Have you ever had a financial emergency?
Your car starts spewing smoke on the way to work. The pipes burst in the dead of winter and the moisture damaged the walls and floors pretty badly. You didn’t get a tax refund this year like you expected – you actually owe $1,500.
Whatever the situation, you probably felt a sinking sense of helpless in that moment. You may have felt fear, or anger, or sorrow, but beneath all those feelings was likely the helplessness of not knowing what to do.
How am I going to deal with this? I can’t afford this. What am I going to do?
If you’ve ever been in this situation, let us start by saying we’re so sorry you had that experience. We’d like to help make sure you never feel that way again, ever.
The best way we know how is to help make sure you have enough money to cover any emergency that might come up in the future.
“You have to buckle down.”
“You can’t get distracted, you just have to keep going until you reach your goal.”
“Use all your willpower and you’ll get there.”
This common advice gets applied to everything from weight loss to quitting smoking to – yes, of course – saving or paying down debt.
There’s just one problem:
Willpower isn’t the reason you’re struggling with your financial situation.
You’d be reasonable to think money can buy happiness.
After all, a lot of things that make us happy can be bought with money. An ice-cream cone on a perfect summer day. New red shoes for your daughter on her first day of preschool. A beautiful home. A trip to New Zealand.
These moments made you happy. Money, therefore, buys happiness. Or at least, money makes our lives happier.
Makes sense, right?
But there’s a simple reason why money doesn’t always buy happiness, and it’s this: If money was the only contributor to happiness, there would be no unhappy rich people. Yet there many of them – and in fact, wealthy people report being more unhappy, on average, than those who make a moderate income.
How can that be?
Every year at tax time, you break into a cold sweat.
When someone asks about your long-term financial plans, like when you plan on retiring, you change the subject quickly.
You won’t even calculate how much debt you have – it’s just too scary.
The good news is that you’re not alone. Many people have a crippling fear of finances, and it’s no wonder:
Every time something catastrophic happened in life, one of the first thoughts you probably had was how you were going to pay for it. You might even have felt that devastating feeling: the sinking realization that you can’t afford the crisis at hand.
That can make you want to keep as much distance between you and your finances as possible.
There’s just one problem: That’s the wrong move.
In a previous article, we explained why it’s essential to conquer your fear of looking at your financial situation so that you can know where you are, understand it better, and do something about it.
If you don’t know the problem, you can’t solve it. It’s impossible to map a course from point A to point B if you don’t know the starting point.
Assuming you’ve already taken the advice of that first article and figured out your current financial situation, it’s time to figure out your second step toward mapping a better life for yourself: setting money goals.
You need financial goals. Everyone does. Financial goals take you from where you are now to where you want to be.
If you’re struggling with your finances, it’s hard to think that money isn’t your enemy.
It feels like your money is working against you. You’re constantly worried about how much money you have and whether that money is going to disappear overnight. You feel embarrassed talking about your financial situation in public. Sometimes you’re scared to even look at bank statement or open the bills.
You might even feel like money is standing between you and your happiness.
You’re in a toxic relationship with your money.
Do you think learning about money is boring? You certainly wouldn’t be alone. Many people think of managing their money as difficult or confusing or even the last thing they’d ever enjoy. It’s so… well, boring!
We think the opposite – and not just because of who we are. From the first moment of our lives where we learned about money, we’ve never seen managing it as a boring obligation.
There’s nothing we love to talk about more: We think money is magical!
That’s not a joke or an exaggeration, either: Learning about and understanding money is the quickest route to achieving your wildest dreams.
In fact, we believe in that so strongly that our first piece of financial advice has nothing to do with money!
Our first piece of financial advice is always this:
Many of our clients ask us what accounting or budgeting software we recommend.
In our experience, budgeting and accounting software often inhibits people from learning about their finances, rather than helping them understand it better.
It’s not the software’s fault. Accounting software is incredibly useful when tax-time comes around, and budgeting software can be a time-saver if you already know how to budget effectively.
Most of our clients don’t know how to budget properly, though. And doing their taxes seems like the worst nightmare imaginable.
We always recommend to everyone that they start their journey of financial education by avoiding the expense of purchasing accounting or budgeting software.
Instead, they should use the Envelope Method… and it doesn’t cost a dime.