in interest paid.
Need a lower monthly payment? No problem!
How about 7 years of interest instead of 4?
Car dealers are not operating at a loss, they’re simply balancing their budget with you.
Another example is a letter from your bank telling you how wonderful you are and how you are qualified for a loan. Let’s say, up to $15,000.
Ever get one of those?
They make it so easy, just sign and return.
Now they’ve put the idea in your head. You start thinking about what you could do with $15,000. Hmmmm, a vacation sounds nice. Maybe we could buy a new car or remodel the kitchen.
The bank has just suckered you into more debt that you wouldn’t even have considered if they hadn’t sent the letter!
The best thing to do? Throw that letter away.
Instead of thinking about what you could do with that money, think instead about the interest you’ll pay on that money, and the payments you’ll make for the next several years.
See the manipulation for what it is and run the other way. If you’re thinking about a loan for a project, YOU initiate the contact with the bank and deal with them on your terms.
Moral of the Story
The vast majority of Americans are in a never-ending cycle of chasing their money.
They live paycheck to paycheck and have allowed consumerism to take control of their financial lives.
Luckily, there is a way out, and it starts with making a plan for your money. Understand how much is coming in, and determine exactly where you want that money to go. Build a budget and take control of your money.
Next, exercise fiscal discipline by sticking to that budget. Everyone is after your money, and the sooner you understand that the sooner you can begin to resist it.
Finally, in order to resist the conditioning of consumerism you will need to begin shifting your mindset to frugalism. Understand how society works, and the tricks that are being played on you.
Once you realize the victimization happening around you every day, it’ll become much easier to tell those systems to buck off (back off, not, you know).
YOU’RE in control.
It’s your money, stop chasing it.
Talk about Money Saved.
Sebastian is co-blogger at Money Saved is Money Earned. He emigrated from India in his 20's with $15 in his pocket. Despite facing adversity in his early life, Sebastian is an early retired Senior Financial Analyst for the City of Portland. He has owned his home free and clear for 15 years, has had income properties, put three kids through college, and travels to India regularly, all without a six figure income.