Sometimes we create grand New Year’s plans for our financial future. We vow that this year we will pay off our credit card debt, start setting money aside for retirement, or finally build that all important emergency fund.
But in the face of bold plans, it’s easy to run out of steam and settle back into old habits. Creating change can be tough, but often the answer is as simple as taking small baby steps. Initial baby steps lead to bigger steps, which lead to financial strides, and eventually lead to financial freedom.
Establish one new habit at a time
You don’t have to master your financial life all at once. Establish one new financial smart habit at a time. Once you’ve mastered this habit, move on to another. At the end of a year, you’ll have established enough new savvy habits to make a dramatic improvement in your finances.
Ease into savings
Saving any amount of money can be hard, but remember, you don’t have to save everything overnight.
Perhaps you have a goal of saving $3,000 for an emergency fund, but the daunting task has left you paralyzed. No worries. Start small. Save just $10 a week. When you’ve got that mastered, increase your weekly savings to $15 a week, and so on. An incredible thing happens when you see your savings grow. You become motivated to save even more, and saving becomes easier.
Maybe, you’re concerned about saving for retirement, but you figure there is no way that you can afford it. Again start small. March down to your HR office and simply have just 1% of your salary directed to your 401K or 403B retirement plan. You’ll gradually adjust to taking home a little less as you watch your retirement savings grow.
Once you’ve made the adjustment, increase your retirement plan contribution to 2% of your salary. Again, your lifestyle will adjust to accommodate taking home less money. Repeat the process until you’re putting away what you feel is an appropriate amount of money to meet your retirement goals.
Take your time
Perhaps this is the year that you’ve decided to learn about stocks and investing. The task can seem intimidating, but make it manageable by taking baby steps. You don’t have to know everything there is to know about investing immediately. Break your learning down into small manageable chunks.
Commit yourself, for instance, to reading just one chapter of an investment book per week. The more you learn, the more you’ll want to learn. Momentum will take over and you’ll find yourself reading one book a month, or even one book a week as your knowledge grows exponentially.
Remember, you don’t have to transform your financial life overnight. Don’t underestimate the power of baby steps. Starting small overcomes the inertia of doing nothing. Once you start making financial changes, it becomes easier to make additional changes. Momentum builds and you’re on your way to creating the financial freedom you deserve.
BMWK, what’s a baby step that you could take to help master your finances this year?