20 financial wins that are keeping us motivated.
I've mentioned before that healthy money habits come with a surprising side effect -- Tranquility. Maybe, like me, your relationship with money used to be filled with drama. Maybe, like me, you invested a lot of active energy into building better habits and aggressively paying down debt. If so, you might understand how this new found tranquility feels.
The idea that this new financial calm isn't pressing us towards our goals is a lie. It's a fiction made up by a brain that spent years swimming in financial stress, followed by wave after wave of dopamine-producing instant gratification as I changed my money habits and started scoring quick wins.
Some have said that excitement is an unstable and unsustainable force in our lives, and I agree. Excitement does not create lasting joy; however, continuing to realize gains is important for me to maintain my motivation. Unlike other personal finance bloggers, slow/steady gains in net worth don't exactly do it for me. At least not yet.
Today, I found a new tool for changing my perspective and boosting my motivation. If I was a different kind of blogger, I'd give it a slick name that would double as a snappy, click-bait title, but that's not me. Instead I just think of it as "What have I done for me lately?" or... "Count up the good stuff" or... "Have some flippin' perspective, you financial drama addict!" (at which my husband might jokingly reprimand, "Language! Language!").
First, I pressed the pause button on thinking that we weren't doing much to get ahead between pay periods. Then, I took a few minutes to think back on all the things I did to save money or improve our finances in the past two weeks. I was surprised to find that I easily came up with twenty!
Some of the wins are big ones, while others are small acts of frugal living.
20 things we did recently to save money
and set us up for financial success:
1. Put $980 in savings for opening our IRAs later this year (We'll each open one with $2,000, the minimum investment necessary to avoid additional fees.) We hope to make modest monthly deposits in 2018. This is our first ever retirement savings that is not through an employer-based plan -- A huge milestone! It will also save us some money on student loan payments next year. This was only possible because of the work we did to pay off all of our consumer debt.
2. Politely contested an incorrect charge on our cell phone bill. ($58 credit!)
3. Asked the manufacturer to replace the strap that was falling apart on my less than two year old, name brand watch. The warranty didn't apply to the strap, but they happily obliged anyway. ($25 value.)
4. Saved a notable chunk of change using my online grocery store coupons (no clipping required) and our quarterly grocery store rewards rebate:
5. My husband and I officially filed for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (just in case this makes any difference when the court rules on the motion recently filed by the Department of Education). Paperwork continues to be part of our financial journey.
6. Asked Costco for a refund when everyone in our house agreed that our Kirkland Signature brand pesto (which is usually amazing) didn't taste like normal... This odd pesto was of course discovered on a night when we had dinner company... le sigh. ($7.98 saved!)
7. Re-Evaluated what was necessary when my son needed a new phone. We will be using our insurance to replace our son's damaged 4-year-old phone instead of buying him a newer model. ($250 + tax saved.)
8. Sensing that my professional wardrobe might need an upgrade in coming months, I saved a few clothing budget dollars by deciding to make my sandals last for another season. I even got complimented on them recently because people can't see the holes beginning to wear into the soles. Ha! ($35 in spending avoided.)
9. Handmade part of a secret birthday gift for my husband. He celebrates August 26! (Priceless!)
10. Handmade a similarly secret birthday gift for my dad.
11. Got in some great workouts via free hikes (Including more than 28,000 steps with some gratuitous elevation gain one day!). These work outs came with some great (free) photos, one of which I ended up using for Part 2 of the recent "Variations on the Path to Financial Success" series.
12. Made adventurous meals with a friend, inexpensively enjoying hours together (first we braised, and then we grilled) instead of meeting at a restaurant. Because my friend hosted, I basically got a free gourmet meal, although I hope to return the favor soon. ($55 value.)
13. Sent the invoice for my second freelance writing piece. ($250 in future cash.)
14. Harvested homegrown fingerling potatoes, blueberries, parsley, jalapeño, and rosemary... and made a super tasty roasted potato salad with fresh herbs from some of the harvest.
15. Closed an old savings account, and deposited the remainder in our house maintenance fund (this comes in very handy in #19).
16. Came in under budget for monthly groceries (finally) for the first time all year in July (author's confession: yes, this probably has something to do with us taking a short vacation, which brings us to the next item...).
17. Funded two nights away for our wedding anniversary in cash (well, first we got 5% cash back on all our restaurant purchases, then we immediately paid off the credit card with cash.)
18. Used our credit card rewards to help get us ahead on grocery expenses in the new month.
19. Began work on a project to install gutters and a downspout in a 5-foot area that the previous homeowners had neglected, saving our house siding from additional damage. While I can't put a finger on the value yet, it will definitely save us money to be able to repair and repaint our cedar siding instead of replacing it.
20. Recommitted myself to home cooking by trying some new recipes that are tasty, healthy, and cool in the heat wave we've been experiencing. (Side note: If you ever ask yourself whether you should try making roasted jalapeño honey mustard dressing, the answer is absolutely yes!!!)
Good habits should be a source of pride.
That peaceful feeling of financial tranquility was not due to a lack of productivity. All those small choices (and the big ones too!) really added up over the last couple weeks. Now that taking good care of my money has become a habit, I was making positive financial choices auto-pilot and overlooking all all the small signs of progress. In just a few minutes of reflection, I changed my perspective and felt proud of all our household has done in the last few weeks.
While there are always ways we could be doing more, it felt great to realize that we'd been taking actions pretty much daily that were positive for our household budget. As I went through this exercise of reflecting on our wins, I realized that this wasn't actually a slick new tool at all. Tallying up our financial wins every two weeks was a huge source of our motivation at the beginning of our journey. It was this exact practice that helped us to build the healthy habits that we have today.
Everyday good choices, unlike momentary excitement, really do provide a foundation for lasting joy. Appreciating my everyday healthy habits is something I hope to make a more common part of my life.
How do you stay motivated when working towards financial goals? Are there wins that you've been overlooking?