Thursday, September 4, 2008

Staying Motivated While Struggling With Personal Finance

I am feeling a bit quiet today. It is raining, something we have needed for a long time, but that combined with the start of cooler weather has put me in a reticent mood. One of the things I have been thinking about lately is motivation - how to stay motivated to meet my personal financial goals when, lets face it, things are hard. The last few months I have been observing quite a few people, in both my daily life and on blogs, who are dealing with financial stress of one kind or another. What makes one person throw in the towel and just give up while another one tackles their problems face on? What gives people the courage to keep fighting, even when things are hard or unexpected problems crop up?

Fighting. That word means something to me. When I chose it as part of the title of my blog, I didn't realize that some people might take that to mean that I was already in foreclosure. To me what fighting meant was doing everything in my power to stop it from happening; fighting against the possibility. When I started this blog I wasn't sure I was going to be able to pay my bills (truthfully, I'm still not) but I wanted to fight against many things - not just having a home go into foreclosure, but also against depression, bad credit, debt, giving up - I didn't want to go down without a fight.

All of that however, is motivated by fear. Fear of failure of falling apart, fear of not being able to make it, fear of losing face, fear of getting so deep you can't get out. Fear can be a strong motivator, but at the same time, the fear can get so strong that it just becomes overwhelming and it seems easier to just give up. Doing something only because you are afraid of what will happen if you don't is a miserable way to live. There has to be other reasons to get out of bed in the morning.

Being debt and, well finance in general, can make us feel out of control, helpless. One of my personal reasons for taking all this on is to regain my sense of control. It hasn't been easy and sometimes, sometimes I become exhausted trying to manage all of it on my own. It seems so daunting. But the exhaustion is the tiredness of labor - from working hard. Maybe it isn't hauling bales of hay, but keeping all the balls in the air is hard work. Trying to manage my budget, save money, calculate costs, earn extra income - it takes effort. The benefit that I get from it though is that I am the one who is taking control; what I do effects my life, and I am not at the mercy of someone else.

It also really helps to know that I am not alone. I've been writing about personal finance bloggers that I read - every one of them has, or is currently, struggling with their own issues. And that is just the tip of the iceberg, there are many, many people struggling with all the same problems I am - or worse. In my day to day life it also helps having a friend* I can commiserate with about the ups - and downs - of trying to get on top of everything.

Goals are important too. Although a goal like "get my finances in order" is just too big. I find I work a lot better with smaller more manageable goals. Even my goal of $900 per month is a bit... nebulous. What works for me is saying things like, "Ok, this month I will contact the theatre for extra work. I will put at least 3 items up for sale per day. I will make sure the refrigerator is bare before buying more food." Those small but very measurable goals help keep me moving forward.

Though long term goals are hugely imprtant too. I have my Three Year Plan to fix up and sell my house and a Five Year Plan to get myself back to school for my Masters. It isn't about just paying off my credit card debt for my credit card's sake - it is knowing that there is a reason for all this, something in the future I am searching for.

And speaking of the future, I can actually see how the changes I am making will effect me. It is hazy (my crystal ball seems to have a crack) but I can sort of make out how what I am doing now will pay off in the end. Hopefully I can build regular passive income streams so I won't have to work so hard at it later. I will pay off that credit card, so I can use those payments towards something else for me. Even though I am a long way towards retirement, I am seeing how what I do today could help me build a better life later on. That is strong motivation. Instead of viewing my situation with despair and frustration, I am trying to turn it around and realize that it is all only temporary and in just a few years time I will be able to reap enormous benefits - not just in finance but in peace of mind. Now that is motivation.

Read More:

May End of the Month Reflections, where I talk about my long term goals and motivations.

Personal Finance Bloggers

Personal Finance Bloggers, pt 2

House Blues

Dividend Money - Staying Motivated With Personal Finance

Photo by MarcelGermain

* Hi Catie!


Catie said...

I know, probably more than most, how hard your struggle is and I just wanted to tell you that one of MY motivations is.... you. Although we can't BOTH get deep and thoughtful on rainy, dreary days..... that's just trouble.

Dawn said...

Catie - you are getting a big fat hug next time I see you!! Which should involve some wine and evil greasy carbs. ;)

louise said...

I need a bigger motivation than just payig of debt as well, I guess for me it's looking towards retirement without the stress of money worries and the freedom to travel.

One thing I do is ask myself a question every morning to help me keep focused, at the minute its:
" What spcific action can I take today to grow my business?" It focuses me on taking ACTION, even if it's just one thing, like a phone call or a letter. As you say in your post, over time these small steps help us meet the bigger goals.

Anonymous said...

You ARE doing it. You are continuing to do it. You are "Fighting Forclosure". I never thought the title implied you were there. You are not. Period.
Remember, it does more good to go to a rally FOR peace than AGAINST war..... Well, you know what I mean. You're a success.

Anonymous said...

i know how hard it is for you ff, sometimes its a very lonely journey however heres what I do:

I make it fun! i got frugal, i'm now trying to get really frugal. I find it fun to see how far I can get with it.

I also have a goal, like louise, with a set date. I'm so focused on that goal, that every morning I ask myself, What can I do to move me nearer to that goal?

Some days it can be really hard, but you are on the right track. Passive income, extra income streams is definitly the way to go for the future, and you will get there! :)

readytorock said...

Awesome post, thanks for the early morning kick in the butt to stay focused on my own goals.

Dawn said...

Louise - thanks so much for your comment. You know what? I took your advice! Last night at home I thought, "Ok, what can I do to grow my business?" I thought of two things and took care of them before going to bed. I did the same thing this morning. It was great! ...Hmm, I was just thinking, how often do you get to hear, "Thanks for the great advice! I took it." :)

Anon - Thank you so much for the kind words! I really appreciate it!

No More Spending - You are right, I need to find ways to bring back in the fun. Sometimes it seems so *hard.* But making it a fun challenge would certainly help.

Ready to Rock - You are most welcome!

Sean said...

You come across as a fighter in the best sense of the word, and it is consistantly inspirational. Not just financially, but maintaining your humor and positive outlook. Hang in there.

Until Debt do Us Part said...

Well done on getting this far. The lessons you learn from the journey that you are on now will serve you a lifetime.

In years to come you will look back on this period in your life and smile. I promise you. It will make you into a better and stronger person.

Don't stop believing that you can do it because you know deep down that you can!

Dawn said...

Sean - Thank you so much! What a wonderful compliment!

Until Debt - You know, my therapist says the same thing! Hmm... what am I paying her for, when I have you guys? :) Seriously, thanks for the comment and I know you are right - it is something I need to keep in mind