Recently I sat down with my numbers and took a long, hard look at what they were telling me.
And when I say “numbers” I’m specifically referring to my financial numbers. You know, those digits that follow dollar signs?
I know for most people on the planet those kinds of numbers can be scarier than a toddler with peanut butter fingers running amok in your house. Especially if you tend to ignore them most of the time.
For me, the panic I felt was a result of ignoring it for too long. When I finally dig into the details I worry that I might uncover a smelly, rotten, slimy mess.
My “Imagine if…” game
Whenever I’m scared to face reality I like to play a little game with myself.
It’s called: “Let’s imagine the worst possible scenario and see if that’s something we can live with.”
Great game, huh?
And it works because when you can face the worst possible scenario mentally, then you can face it physically.
So what does the worst-case scenario for financial disorganization look like?
It could include losing a job, a house burning down, a zombie apocalypse, all that awful stuff.
Here’s an example of how I go down this rabbit hole…
I receive my bi-monthly paycheck. I pay my bills. When I’m finished I pat myself on the back, check my bank balance in my mobile app, make a rough calculation in my head of the money I have left, and call it a day.
I know I will get paid again in two weeks. I know I will get more bills in the mail that will get covered by that paycheck. In the meantime I need to put fuel in my car, buy groceries for the week, stop at the dry-cleaners, and meet my friends for lunch.
I’m feeling good. My bank account says I have money so I’m feeling it in my wallet.
This scenario continues as I realize the following week that I forgot about some charges on my credit card and the bill is higher than I remember, I’ve spent money on a shopping trip that cut into my bank balance, and that it will be 9 days before I get paid so I can’t get take-out or go to the movies on the weekend. Bummer.
That’s Ok, I can make it work.
And then the car breaks down, or I get the flu and have to take unpaid sick days, or the kids have field trips to pay for, or somebody had a growth spurt and needs a new wardrobe.
And my carefully balanced (read: teeter-totter) financial house starts to tilt towards the cliff.
Is this the worst it can get? No. not yet.
After the car breaks down, my husband loses his job. But we’ll apply for assistance with food while we scramble to find a new job AND/OR list our house for sale. That’s a difficult step to take, but we’re focused on surviving this scenario.
Then we discover that one of our children has been diagnosed with a dangerous illness (use your imagination here) that will require some intense treatment with medical specialists at a research hospital.
Can I deal with that worst-case scenario?
Why it works:
The important part of this exercise is to let your imagination create the worst, and then to work backwards to what your response will be. Sometimes we can’t avoid catastrophe, but we can decide how we react to it.
When I’ve done this exercise at my darkest points I go through a stage of giving up, relaxing into the despair. And then it seems that I come to a crossroads where I have to choose if I will stay in the darkness, or claw my way to the sunlight.
The turning point for me is knowing that whatever else happens I still have my family, I still have my ideas, I still have my resourcefulness.
I can build again.
It’s about perspective.
So how bad could my financial numbers actually be? Their impact kind of pales in comparison to the cataclysmic events I just imagined.
One bad month, even a year’s worth of bad months is not going to destroy the most important things in your life.
True, they might be messy. They might require some sacrifices to clean up. But they can’t destroy the most important things. Unless you let them by not taking responsibility for your disorganization.
So pull up your big-girl pants and face whatever is really going on with your financial numbers! You can survive the slimy, messy reality.
Begin with a money Plan (budget)
If you don’t have a system set up yet, you can start with my free Basic Budget Worksheet, or if you want some serious fire-power you can use the system mapped out in my Financial SuperMom™ course.
I also use mint.com--a free app available online developed by Intuit (makers of Quicken and Turbotax). Mint has its limitations though, so don’t think it will solve all your problems! You will still need to do some extra work on paper or in a spreadsheet.
When my numbers have been left untended for too long, I dedicate a couple hours to get them straightened out. I enter transactions, organize by category, until everything is accounted for and I can clearly see what we have, what we’ve spent, what expenses are coming up, and how the previous weeks played out.
