The following is a guest article from Lucy Oake, contributing writing at One Smart Dollar.
Let’s face it – sometimes life throws you a curve ball. There are lots of situations when it feels like you’ll never be able to get ahead financially. Focusing on what you can’t control will only bog you down with negativity. Instead, focus on what you can control – including your finances. When times are tough, here are some of the best ways to keep your momentum and stay positive.
Start – or update – your budget
There are a bunch of different way to budget out there. What worked for you six months ago may not work as well if something has changed in your life. Relationships, jobs, and savings priorities can all be good reasons to take a fresh look at your budget. Sticking to a budget can be hugely rewarding because no matter what type you use, a good budget will help you reach your goals. So take a look at some of the most common budgeting methods and see if your budget needs a makeover.
Make your goals visual
A budget is a great financial tool, but sometimes it’s not very motivating to look at a spreadsheet. Write down your goals and put them where you’ll see them every day. That way, when you’re opening the fridge or grabbing your keys or brushing your teeth, you’ll get a reminder of what it is you’re working toward. Choose easily measurable goals, like a savings goal or paying off a certain amount of a loan. When you achieve that goal, you’ll feel really great because it’s been on the top of your mind for a number of weeks or months.
Don’t Quit Investing
When times are tough, many people assume that investing and saving money is a mistake. But the key to growing your wealth is to save early and often – even if it’s only in tiny amounts. There are a few awesome apps that can help you get into a habit of saving without breaking the bank. Stash and Acorns are two of my personal favorites. You can read more about them to figure out which is best for you. Both are great tools to help you save small amounts of money frequently. This way you can watch your savings grow no matter how tight your budget may be.
Be Open with Your Friends & Family
If you’re like me, you’re really disciplined when it comes to saving money … until that one friend or family member calls and wants to take a vacation, or go to an expensive new restaurant, or buy concert tickets. When times are tough, have a casual conversation with your friends and family that you still want to hang out with them, but that you can’t afford to do any extravagant activities. Your social life doesn’t have to suffer just because times are hard! Invite friends over for a potluck, or look for community-based activities that are free or low-cost. You can be relationship rich without spending money; you just need to be creative. You’ll probably even gain a few extra cheerleaders who will help keep you motivated.
Reward Yourself (Reasonably)
Sticking to a budget and eventually reaching a financial milestone is a really big deal. To stay motivated for the long haul, make sure you build a little money into your budget for rewards. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but it should be something you’ll really look forward to. Whether that’s a new pair of shoes, or a nice dinner out, or a massage, fitting a reward into your budget will make you even more motivated to stick to your plan and reach the next milestone.
Use an Abundance Tracker
Not that an accountant would ever get behind this idea, but stay with me. An abundance tracker helps you keep track of anything with value that comes into your life. Of course that starts with money, but it can also mean receiving a gift from a friend, or finding a great freebie on Craigslist. The abundance tracker is less about working toward a financial goal and more about changing your mindset. Once you start using one, I promise, you’ll start feeling way more positive about finances than ever before!
FYI: I worked at a dead end cubicle job from 2005-2011 for about $30,000 per year. I went self-employed in July 2011 and make between $70,000-$90,000 through blogging, professional pet sitting, hubby's reffing, and our rental home. If you’d like to start your own site (link to my free step-by-step guide), I highly suggest checking out Bluehost (my referral link with a nice discount for you, PLUS a free custom header banner from me!). Please contact me any time at budgetingfunstuff*at*gmail*dot*com with questions or just to brainstorm! I’d love to help!