Can I be honest for a moment? There are times when I struggle with wanting to buy stuff to fit a certain image. This becomes even more apparent when I’m standing in line to pick up my kids from school in a sea of other parents.
My car is older and way junkier than 70% of the other vehicles in the parking lot. The clothing I wear is secondhand or purchased inexpensively from Old Navy, K-Mart or Target. My house redecorating consists of cans of paint and doing the boring but necessary updates rather than the impressive ones.
Then I remember what it was like to be broke. To have to wait until I received my next paycheck to pay a bill and work 60+ hours per week to have enough money to save. And I snap out of it.
Even though I have those fleeting moments of wanting to “keep up with the Joneses” I comfort myself in knowing that it’s pretty likely all of the Joneses are broke and financially stressed. And that my friend, does not sound fun.
Don’t believe me? Here are some facts for you:
- 76% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck
- The average car purchase is $27,000
- 62% of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings
Signs You’re On the Wrong End of the Equation
Not sure whether or not you’re more focused on looking wealthy than building wealth? If any of these things apply to you you’re on the wrong end of the equation.
- Your Car Costs Half (or more) of What You Earn in a Year
- You Don’t Have an Emergency Fund
- You Have No Investing Plans
- Your Lifestyle is Paid for with Credit Cards
- You’re Behind on your Bills
While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to have nice things it needs to be done in moderation if you’re interested in building financial stability and ultimately, wealth. If you’re not sure where to start here are some general guidelines.
Pick Your Priorities
We all have different priorities and that’s perfectly okay. But if you’re going to turn your life around you need to figure out what your main priorities are. My main priorities consist of my family and because of this it’s easy for me to curb my spending and instead work on saving for the future and having fun now.
If your priority consisted of traveling some fitting priorities may be becoming debt free, building cash reserves and finding a location independent job or one that allowed plenty of vacation time.
Different priorities will require different plans of action.
Asses Your Debt Level
Debt is the destroyer of financial goals. If you have a lot of debt like credit cards and car loans you’re not going to be able to save for the future and large purchases. In fact, having a bunch of debt may even derail you from paying all of your bills each month and certainly puts you in a bad place if you lost income.
If you have a lot of debt start saving an emergency fund of at least $1,000 while still making minimum debt payments. After you have the emergency fund start paying off your debt.
Save Some Cash
After you’ve established your small emergency fund and have made significant progress on your debt pay off you need to save up some cash.
Consider substantially increasing your emergency fund and saving cash so that if an investment opportunity arises that suits you you’ll have the ability to take advantage.
Surround Yourself With Positive Influences
It’s going to be near impossible to make a shift from keeping up with the Joneses to improving your financial life if you’re only around negative financial influences. If a certain person makes you feel the need to “keep up” spend less time with them.
Try to find some personal finance oriented people who can help encourage you. If you can’t find anyone locally join a forum online and find some personal finance blogs you enjoy.
Striking a Balance
There’s no need to be all work and no play or vice versa. Once you have your basics in place you can achieve a financial balance that’s mixed with smart wealth building and spending on the things that truly bring more happiness into your life.
What side of the equation do you fall on?