If you’ve blown past your budget limits, then “retrench” for a few weeks to recover. (Love that word, “retrench”, it sounds so 1800’s.) It basically means we’re cutting back to compensate for our disorganization. I’ll be sharing more about my fav strategy to do this in the coming weeks.
Realistically, you can recover fairly quickly from the non-extreme circumstances in the worst-case scenario above, especially when you know the right strategies to use.
How would it feel to know that with every paycheck you’re getting closer and closer to paying off that debt? Or funding your retirement goals? Or saving for that epic Disney World vacation your family is dreaming of?
My Easy Buttons:
Next we’re going to make it easier on ourselves to do the best things. Not just the good things, or the better things. Only the best things that will get us further faster with our finances.
We do this by using automation, systems, and success habits.
Automating has never been easier. Nearly every financial institution has a comprehensive online system that allows us to access information and services 24/7. And they also offer us an unequaled amount of hands-on control for what we want our money to do.
Systems are the magic of family finances. They are the Easy Buttons in my life. I don’t have the time or energy for complicated steps that suck the life out of me. Having a system for how I manage, that tells me the What, When, Where, Why, & How; is not a bonus, it’s essential. Your budget is one piece of your system.
If you have a system that you LOVE to use and that works wonders for you, please share with us in the comments below.
For years I used my system to give my family a middle-class lifestyle even though our income designated us as lower-class. And I did it without using coupons, shopping second-hand, or doing anything extreme. Because honestly, I just didn’t have the brain-space for any radical strategies.
Instead, I wanted something that was consistent with the principles of financial independence and wealth building that I had studied so thoroughly. Then I turned it into a program that I taught to others, and Financial SuperMom™ was born. :)
Your family’s financial system should naturally result in success habits. The one supports the other. Without a system it’s difficult to know which habits are working and which are sabotaging your progress. But once you do know, the right system will protect your good habits and deflate the bad ones.
In simple terms, your system should be the Plan for: savings, frugality, play-time with family, retirement, dating your spouse, paying off debt, etc.
Results or Bust
This all leads to the results we want to achieve: Financial success that supports our dreams and aspirations.
Remember, we don’t think/talk/worry about money because we like to store it in a swimming pool and dive into it (though I’m sure there is a Scrooge McDuck reading this that would enjoy that…).
The real reason we’re getting ourselves organized with our financials is so that we can have peace of mind about our future while enjoying the present.
- We want to enjoy the unique stages of our children!
- We want to enjoy spending time with loved ones while we have them with us!
- We want to create memories that will carry us in the hard times ahead.
- We want to build a legacy for the future.
- We want to have the ability to pursue our life’s work or our life’s dream.
It’s not about the money. It’s never been about the money.
Money is the currency of living. Life is about fulfilling our purpose.
Getting organized is the key that unlocks the opportunity to live life on our terms.
If you’re afraid to face your financial numbers, take a breath, play my “imagine if” game, and step into whatever is there. It is most likely not as bad as your worst nightmares.
Next: “sort” your numbers and account for what you’ve spent and where. Set up your systems. Monitor your habits and replace ones that are sabotaging your system with ones that support your goals.
Start with a simple Plan (budget) like my free Basic Budget Worksheet, which is designed around a weekly “check-in” with your numbers. If you are ready for a thorough, ready-made system that has gotten the Best results for years, then invest in my Financial SuperMom™ course.
Financial SuperMom™ is the culmination of years of research into the core principles of wealth-building and healthy money habits. But it’s more than research. I have tested these myself, implementing and tweaking to determine what gets the Best results consistently.
I’m all about making sure you have the same kind of success in your family.
Disorganization happens. But it is not an indication of failure.
Own those numbers! Be the financial supermom for your family!
And I would love to hear from you! Shoot me an email or share below: which step is your big hang-up or your biggest success-story!