As you start or continue this journey to get your finances in check, you may have identified some potential speed bumps that are going to make your path more difficult.
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As I thought about this post, the thought of, “you are what you eat” continued to pop into my head. Your body is fueled by what you put in it. If you eat nothing but junk food, your body will begin to reject itself. You will begin to lack energy and both your mental and physical health will deteriorate. For instance, have you seen the documentary Supersize Me? It’s a great documentary about a guy who tried to eat nothing but McDonald’s for a month straight. Spoiler Alert: It nearly killed him.
At the end of the month, he had gained a bunch of weight and his cholesterol and blood sugar levels were way out of whack. I could go into an entire blog series about healthy food and budgeting, but I’ll save that one for later. As I thought more about this, I thought more about my life and my personal relationships.
As you start/continue this financial journey to reduced stress and increased financial freedom, I want you to reflect on your relationships. In order to be successful in any given area, I find it is much easier to achieve my goal if I associate with others who share similar goals. For instance, when you want to compete for a promotion in the future or transfer to a different work detail or unit, what is the first step? If you want to be successful, I would highly recommend you build relationships with people who have already achieved your goals or are working towards similar goals.
For each detail I have tested for, I have spent a considerable amount of time building relationships and learning from those who have already moved into these positions. Most of us are very familiar with what it takes to be successful in our careers. We watch others become successful and we emulate them. We see people moving up the corporate ladder or across company lines and we try to mirror their strategies and improve upon them. Unfortunately, we often fail to use these proven strategies in other aspects of our lives.
Finance And Friendships
Do you have that friend who is always a “one upper” or a “Debbie downer?” (No offense to anyone reading named “Debbie”) I’m sure you know one or the other, or both if you’re extremely unlucky. Why do we keep these people around? For me, it’s usually because I empathize with them and want to build them up in hopes I can improve their depressed state. The other reason is because they are convenient. They have been in my social circles for so long, I feel it would be more trouble than it is worth to end the relationship and the drama associated with it. But think about it – do you ever really feel good when you are around these people? Our friends have a strong influence over us. They can negatively or positively influence our mental state depending on how much time we spend with them.
Now I’m not here to tell you to end your relationships with negative people (although that may not be a bad idea) – I want to make it painfully obvious how much our friends can influence us. This is where money comes into play. How are your friends with their finances? I realize money is a taboo topic and I’m not telling you to ask for credit statements as a prerequisite for your friendship. I would suspect, however, that you have a pretty good indication of how your friends handle their money. Who do you spend the majority of your time with? Are most of your friends financially secure and mature with their money, or do they frivolously spend and rack up their credit card debt? Do your core group of friends go out for lunch every day at work, which pressures you to buy lunch as well – even though you financially shouldn’t?
The harsh reality is that the majority of people are not good with money. The majority of your friends make it difficult for you to stick to your budget. I know, because I have been there. I eat many home-packed lunches by myself at my desk while my coworkers go out to eat. This isn’t a sob story – it’s a success story because I no longer stress about money! I can’t say the same for my coworkers. This financial journey may alienate you from some of your friends. You may not be able to go out drinking every week with your buddies. Your financially irresponsible friends cost you too much money!
The “New” Normal
It may be time to reevaluate some of your friendships. Find people who share your financial and family goals and work together! Find those who will build you up and encourage you rather than make fun of you and your old car. I take pride in my beater of a car. I just hit 183,000 miles and I’m excited to see how many more I can put on it! There are a few unicorns out there who share your newly acquired fiscal mindset. Locate and grow these relationships – they will help you reach your goals!
Recently at a work conference, I started talking about finance with some other people in my area that I don’t usually work with. I was blown away to find that I had the lowest mileage vehicle among them! One had paid off his house and owned a Chevy Tahoe with close to 200K miles on it. The other owned a car that was a year older than mine with more miles. Needless to say, by the way they talked it was obvious they shared similar financial goals. These relationships are out there – you just have to look for them. I usually stumble upon them by making fun of my frugal lifestyle which results in someone trying to “out frugal” me. A one-upper who is even “more frugal?” I’ll take it!
Zero in on those friends of yours who are good with their money and see what they are doing to be successful. Your core group of friends may be financially bad for you and the more you realize that, the more you can protect yourself when it comes to peer pressure spending. Associate with those who share your common goals and interests and they will propel you forward that much faster.
If you need to maintain these expensive relationships, try taking control of the activities you do with them on a regular basis and start hobbies or interests that won’t put you further in debt. Instead of going bar hopping, have your friends over to your house. Instead of those expensive lower level seats, try watching the game from the nosebleeds. Be the positive influence to your friends. You all may be unknowingly in competition with each other and they may be feeling compelled to spend because they are trying to keep up with you!
I encourage you to examine your relationships and spending habits. Are your relationships costing you money? What can you do about it? A positive, fiscally responsible friend, may be just what your group needs! Hopefully, that positive influence will be you.
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