1. Do something even if it’s wrong!
A surefire way to remain in the same spot is to do nothing. Well, actually that’s not entirely true; if you do nothing, you could go backwards even further. My friend used to say when we were younger, “Let’s do something even if it’s wrong!” He would usually say it right before we got into trouble! This is not what I am suggesting you do. Simply put, just get started even if it turns out to be wrong. Don’t hide from your problems, get them out in front of you. The things that will turn in your favor will far outweigh the mistakes. Take no more than two weeks to decide on major financial decisions.
2. Put it on paper.
If it’s for your basic everyday needs, or it deals with delinquent credit cards and/or loans, just get it down on paper. Take everything that you need to manage financially, and begin funneling it onto a pad of paper. List the monthly cost, the balance, and the due dates. You can’t manage it all in your noggin; eventually something will fall through the cracks.
3. Do a budget.
This may sound similar to the previous step, but creating a budget is one step further. Think of step 2 as the places we need to visit, and step 3 is the order in which we want to visit them. For most, learning to do a budget confidently takes around 90 days. After that, you can effectively create a budget in about 30 minutes. Do you have 30 minutes to do the #1 thing that will give you more of the future you want?
4. Stop doing things that aren’t working.
When I was at my worst financially, I would write checks knowing they would bounce. I did this all the time. So, when I decided to get serious and began looking at my problems, I decided to close my bank account. You might say I needed to just get better at managing my checkbook and stop writing checks if I had no money in my account. I tried that but ultimately it didn’t work. Instead of writing checks I began paying my bills with money orders. I never bounced a money order, and it cost me much less in fees. I have since re-opened my accounts, and manage them fine. Bottom line, what are you doing over and over again that’s not working?
5. Don’t be anxious about anything.
Once it’s on paper, and you have made decisions regarding the situation, forget about it. Worrying about your problems will get you nowhere. Instead, start listening to podcasts and reading books and magazines that pertain to money. Find trusted advisers that will help guide you in the direction you want to go. Hire a coach if necessary. Hang out with friends who will encourage you and want to have fun. Be present in what you are doing when you are doing it. A lot of financial problems snowball in the wrong direction, because we focus on them too much (without doing anything about them). Beyond that, you tend to gravitate towards what you focus on.
Don’t worry about the whole journey, just begin moving. Don’t be afraid to customize the general advice that will lead you where you want to go. Good advice is usually a template and needs to be customized for your specific situation. What gets you stuck financially? Have you gotten general advice that didn’t seem to fit? Share your story in the comments below.
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Tony is a personal finance coach in Orlando, FL and online. From his own experience, he believes that change at the core is the same no whether you are trying to become debt free, lose weight, or find work that you love. His goal is to encourage others to escape mediocrity in their own lives, and become the people they were made to be. You can find him at findingforwardmotion.com along with Twitter and Facebook.