The mind is a powerful thing. I’m slowly getting back into exercising now that Baby Girl is seven weeks old. It’s incredible just how hard it is to get back in shape after months of doing nothing more than walking at a brisk pace (and “brisk” is a relative term by the end of a pregnancy). But it’s not the first time I’ve had to get back into the swing of exercising. And the key to making it work is always the same: mind over body. I have to take control and ignore those thoughts telling me, “Hey, you know what? This isn’t fun!” or “Whyyyy are you doing this to yourself?”… or the loudest of them all “STOP. STOP. STOP. STOP. STOP.” I have to look at the big picture and remember why this horrible, awful, terrible thing called exercise is actually worth it in the long run.
And so it is with changing money habits as well. When Johnny and I first started keeping a budget and paying off our debt, I would find myself thinking, “This is taking all the fun out of my life! Johnny hates fun! I married a fun hater!” And, I’ll admit, budgeting and paying off debt wasn’t fun in the beginning. It wasn’t until we started to see the difference in our savings and school loans that it became easier. Something that also really helped was using any and all psychological boosts we could. After all, one of the greatest keys to taking control of your money is changing how you think about money.
So here are three of our favorite psychological kicks-in-the-pants when it comes to budgeting and paying off debt.
Paying With Cash
The idea behind this one is pretty simple: when you spend cash, you spend less of it. Rather than just swiping a plastic card, you’re forced to see actual cash leave your hands. Johnny and I did the cash-only method for the first few months when we started our budget, and it definitely did its job. Let me tell ya, spending $100 on groceries hurts a lot more when you are giving the cashier FIVE $20s instead of a plastic card. Let the power of money work harder by spending with cash.
Boy oh boy do Johnny and I believe in the Debt Snowball Plan. All hail Dave Ramsey! That’s one of the things you have to say when you join the Ramsey Cult. Kidding. We used this method through our entire process of paying off debt. Our school loans were broken up into four separate loans. And despite all logic, we did as the plan recommends and started with the smallest loan amount, not the highest interest rate. Johnny and I paid that smallest one off in just a couple months. And even though we still had a long way to go, we felt so freaking awesome about our achievement that we couldn’t help but keep pushing that big ugly snowball. And so while we might have lost a little bit of money in extra interest, we could have lost a lot more if we had gotten discouraged at seeing such little progress on our larger, higher interest loans. If you’re paying off multiple debts, Johnny and I highly recommend this method if you need that extra umph! to get you going.
When money is taken out of our paychecks before we see it, we really don’t miss it as much (or at all). After all, we never even saw it. Very clever move there with our taxes, Uncle Sam. Very clever, indeed. But we can also take money out that actually helps our finances! If you have a hard time saving, have a certain percentage automatically put into a savings or retirement account before you see it. One of the obvious options is through a 401k, which Johnny and I do, but it could be any sort of savings. You can’t spend something you never see in the first place (or at least it makes it a lot more difficult!).
So those were the boosts that have helped our finances along the way. It’s hard to save and pay off debt, so it’s nice to know there are a few totally legal and legit tricks to make it easier. Have you ever used any of the psychological boosts we listed? Do you have any other favorite money mind games to share?