It’s safe to say that most people have heard the phrase, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” It’s pretty obvious. The Ancient Roman Empire was colossal! It stretched all across Europe, even into the present day United Kingdom. It took years, even decades for the Roman Empire to spread its culture and influence to so many people. Yes they conquered those people and ruled over them with an iron fist, but my point is, it was a long process (I really do love referencing my nerdy history background!). The same is true for you and your financial journey. If you want to be debt free, have no car payment, no mortgage, and a wonderful nest egg waiting for you in retirement, and all that jazz, it’s not going to happen over night. The good news is though, through small, repeated decisions, you can build the financial empire of your dreams.
Financial Success Starts with Smart Decisions
The journey of a million miles starts with a single step (apparently I am on a kick of cliche catch phrases, bear with me). If you don’t move, your finances will never improve. You have to make the decision to get your butt into gear and take the first step! This is going to look different for everyone. If you have nothing stored away in savings and are dreading even the smallest financial set back, build an emergency fund. Make a budget, start paying off your debt, get rid of your car payment, start a retirement fund, stop using your credit card. All of these would be great strides to create a strong financial foundation. It all depends on where you are at and what your goals are. I think it is important to mention that under no circumstances should you feel ashamed at the state of your finances. Yes, you may have made poor decisions in the past, but you don’t have to keep making them or let those decisions define your life. I have talked to many people who expressed feelings of dread over money, and I can almost see the shame weighing on them. Even if your finances are an absolute train wreck, the best decision you can make is to do something about it and create your own financial success story.
The first choice in my financial success story was to actually sit down to make a budget. I had always kept a mental note of how much money I spent and made sure I had enough to pay my bills, but I didn’t actually track my spending. That one small decision opened the doors for me, and eventually my family, to do amazing things with our finances! But just because I made the decision, didn’t mean anything changed. I had to make sure I followed through with that decision and stick to my budget every single month, which was really stinking hard at first! At times I really hated it, and sometimes I spent more than I should have. It was all part of the learning process. The important thing was for me to not give up and make intentional choices in my budget. It might sound boring, but the key is to make the same smart financial choices over and over again. To be honest, I want my finances to be boring and consistent. If something unexpected happens with my finances or budget, it usually isn’t good. Keep making those small decisions every day, week, and month. Eventually it will become habit.
Reaching Goals is Hard Work
I have learned that accomplishing goals isn’t glamorous. It’s easy to look at someone who is successful and admire their accomplishments. The truth of it is though, the getting there part is really hard work! And nobody gets to see it. Most of the time, others only see the finished product, which usually does look glamorous. Growing up, I loved watching Michael Jordan play basketball. The guy was incredible and I often found myself in awe of his talent and abilities. But I never got to see the process; the countless hours of sweating, training, and practicing that made his abilities seem so effortless. Successful finances require the same notion of hard work that takes place behind the scenes. Being disciplined enough to follow a budget and make smart financial decisions takes practice and a crazy amount of mental training and stamina. Next time you look at someone who is financially successful, remember that they didn’t start that way. They took one step at a time, and through tremendous hard work and small consistent choices, became successful.
I truly believe that is how life works. Success is a series of small decisions, made over and over again that eventually add up to impressive accomplishments. This spring, my wife and I will make our last student loan payment. Four years ago, sitting at $90,000, that seemed like an impossible goal. Each day we had to choose to stick to our budget, to choose to meal plan, to choose to stay disciplined, to say no to impulse spending. Without these small, repeated decisions, we would have never met our crazy goal. It has kind of felt like a ridiculously long New Year’s Resolution and honestly, it is hard to believe what we have accomplished sometimes, but I am so thankful that we made all those sacrifices and had the courage to say yes to our goals, and yes to our future. Let me repeat, it isn’t glamorous, but you better believe that it’s worth it.
A Lifestyle Change
At first, my only goal was to create a budget and make sure I was creating smart spending habits. I didn’t have outrageous, life changing goals in mind and I could have never predicted the impact budgeting would have on not only my finances, but my entire life. Each small decision my wife and I have made along our four year journey has completely changed our lifestyle and financial outlook. Even when we are debt free, I don’t think I could ever go back to not using a budget, or impulsively spending money. My mind is trained to think very intentionally about every dollar of income and evaluate every single purchase I make. I feel like Dorothy when she pulled the curtain back on the Great and Powerful Oz, only to find a regular guy pulling some levers. Like Dorothy, now that I have seen the world as it truly is, I can’t unsee it. My life, and the life of my family is forever changed by our financial decisions.
Wrapping It Up
Your finances won’t change dramatically overnight. Like the Roman Empire and Michael Jordan’s insane basketball talent (this might be the strangest comparison I’ve ever made), your financial success can be built through years of hard work and laser like focus on your goals. It might take years before you really experience the fruits of your labor, but through small, consistent choices made over and over, you can forever change your financial destiny.
Let Me Know in the Comments
What consistent, small choices have made the biggest impact for you? What is the hardest financial decision you have made? What is holding you back from financial change?
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