Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Carrie Rocha's new book, Pocket Your Dollars: 5 Attitude Changes that will Help You Pay Down Debt, Avoid Financial Stress, and Keep More of What You Make (Bethany House, 2013).
If you’re struggling to manage your money well but can’t seem to change unhealthy behaviors such as spending too much and saving too little, there’s hope. You can solve your financial problems in 11 steps by looking beyond your behaviors to the attitudes behind them – and then relying on God’s help to change those attitudes to ones that reflect His wisdom.
Here are 11 steps for how you can solve your financial problems by changing your attitudes about money:
1: Overcome the “If only I had more money” attitude. Although it’s natural to want more money when you’re experiencing financial problems, it’s important to keep in mind that simply getting more money won’t solve your problems. You could have a lot more money fall into your life (from a large tax refund to a generous Christmas gift) and yet still get into financial trouble if you don’t change the way you manage money. What’s important isn’t how much money you make, but what you choose to do with the money (of any amount) that you have. So shift your focus from changing your income to changing yourself. Ask God to show you what unhealthy behaviors you need to change (such as over-spending, under-planning, over-borrowing, and under-saving) and to help you change those behaviors by changing their underlying attitudes. Take personal responsibility for the financial mistakes you’ve made in the past, and learn from them. Choose to forgive yourself for your mistakes, and to forgive other people who have made financial mistakes that have impacted your life. Look forward to a healthier financial future.
2: Overcome the “I deserve a treat” attitude. This attitude drives you to make impulsive purchases to reward yourself for hard work or give yourself some other emotional gratification, such as comfort or stress relief. Realize, though, that habitually buying things on impulse wastes lots of money as your small expenditures add up to large amounts. The money that you currently spend impulsively to splurge on little treats (from candy bars or cups of coffee to new outfits or gadgets) can help you save up toward more meaningful purchases that would add much more value to your life. Spend some time reflecting on what you’d most like to spend your money on, and why. Clarify the dreams and goals you’d like to pursue once you’ve saved enough money for them – and then remind yourself of those dreams and goals, to motivate yourself to refrain from impulsive spending and allocate the money you would have previously spent frivolously to savings instead.
3: Overcome the “It won’t happen to me” attitude. It’s tempting not to think about emergency expenses until you must deal with them, but since life is unpredictable, you’ll inevitably have to deal with expenses that you didn’t expect – from car or home repairs to hospital bills for emergency room visits. Rather than go into debt when emergency expenses hit, you can manage such expenses well if you’ve saved for them in advance. Work to set aside at least three to six months of income in an emergency savings fund. As you do, keep in mind four different financial priorities: regular bills (which are both urgent and important), goals (expenditures you want to plan for within the next year that are important but not urgent, such as vacations), leaks (impulse purchases that seem urgent but aren’t important), and wastes (expenditures that aren’t either urgent or important, such as money spent on alcohol or gambling). Anticipate the approximate financial cost of important purchases you want to save money for, and then set specific savings goals for each of them.
4: Overcome the “I’ll fake it ‘til I make it” attitude. This attitude leads you to buy things simply because they’ll make you appear wealthy, rather than for their intrinsic value. Pray for the ability to overcome the psychological needs that may be fueling this behavior in your life (from wanting a personal sense of accomplishment through what you buy, to trying to impress other people socially through an image of wealth). Practice developing a contented attitude by regularly focusing on the good aspects of what you already have and diverting your thoughts away from what you don’t have. Ignore advertising as much as possible; instead, discern what you want for yourself, based on your own values.
5: Overcome the “I can’t afford it” attitude. If you feel guilt or shame when spending money, despite the fact that you actually can afford what you’re purchasing, you may be suffering from this attitude of excessive deprivation. Recognize that it’s okay to indulge in purchasing expensive items and experiences that are meaningful to you and won’t put you in debt. If your frugality is negatively impacting your life or your relationships with other people, ask God to help you become more generous. Then start a habit of giving more to others through your church and charities, and buying some things you’d especially enjoy for yourself.
6: Change the self-talk in your mind. Honestly examine the thoughts that run through your mind about money and challenge them regularly to discern whether or not they reflect biblical truth. If not, intentionally replace inaccurate, unhelpful thoughts about money with true and healthy thoughts.
7: Stand up to pressure to make unhealthy financial choices. Pray for the willpower you need to resist spending money irresponsibly again, and whenever you’re tempted, ask God to help you in that moment. Develop strategies to help you successfully manage your money well, such as closing every credit card except for one and paying mostly cash for your purchases. Remain committed to lasting change.
8: Create a spending plan. Plan how you intend to spend, give, and invest the money you have. This is similar to a budget, but rather than focusing on your financial constraints, a spending plan focuses on your financial goals. Include your predictable monthly expenses (such as groceries and utility bills), your predictable non-routine expenses (such as vacations and new clothes), and your unpredictable expenses (emergencies).
9: Pay off debt. Work diligently to pay off all of your debts by focusing on one debt at a time. List your debts in order of balances owed (regardless of interest rates), and then work your way through the list, paying off the lowest balance loans first and moving on – one by one – to the highest balance debts until they’re all paid in full.
10: Reduce your expenses going forward. Be creative about reducing your expenses as much as possible, from using coupons to buying different items during the seasons they’re on sale.
11: Hold yourself accountable. Track your expenses regularly and study where your money is going so you can keep adjusting your spending to reflect your values.
Start a financial journal today for how you will begin taking these steps and keep a log of how you do! Don't beat yourself up when you fail, get up and try again. Financial wisdom takes time to practice and learn.
Adapted from Pocket Your Dollars: 5 Attitude Changes that will Help You Pay Down Debt, Avoid Financial Stress, and Keep More of What You Make, by Carrie Rocha, copyright 2013 by Pocket Your Dollars. Published by Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Minneapolis, Mn., www.bethanyhouse.com.
Carrie Rocha owns and operates PocketYourDollars.com, one of the most popular couponing and personal finance sites on the web. She shares money-saving ideas she learned as her family eliminated $50,000 in debt in two-and-a-half years. A sought-after media personality, Carrie has been featured on Wall Street Journal Radio, Glamour, Yahoo! Finance, CNNMoney.com, FoxBusiness.com, and many other magazines and websites. Carrie lives with her husband and two daughters in Maple Grove, Minnesota. Learn more at www.pocketyourdollars.com.
Whitney Hopler is a freelance writer and editor who serves as both a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and the editor of About.com’s site on angels and miracles. Contact Whitney at: firstname.lastname@example.org to send in a true story of an angelic encounter or a miraculous experience like an answered prayer.
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