For a lot of people, motivation can be hard to come by — especially if you’re a naturally lazy person like I am. Unless there is an incentive attached to a goal or a deep need or passion to get something done, keeping myself excited for a new project or to reach some faraway milestone is never an easy feat. For the most part, I can amp up myself enough to get the wheels turning on starting a new endeavor. Sustaining that energy for a long time, however, is much more difficult. And when it comes to money-related goals, staying committed to a plan I’ve set out for myself for months on end requires a lot of diligence that I sometimes do not possess.
While I’m not proud to admit it, that’s the reality of who I am. On the upside, with every passing year, I get better at changing my ways. Instead of setting myself up for failure by setting these far-fetched challenges of saving up thousands and thousands of dollars a year (on a relatively low salary, by the way), I’ve started being realistic about what I can achieve financially — and to much success.
Last year, I made a promise to myself to build an emergency fund of a $1,000. And I did, all because it was far more achievable to do than, say, save $10,000 in a year on a roughly $40,000 salary. (I’ll know the exact figure come tax time, as it was my first year being self-employed.)
A large part of the reason I was able to do it was because of the support I received from friends who encouraged me to spend less money on dining out. After telling them early last year that I wanted to save up a cushion for myself and stop wasting so much money on food, they were completely understanding and did all they could to help me along the way. Whenever we went out, they’d always recommend inexpensive places, and even suggested alternative ways we could hang out together that didn’t involve spending money, like game nights at their houses or those of mutual friends. Having my friends as cheerleaders, rooting me on to complete an important financial goal, was so motivating.
Having a financial buddy is hardly a new concept. You’ve probably heard how beneficial it is to have an accountability partner when you start a new fitness journey. You know — the person who makes sure you’re actually sticking to your word when you say you want to become a healthier version of yourself by exercising more and regularly eating healthy meals. Well, I’ve found that the same system works wonders if you’re struggling to get your financial act in order. Having a financial buddy (or two in my case) is a great way to really stay on track of your goals, depending on your personality.
Personally, I never feel as guilty with myself for not doing something I swore I would do if I was the only person who knew about it in the first place. However, when someone else knows I wanted to achieve a goal and slacked off on it, I can’t help but feel a bit embarrassed. When that happens, I always immediately try everything in my power not to disappoint them or myself again. I work even harder so it never gets to a point where I feel ashamed for failing to work towards something I supposedly cared to do.
That’s why I’ve enlisted the help of financial buddies again this year to push me to pay off a significant amount of my student loans. All in all, I owe about $11,000, and it’s about time I started paying it off seriously instead of throwing the minimum payment at it every month. This year alone, I can and hopefully will pay off $5,000 of it ($417/month). While it’s not unachievable, since I can feasibly pull it off on my income (which I foresee increasing a bit), it’s still a bit daunting. So I’m using all of the encouragement I can while I tackle my loans.
In return, I’m also be motivating my friends who each have their own financial targets that they really want to hit this year, from saving up for an epic trip to Japan to paying off credit card debt. Besides providing emotional support, we’ll also be checking in with one another frequently (we haven’t set a timetable as of yet, but it will likely be monthly) to see how each of us is doing and if we’re sticking to our budgets. We’ll also share motivational stories with one another about other people who have managed to pull off big financial feats. And most importantly, we’ve vowed to eat out less (and go to cheap places when we do), and have more intimate gatherings at our homes and explore all of the free activities New York City has to offer, especially in the summer.
As with any financial goal, it won’t be easy. There will undoubtedly be setbacks in our lives, but we’ll be able to overcome them more quickly and push through more strongly when we lean on one another.
Shammara is a featured columnist at The Financial Diet. When she’s not writing about her financial woes, you can find her on Twitter sharing her thoughts on beauty and fashion trends and pop culture.
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