You don’t have to be a finance whiz kid – all it takes is being mindful of when you spend your money, why you’re spending it, and what your true goals really are.
• Have specific, tangible goals for your money. Take time to really think about what being financially secure means to you and how you want to spend your retirement. If you have a partner, be sure to talk it over with them, so you are both on the same page. It’s much easier to work for a goal when you can visualise it rather than thinking “Oh, I really should be saving money” simply because that seems like something you should do. It becomes much easier to change your spending and saving habits when you can say to yourself, “I want to put aside money so I can enjoy my retirement or buy a property in the city.”
• Automate your savings as much as possible. Your goals and dreams shouldn’t be relegated to what’s left over. They deserve to be made a top priority. There are many ways to do this. Discuss different options with your bank or employer. The important thing is to make the mental shift towards thinking about your goals as non-negotiable, not something that you’ll get around to someday.
• Find out where your money is going by keeping a spending journal. The point of this isn’t to make you feel bad about wasting money, it is to examine how much happiness you’re getting per naira spent. Once you know this, it’s easier to change your habits so you’re spending money on things that make you happy and eliminating expenses that don’t give you the same bang for the buck. An excellent book that goes into depth about this subject is “How to be Rich and Happy” by John P Strelecky and Tim Brownson which includes handy worksheets that can help you determine where your money will have the most impact on your happiness. However, even if you don’t read the book, you can still take a close look at your spending and see the areas where you’re spending money without any appreciable effect on your well being or ultimate goals.
• Don’t be afraid to ask questions and never feel as though you should already know it all. You’d be surprised how little most people know about money, investments and other financial matters. You’re only hurting yourself if you let pride or embarrassment get in the way of asking questions that could help you make the most out of your money. Likewise, don’t be hesitant to ask questions about how to reach your specific goals. It will be much easier to make a plan to achieve your goals if you first know the necessary steps. If you don’t know how to buy stocks or get a business license or what permits you need to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, until you find out you won’t be able to move forward with your plans.
• Adopt a positive attitude towards money. This is not the same thing as being materialistic. It’s realising that money is a useful and necessary tool in our society and that there is nothing shameful or shallow in thinking about it or wanting to get more of it, or even not having very much of it at all. Most of us do carry some negative feelings about money and it’s difficult to move forward without finding a way to reframe those feelings so that we can approach money without fear or shame.
For example, you might believe that money is the root of all evil. Or have a fear of appearing cheap or poor. Or feel like it’s unseemly to demand to be compensated for your time or skills. Think about any negative ideas that you have about money or your relationship with it and look for ways to adjust your thinking.
You can take charge of your money and make sure it’s serving you instead of leaving you feeling helpless to deal with it. The key is to understand what you want out of life and find ways to use your money as a tool to make it happen.