I often talk about trying to be intentional with my money; but how do you really do that?
Most people I talk to think that if they pretty much do the right thing everything will work out. If they are in school, the thought is stay out of trouble; go to class, do really well in the classes you care about and ok in the rest and you will be fine. In the work force, many trust that showing up on time and doing a good job will lead them up a ladder of promotions. This same mindset carries over to sports, relationships, and money. This “just let it happen” attitude often leads to mediocre outcomes. If you want an ok education, a so-so job, average relationships and normal finances just try to do what is expected of you; there is a good chance you will succeed. If you are lucky enough to have an extraordinary talent, you may even get exceptional results with this thinking, but you will not be as successful as you could have been.
Being unintentional with your money is “normal”. It is exactly what the average American family does. Almost universally, we want to be out of debt, we want to have savings; we want to help our kids pay for college. But, we don’t make decisions that lead to these goals. We go to work, get paid and then pay our bills. If there is money left at the end of the month, we might go out to eat or buy a new TV or maybe even put some in our saving account, but we do it all without a clear plan.
When we buy a new car with credit, we may be actively deciding we want that particular new car but that decision is not likely to be in line with our goals and dreams. We are just letting the “normal” American life happen.
Carefully choosing what to do and what not to do in alignment with our overall dreams and goals is at the core of being intentional. To make these choices you must have a clue of both where you are and where you want to end up.
Are you intentional with your money? If you are, you probably know the answers to these questions.
- What is your total household take home pay?
- What debt do you have?
- What are your total monthly expenses?
- How much do you save each month?
- What is your net worth now and what do you predict it will be 5 years from now?
On a small scale, being intentional with your money means:
- Always have an active financial goal – consider using the baby steps.
- Make a written schedule to help you focus on actually accomplishing each step.
- Actively choose not to be de-railed by friends, family, or old habits.
On a larger scale, being intentional with your money might mean:
- Skipping the nights out, turning up the ac, not buying new clothes and cutting back in a 100 other little ways in order to get out of debt so that your family can have more security or
- Choosing a state school and working through college to avoid student loan debt so that you can be comfortable on a teacher’s salary or
- Working a job you don’t really love in order to stack up cash so you can quit and travel
Being perfectly intentional requires that you ask yourself with every purchase or financial choice: Will this lead me closer to my goals? Of course, we’re not perfect but the more we practice the better we get.