My 3 Money Mantras

I have a few friends, all girlfriends actually who struggle with credit card debt and budgeting. As I’m reflecting on these close friends, I’ve noticed they have a three things in common.

  1. They love to shop and suffer from occasional bouts of impulse buying. (me too!)
  2. They do not have an emergency fund.
  3. They live paycheck to paycheck.

I’m really not a financial expert but I think I’m pretty aware. I took the Charles Schwab Money Fitness Quiz and scored an 86 which is rated as “Good.” I know exactly my money weaknesses and strengths.

Weaknesses

  • Forgetting to pay obscure bills (as I’m typing this I still need to pay an overdue tollway bill).
  • I don’t max out my Roth IRA (hopefully this year, I can bring myself to save that 5K and max out for the first time ever.)
  • I don’t really know how or what to invest my money in or the best way I should diversify.
  • I have over 23K in student loans.

Strengths

  • I automatically save at least $100 every paycheck.
  • I do not withdraw from my savings save for trips and the very occasional lending money to loved ones.
  • I have an emergency fund.
  • I pay off my credit cards in full every month.

I’m always trying to motivate my struggling friends to adopt the good habits I live by. I hate that they live paycheck to paycheck and if anything were to happen they will be scrounging around for aid or going into deeper debt. I’m by no means perfect and sometimes I flounder. (This month, I spent more than I made.) So I’m going to write this blog entry in dedication to a few girl friends and impart what mentalities have worked for me.

My 3 Money Mantras

1. I used to do a lot of weight loss counseling at my previous job and one thing that I noticed when people relapsed on their weight loss program is that they don’t forgive themselves and get back on the saddle. They are so ridden with guilt that they start letting it win by staying down for the count. They tell themselves, “I’ve done so badly and eaten at McDonalds this morning, might as well go all out and treat myself to a whole pint of ice cream tonight. I’ll start my program again next week.” This mentality is counterproductive and doesn’t make sense! You can always and should start again right away. The same goes for money. If you exceeded your budget this week and it’s only Wednesday, don’t go for broke the rest of the week. Start anew right away.

2. We’re all going to continuously fail. Failing is part of life. There’s no avoiding it. However, don’t set yourself up for failure. If you have never saved in your life, choose an automatic minimum to put into savings that is attainable. If you think you can realistically save 200 dollars a month, do it. If after a month you weren’t even close, adjust accordingly! Go all the way down to 20 dollars a month if need be and inch your way up. As inevitable in life as failure is, it’s important to not set yourself up for it.

3. Create a price to opportunity ratio. Let me illustrate this mentality with real thought processes I go through. This one I went through yesterday: I overspent in June. I moved (movers were 260). I bought renter’s insurance (120). I bought books and event tickets ($60). I lost count of how many meals I ate out (moving made it difficult to cook.) I indulged in a lot of treats (clothes, outings, etc). I’m finally moved in and had lunches planned to bring to work. Yesterday, my coworker was walking to Chipotle and I needed to buy a greeting card next door. I love me some Chipotle and really wanted to just scrap my lunch in exchange for a burrito bowl. Follows is how I walk away from many of my small mundane impulses is to evaluate the opportunity.

Q. Is Chipotle fairly attainable?
A. It TOTALLY is. It’s on campus, walking distance, and under ten dollars. Hell, I have two Chipotles less than a mile away from where I live.

Q. Will this be my last opportunity to eat Chipotle?
A. Far from it!

Q. Can I resist this week and be satisified with coming back later?
A. Absolutely.

Impulse resisted!

That’s three big mentalities I’ve found financially useful and effective but I’m always seeking to learn more, so please share your tips.

What are some of your financial philosophies or personal policies?

This post is written as part of 20SB Blog Carnival on friends and money. For more entries about friends and money, click the link.

  • Pingback: [Super Duper Fantastic] » Cash Monies()

  • The biggest thing that has helped me financially is to keep track of every penny that I spend. I carry a small notepad with me to keep track, and I have been doing it with about 99% accuracy for close to a year. At the end of the month I look at where the money went, and then consciously ask myself if I was satisfied with each category. It makes it easy to make changes if you see that you dropped $600 on eating out in a given month.

  • This post makes me want to hire you as both a weight-loss counselor and money manager. I love the price to opportunity ratio thing, too! So awesome!

    • Linda

      @martin – that’s awesome that you calculate how much you spend to the penny. I don’t but i’ve gotten closer to doing so with help of mint. it kinda just automatically does it for me.

      @amy – thanks for the comment! :)

  • This is amazing, Linda! The best post I’ve read so far! I’m terrible at managing money (and weight loss, for that matter) and I’m slowly, slowly, slowly working to create a budget and get in control of everything. But it’s hard with my part-time job where I never know what my paycheck will be.

    I love this line: “You can always and should start again right away.” I do the same thing with weight loss, although I think I’m better with money because once I spend it, I feel too guilty to spend any more! (Plus, sometimes, I don’t have more money to spend!)

    Thanks for all the tips. As a girl who scored in the 0-30 range, I need all the help I can get!

  • i download everything into quicken, which now owns mint.com. it helps me track all of my expenditures (except cash, which is fine since i rarely have cash on me). and like martin said, at the end of the month, you become rather appalled at your own spending. dining and entertainment (which i categorize any drinking and going out occasions) are usually pretty ridiculous.

    besides, i love watching the numbers go up on the savings account, and i really just don’t enjoy most shopping experiences, so that solves most of my financial issues.

  • linda

    stephany,
    i’ve followed a few of your blog posts about creating new financial goals. i’m impressed by your ability to recognize your biggest weaknesses. :) you can do it.

    terri,
    that’s awesome that you don’t enjoy shopping. takes a lot of the impulsive buys out of the equation. i love clothes :( and food. i’ll eat a 2nd lunch or dinner even when i’m not hungry. so i had to try to start talking myself off the ledge lol

  • Matt

    All the information you put into the post was good for anyone wishing to save money or for any goal in life really as failures happen as you said. I feel you have already hit one secret on the head with how people accept their failures and let it explode into an out of control day or week. Just being mentally aware and keeping a tally on daily activities helps me out the most from the foods I eat to the way I spend my money so I can easily back off the excess at any given moment. For me, mental tallying works, others may wish to write it down, log it, toss it in excel etc but as long as at the end of the week, month, and year that there is more money coming in than going out then there is plenty of opportunities to make that extra cash turn into more.

    Also, control the controllable has been one of my work or performance mottos for a while and really makes things easier in the long run when the uncontrollable pops up it is a lot less ugly. It is sound advice but most people I encounter always have excuses of why something can’t be done or what is preventing them from this or that when they just fail to look at themselves first as part of the problem. These excuses are nothing more than mental shackles keeping them stuck in this rut as they accept it and make themselves powerless.

  • Linda

    Matt,
    I really like your second paragraph. “Control the controllable” – short, sweet, and sounds super effective.

    thank you for sharing it!
    – Linda

  • Pingback: Cash Monies | [Super Duper Fantastic]()