When it comes to money goals, let’s face it: What you want to do and what you actually do can be two wildly different things. While you may at first be gung-ho about, say, crushing your debt, this ambition often wanes over time and these goals fall by the wayside.
Why does this happen? A big part of it has to do with your changing mindset. For example, you may lose interest or motivation because saving money just feels overwhelming. That’s why it’s important to shift your thinking so that you get pumped to hit your goals. To help you get motivated, we hit up some super savers to find out how they successfully paid off debt, curbed spending, saved money, and budgeted. And, who knows? These funny rituals and simple mind tricks may help you flip your money mindset.
4 Mindset Shifts to Pay Off Debt
Play Debt Payoff Games with Your Partner
To stay laser-focused on paying off their $100,000 of student debt, Doug and Alexis Kamin had a unique way of remembering this hefty number. When out shopping, Doug would ask Alexis, “Do you want that item at 6.8% interest?” It may seem like an arbitrary number, but 6.8% was the average interest rate of their student loans. This simple question served as a painful reminder of how much that debt cost them every day. The couple paid off the debt in its entirety in less than two years.
Focus on the Things You Can Have
One mind-trick Alexis Kamin used while tackling her debt was to spend on something important to her: fresh-pressed juice. That juice cost $7 and although this price-tag seemed absurd while still in debt, it kept her motivated.. “I just kept thinking about all the juice I could have once it was all paid off!” says Alexis.
Channel Your Anger Toward Your Goals
Melanie Lockert used her anger toward her student loans to fuel her debt payoff. “Anger is typically considered a negative emotion, but it can also propel you to motivation,” says Lockert, who runs Dear Debt. “Instead of just moping around, I got mad. And once I got mad, I took serious action on my debt and did everything in my power to get it gone.” This worked, as Lockert paid off more than $80,000 in student loans.
One good way to fuel your anger into positive action is to write down a word, person or situation that angers you and put this piece of paper into a jar. “Pick someone or something you’d essentially want to kick to the curb,” suggests Lockert. You can also use that jar to save extra cash from side hustles, a bonus, or a tax refund.
She Believed She Could, So She Did
Solopreneur and lady boss Kayla Sloan has this inspirational quote hanging on a bulletin board in her office. “It makes me want to hustle harder and work hard at achieving my goals.”
“When I’m feeling burned out or like I just don’t want to work, it helps me remember that I’m working hard to pay off debt, and reminds me that I can do anything I set my mind to,” says Sloan, who has been hell-bent on paying off her credit card debt for the past few years. Her efforts have paid off, as she’ll be free of credit card debt in the next few months.
4 Ways to Curb Your Spending
The 24-Hour Rule
Zina Kumok’s favorite ritual to curb her spending is to wait at least 24 hours before buying something. “This lets me sleep on it, and ensures that I’m not rushing into anything,” explains the freelance writer at Debt Free After Three. “I’m naturally a spender, so this has been really helpful in cutting back,” says Kumok.
Asking the “Double the Price” Question
To help curb impulse buys on her credit card, Claire Hannum asks herself whether she’s comfortable paying twice the original price for something. “The purchase has to be so important that I’m comfortable paying double the price for it,” explains Hannum, who is a writer and editor at Daycation. “That’s because if the interest adds up, it’s going to ultimately cost way more than what it originally did.”
Is This Worth Your Freedom?
When out shopping, Hannum asks herself, Is this nail polish or new skirt worth my freedom? “Because when it comes down to it, everything you purchase amounts to a chunk of time you’ll have to spend working to earn what it costs.”
I Want Something Bigger and Better
Whenever Melissa Zehner was tempted to indulge in a little retail therapy, she would say, “It won’t bring me joy.” She would then think of a goal on the horizon that she was working toward. “I would tell myself, ‘I want Italy more,’ ” says the founder of Mooslet. Because a trip to Italy was a dream of Zehner’s for several years, this mantra kept her motivated. And within a year, she had $6,000 saved for her dream vacation.
3 Ways to Save for the Long Haul
Money Is a Tool
Jason Vitug’s favorite money mantra is money is a tool. “Think of money as a hammer,” says Vitug, the founder at Phroogal and author of You Only Live Once: The Roadmap to Financial Wellness and a Purposeful Life. “It’s necessary when you’re looking at building the walls of your home, but when used incorrectly, it can be just as effective in tearing down those walls.”
This adage came in handy many moons ago when Vitug would treat a bonus, tax refund, or class action settlement check as “found money” and spend it freely. But when he realized that money was a tool, he used that cash to invest in stocks. “The more you learn how to manage money, the better you’ll become in using it to build a solid foundation and create financial security,” Vitug explains.
What Could This Be Worth in 30 Years?
Before spending money, Erica Holland asks herself how much the money could be potentially worth in 30 years. “I try to use it anytime I’m contemplating a meaningful purchase,” says Holland, who runs ModMoney.
Case in point: she recently planned a trip from Austin to visit her sister in L.A. As she had quite a bit of work to finish up on the plane, she was tempted to pay $500 to upgrade to business class. Holland quickly plugged the numbers into an online compound interest calculator and found that if she invested that $500, it could be worth $2,000 in 30 years. “It’s easy to forget the power of compound interest, which is why it’s helpful to have a constant reminder,” says Holland.
You Just Do It or You Don’t
Sarah Allison spent a lot of her youth thinking that she’d start saving next month, but never got around to it. “When I decided to listen to Yoda’s wise words, ‘Do or do not, there is no try,’ I just started doing,” says the blogger at The Blonde Spot. Allison committed to saving $600–$800 each month and had managed to save $10,000 in a year’s time.[a] “I won’t be a millionaire by the time I’m 40, but I’ll be good to go in case of emergency,” says Allison.
1 Cool Trick to Help You Game Your Budget
Tetris-ify Your Finances
To figure out potential budget scenarios, Emily Guy Birken likes to do math in her head and jot down figures on scrap paper. When she had very little money, she would make her finances feel like a game of Tetris. In other words: How could she make all her expenses “fit” within the block that is her take-home pay?
For instance, when she first graduated from college, she worked at Barnes & Noble and took home about $1,000 each month. Her rent was more than $500 and she used her downtime to write out all of her monthly expenses.
“I would ‘play’ with the non-fixed numbers to see how I could stay within my budget—and even save some money,” explains Guy Birken, author of End Financial Stress Now. “Instead of being stressful, I found this kind of money dance to be almost hypnotic, like playing Tetris. It was a game I knew I could win if I could just figure out how to arrange the numbers.” And win she did. During that time, Guy Birken never once overdrew her account, saved $1,000 in just over a year, and paid off a $2,400 credit card balance in three years.
Regardless of how you decide to reach your money goals, having a mind-trick in tow can change the way you think about your money and pump you up. Can you come up with a money mantra that will do the trick for you?