How To Stay Motivated With Your Money

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[The following is a partial transcript of this episode of The Scott Alan Turner Show. Listen to the full episode to hear this story, listener questions, money hacks, and inspiring stories of people that are changing their financial lives. Subscribe to the free podcast on iTunes or Google Play]

How do you stay motivated?

What a great question.

First, give yourself a treat to look forward to.

People who ask me ‘Scott, how do you stay motivated if these goals and dreams will take years.’

They’ve bought into this debt payoff plan or these dieting things from The Biggest Loser and now they’re going nowhere. So they end up failing and starting all over again.

It’s easier to figure out the milestones ahead of time and plan a reward for when that day arrives. Is it 60 days? 30 days? 7 days? If it’s not planned or not reasonable, then it’s back to square one.

If you just make the decision today – we’re doing this 30 day no spend challenge, I’m off carbs for 30 days, we’re not eating out this month, and then day 31 we’re going out for pasta and bread, it would be glorious.

People who decide ‘I’m starting that spending plan now to get out of debt’.

Well, awesome, but why is this time different?

First, if now is the right time to start – which it is – figure out how you’re going to treat yourself to give you some fuel. Some motivation.

Saving money for the sake of saving money doesn’t have much meaning in my opinion. It’s kind of like collecting bags of yarn. For what? Just because? Unless someone is going to knit an afghan blanket, what’s the point.

I’m not saying if you don’t have some big savings goal to just blow it all. Maybe you haven’t decided what’s most important yet. But setting it aside or paying down the debts is still smart.

Our culture is built on debt and over consumption, and to switch everything we’ve been doing to have this patience, take it slow, and work on these long term things is hard.

So let’s not just go cold turkey and never have fun. I think these big goals, are made up of little goals.

The way to reach big goals is to stay motivated by hitting the little goals.

Make the little goals, then stick to them. That gives you momentum.

I know you’ve got some big goal that seems like it won’t ever arrive and you’ve probably started and stopped a few times. Often what we do is we don’t start or don’t even think it’s possible.

Falling back to old ways feels easier in the short term but in the long term it guarantees failure. Things get worse the longer you wait.

The second thought, is you’ll have more money to treat yourself.

If you are saving money you’ll spend less on things that don’t mean that much, and at the end of that time you’ll have more money for something that does. You see, you decide on that milestone and why it’s good for you, and then decide on what you’re going to give yourself for the sacrifice.

If you decide to sell everything that isn’t bolted to the floor in the next 30 days, then you next choose, well what’s all that work worth? What’s the pleasure I’m going to get for that?

  • Is it the fancy gourmet pizza instead of the frozen Walmart pizza?
  • Is it a new shirt because all these other shirts are now sold?
  • Is it a small deposit that goes towards some weekend getaway a year from now?

This is just you figuring out, ‘what’s going to motivate me to do this from different angles.’

  • what feels good to you
  • what about this choice supports the big picture
  • what would the experts do in your situation?

Because when you think through those questions you come up with what’s best for you. What decision will you be proud of when you look back some months or years from now and have no regrets. What would make you feel like,

You know,

  • I think that little short term goal I set is really what did it for me
  • I believe it’s reasonable, most experts would go for this
  • I know this is going to help me support others as well

You got it if you can do that.

Which brings me to the last thing – we do these things for ourselves, but they have a huge impact on others too.

I think it’s scary the number of people who are approaching retirement age and just don’t have the savings. And it’s not that they can’t go all-in and build up some money fast – they are probably in their highest income earning years. But it’s that they either don’t know they are terribly unprepared or they aren’t doing enough about it.

Most of these things we’re doing that need some more motivation, we can use these visions of ‘what if’ as an added incentive.

  • What if mom gets sick and needs nursing home care which costs $4,000 a month.
  • What if this person breaks a hip. How can I work and take care of them at the exact same time?
  • Oh, we don’t have any choice but to let this person live with us, we’ll I’m glad we planned ahead and put the apartment in the basement or over the garage.
  • How can we help others unless we’ve first helped ourselves?

There’s a couple motivators in my life. Dementia runs in Katie’s family, so a $4,000 a month nursing home stay could be in the cards. My dad was not healthy, and I want to make sure I’ll always be able to dunk a basketball on my son. I can’t dunk, but that’s the visual I use.

Often we lose our motivation and don’t hit our debt payoff or savings goals and are disappointed with ourselves. It’s not because of these outside forces, nobody stole our paycheck or robbed us. We had goals that were unrealistic and set us up for failure before even starting, or we didn’t set and celebrate small wins along the way. Meaning we tried to climb the mountain top to bottom without any breaks for GORP – good ol raisins and peanuts. We skipped the views, walked by the lake, ignored the strato-cumulo-nimbus clouds, those fluffy ones.

When I hop on the treadmill for 45 minutes, it’s tough – and boring. Even that I’m breaking up with rewards. Ok, 15 minutes done – 1/3 of the way. A sip of water. 30 minutes – stop listening to the educational stuff, switch to some Ozzy for the last 15 minutes. 45 minutes is up – that’s a reward in itself, I can breath again.

It’s not about following someone else’s plan for your life and what other people say or did. It’s kinda like you could do a 30 day fast and drop 50 pounds. But you’d turn into Mr. or Miss Angry Pants and want to gnaw your own arm off. Or mine! It doesn’t work. So the choice of doing nothing and never changing isn’t going to work. And going cold turkey on the other end isn’t going to work – not for these big long goals that may take years or a decade like saving up for retirement.

“I’m not going to eat out for 25 years until my savings are bulletproof!” That’s unrealistic. There’s a middle road that’s the best of both worlds.

If you’ve started and stopped or are kind of down on yourself, sit down and ask

  • Was the goal to big
  • Was there not enough time
  • Was it too extreme
  • Am I being impatient
  • Do I have enough rewards to keep me going
  • Am I letting someone else decide what I should be doing with my money

And look at what’s worked in the past too. Because you’ve had successes that you can build on.

What kept me after this thing over here?
Imagine that time you crushed it. How did that look?

Cur yourself some slack. We all take two steps forward, one step back sometimes. Opposites Attract, Paula Abdul.

So where do you need some motivation in your finances?

  • pay off that big loan
  • save up for the house down payment
  • working towards the million dollar retirement plan

Go figure out the big goals, divide them up into little milestones, and circle those dates on the calendar. By being focused on the financial goals we have to make, recognizing the wins we made in the past, we start maintaining the momentum for the future. That gives us the feeling that we going to win with money and change our life, which is what we all want.


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