I frequently get questions from my readers about how to resolve their various financial problems. The questions range from not being able to save enough, to tackling huge amounts of debt, to how to stop living paycheck to paycheck. One of the common themes I’ve discovered in the hundreds of emails I’ve received, is that most of those readers tell me the root of their problem is a lack of discipline.
Lack of Money is Not the Problem
Learning discipline with money is not always easy, but it’s necessary if you want to get ahead financially. Many of these people tell me they don’t make enough money, but here’s the deal- If you have a lack of financial discipline you will always struggle with money whether you make $10,000 a year or $10 Million a year.
It’s not the money, it’s what you do with it that counts.
In this article, I’ll show you 9 things you can do to create discipline with money. You’ll learn how to consistently do the right thing financially and start succeeding with money, instead of perpetually struggling and wondering why you never have anything to show for your hard earned paycheck. I’ve included some killer resources too!
Why You Need Discipline to Succeed
Discipline is not one of those sexy words or concepts that most of us enjoy talking about. In our culture we’re encouraged to “have it now!” with easy monthly payments, but that kind of thinking is what keeps you stressed, depressed, and enslaved to your debt.
That mentality cultivates a cycle of living paycheck to paycheck and payment to payment that never ends unless you develop the discipline to escape that life and be different.
Anyone can develop financial discipline (that includes you!), it just takes a willingness to change and develop new habits. When you do, your finances will take a turn for the better– you’ll have more money, save more money, and build more financial security for you and your family.
So without further ado, here are my top 9 tips for creating discipline with money!
9 Tips for Creating Discipline With Money
It’s imperative to understand money if you want to have financial discipline. Read books, blogs, and take courses about personal finance, getting out of debt, investing, etc. so you’ll know what financial habits you need to establish. You don’t have to know everything about money, just learning the basics and sticking to them is 80% of the battle. Here are some great resources I’ve put together so you can learn more about money and how to use it well:
Christian PF- An awesome blog about Christian Personal Finance
The CFF Online Get Out of Debt Course- Learn the step by step method for getting out of debt for good!
The Divine Art of Money- 21 Days to Manage Your Money Like a Pro!– a step by step online course to get your finances organized.
Bible Money Matters- Another great blog teaching biblical principles of managing your money
I’ve talked about this many times before on the CFF blog. I believe the best first step to changing your financial life is to get mad. You have to get so mad at your situation that you have to do something about it, no matter what stands in your way. Getting your emotions involved helps keep you engaged in the process. If you kinda sorta want to change, you probably won’t.
Getting naked simply means this- stop using credit, period. One of the biggest problems I see with people who try, and fail, to change their financial situation, is that they keep using credit while they're trying to get out of debt. That’s kind of like eating a big bowl of ice cream every night before bed and wondering why your jeans keep getting tighter.
Swearing off credit cards and other forms of consumer debt keeps you from digging the debt hole any deeper. When you cut up the cards, they are no longer available as a temptation or even an option for spending. This forces you to find better ways to finance your life that won’t get you into debt.
Pay Yourself First
Saving money can be a hard habit to establish when you have a lot of financial obligations. Most of us pay bills first, then try to figure out how to save money out of what's left. The best thing you can do is to automatically pay yourself first (after paying your tithe, of course).
Paying yourself first means you should figure out a percentage of your paycheck that you want to put into savings, then have it automatically drafted from your paycheck every time you get paid. This creates the discipline of consistently putting money into savings because you don’t have to think about it every time you get paid. It’s automatically done for you so you don’t have to agonize over that decision every time payday comes.
Anytime you’re trying to do something new in, especially if you’re learning to be more disciplined, there will be setbacks.
Don’t let the setbacks get you down.
Just accept that it happened, deal with it, and keep moving forward. Nobody has ever accomplished anything good without overcoming a few trials along the way.
Here’s a great post and a video about overcoming obstacles that can help
Make a Plan
Making a plan for spending your money on paper before you actually spend it is very important for building discipline with money. When I say “make a plan”, what I really mean is that you should make a written monthly budget. Using a budget is not about deprivation like many people believe when they think of budgeting. A budget is simply a plan for how you’ll spend your money going forward.
A solid budget works best when you combine it with an envelope system (see below) and going naked with credit. I’ve discovered that the reason that many people fail at budgeting is because they don’t include those important components along with their budget.
I wrote the book on how to make a budget that works. It's fun & easy to understand. Learn more here.
Start an Envelope System
Starting an envelope system for your monthly spending is a great way to create financial discipline because it ensures that you never spend more than you make. When you get paid and distribute all your spending money into envelopes, you spend only what’s in the envelopes and no more. If you’ve started going naked with credit, you won’t have credit cards to fall back on and blow your budget.
Practice Mindful Spending
In today’s modern society where we see and hear over 3,000 marketing messages every day, it’s easy to spend money without even thinking about it. Learn to start asking yourself questions before you spend money, such as:
- Do I really need this?
- Is this what I came to the store to get?
- Can I do without it?
- Am I buying this out of emotion, just to feel good?
The more mindful you are when you take money out of that envelope to spend it, the more you realize there a lot of things you don’t necessarily need, you’ll be just as happy without them.
Pay attention, ask the right questions, and you will develop more spending discipline as time goes on.
Have a Little Fun
Learning to have discipline with money is not all about keeping your nose to the grindstone. I believe you should reward yourself and have a little fun when you reach certain milestones along the way. Each time you accomplish a goal, give yourself a small reward. That helps your brain and spirit understand that good things come with hard work. Then you’ll be more likely to continue on to your next goal.
Building Financial Discipline is Like Building Muscle
It’s not always easy to build discipline in any area of your life, but when you make the effort, the rewards are definitely worth it! Creating financial discipline is a lot like building muscle. You start slowly at first, and add more weight over time as you build strength. Eventually you create the strong, toned muscles you always wanted.
Just like building muscle, you probably shouldn’t try to do all these tips I recommend at the same time. Start with one, integrate it into your life, then start another until they all become second nature.
Learning Financial Discipline Helps Other Areas of Your Life Too!
The cool thing about building financial discipline is that it spills over into other areas of your life. Anytime you work on being disciplined in one area, such as money, you tend to apply those principles to other areas as well, creating a more disciplined life overall.
Question: What are some of the things you’ve done to develop more discipline in your life? Leave a comment and tell me about it.