The Single Money Move that Will Transform Your Life
The new year is a popular time to set resolutions, and for many, tackling financial goals is at the top of the list.
Amen to that! I am a big believer that money itself will never make you happy, but money stress can definitely keep you from being your happiest self. And that is the worthiest goal of all.
This is where I bet you expect me to launch in all sorts of specific strategies for paying down debt and saving more for retirement. Not this time. Not right now.
The best advice I have to help you take control of your financial life in 2020 (and forever!) has nothing to do with the mechanics of money management. Honestly, all of that is fairly easy. What’s hard is having the mindset that wants to achieve financial security and freedom.
And that, my friends, comes down to one powerful money mantra:
Live below your means, but within your needs
Make this your resolution and it will serve as the guidepost and motivation to follow through on every specific financial goal you may have.
Living below your means is about right-sizing your spending. I want you to focus on how little you could spend on your needs. This takes some determination because the temptations are great. When we see a sale sign that shows us what a great deal we can get, our brains go into spending overdrive, not stopping to ask yourself, “Hey, do I really need this?” When your online shopping cart tells you that you need to spend “just $36 more” to qualify for free shipping, you bite, rather than paying the $5 or $10 for shipping.
Borrowing is where living below your means can transform your financial life. I want you to always make it a goal to borrow the least amount possible to meet your needs, but not a penny more. When you spend $300 or less a month on a used car loan rather than $525+ for a new car loan —that’s the average monthly loan amount these days — you are giving yourself more money to put toward other financial goals.
Same goes for a home. The amount of money a mortgage lender says you can qualify for is a dangerous come-on. If you are in the position to buy a home, I want you to focus on borrowing the least amount possible. Every $50 or $100 less in your monthly mortgage is another $50 or $100 you have to put toward other financial goals. Paying down expensive credit card debt, building a bigger emergency fund. Contributing more to a Roth IRA.
The beauty and power of “live below your means but within your needs” is that it works no matter how much money you make, how old or young you are, and regardless of your specific financial goals. Embrace this mantra, summon it before every spending decision—big or small— is going to make you so very very happy.
This essay was featured in the January 5th edition of The Sunday Paper. The Sunday Paper inspires hearts and minds to rise above the noise. To get The Sunday Paper delivered to your inbox each Sunday morning for free, click here to subscribe.