When I first ask fathers what three topics that they would most like to discuss when we start our mentorship experience, finances is almost always among the three. Why does this keep showing up? I believe it’s because we men have a deep-seeded desire to provide for our families, and learning how to manage our money is one of the best ways we can do so. Yet, there’s a problem that often trips us up: How many people do you know personally who do it well? We all like the idea of being financially stable. However, our culture teaches us that going into debt, spending money on things we don’t need, and keeping up with the Jones’s are all crucial parts of the American dream. I don’t claim to be a financial guru, but I can tell you that these habits are not the answer to your money problems. So, let’s talk about some habits that will help you to succeed financially. These “tips,” as I am calling them, are in no particular order.
Tip #1: Get out of debt. Okay, I know that feels like a blanket statement, but that’s one of our primary goals. If we have any forms of debt hanging over our shoulders, we need to do all that we can to rid ourselves of these financial parasites. This may mean that we have to drastically change how we live for the foreseeable future, but keep in mind that it is worth the current suffering.
Tip #2: Stay disciplined. Dave Ramsey, quite possibly one of the most highly revered financial speakers and writers of our time, shares this- “If you live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.” This means that by having the discipline to tell yourself no now while others are feeding their unhealthy desires you are more likely than others to enjoy financial freedom later.
Tip #3: Lose the credit cards. Don’t get me wrong, credit cards aren’t inherently wrong in and of themselves. Still, most people are not using them with financial effectiveness and are hurting themselves with them far more than they’re worth. If you are in debt, then there is no reason to be using credit cards, period. Credit cards are a great way for established users to gain from a rewards program by paying off their card every time, on time. You cannot aggressively attack your debt while you are trying to keep up with a credit card payment every month. Also, credit cards can throw your credit score way back with just a few late payments. There may be a time for credit cards to work for you, but if you are in debt, this is not the time.
Tip #4: Shop full. The long-running tip for a successful grocery trip is to shop while you are satisfied. If you go in hungry, you are likely to pick up more junk food and fast food style dishes. Not only should you not go into a store physically hungry, but it would be just as unwise to go in emotionally hungry. I can speak from years of personal experience that impulse buying is way harder to avoid when you have had a bad day or when you feel (key word here) like treating yourself to something good.
Tip #5: Don’t spend more than you make. This one is easy to explain. If you don’t have the money, don’t make decisions that reflect that you do (a.k.a. taking on debt). I guarantee that every conversation you will ever have with a financial expert will contain this phrase: Spend within your means. That’s because this is one of the most important pieces to financial success.
Tip #6: Use cash often. When we use cash, we are able to see the money go from our pockets to someone else’s. This creates a very important visual of where our money is going. It helps us track our spending by showing us just how fast those few dollars disappear. It’s healthy to tell ourselves, “Once this is gone, it’s gone. I need to figure out how I best want to spend what I have.”
Tip #7: Make a list. When we plan our spending, such as developing a budget, we lessen the likelihood that we are spending impulsively. We also provide ourselves with an opportunity to determine where our priorities lie. If I can’t pay the bills, but I keep buying lottery tickets each week, then I can easily see where correction in my spending habits might take place. When I go shopping, carrying a list of the items that I intend to buy will help me keep my focus when I start seeing all the flashy packaging. Again, we need to discipline ourselves to say, “No, that is not what I came here for.”
Dads, I must confess that these tips are a struggle for me to follow perfectly. That is why I can tell you that sticking with these tips works, and refusing to use them can be disastrous. There is plenty more ways to grow in the area of finances, and I’m sure that we will get back to this topic at a later point. However, I think that, by using these tips, you have some early stepping stones to providing for your family financially.
I hope you found this post helpful and feel encouraged to start using these financial tips today.