The other day I was confronted by an internet guru who told me that this site was the same as all the other financial blogs. He said we all beat the same drum of, “spend less, save more” and these blogs are nothing more than hobbies. It was a bit of a punch to my gut until I sat back and actually thought about what he wrote.
Is It Really That Simple?
For someone struggling with finances, the idea of “spend less, save more” may seem pretty simple. However, if you struggle with debt or are having difficulty building wealth, you know that personal finance is not that easy. It was apparent that this individual was not a fan of personal finance blogs due to his confrontational behavior. I think it’s safe to assume that he doesn’t have his financial life in order or he wouldn’t be so opposed to others trying to help people manage their money more efficiently.
I reflected upon his opinion and I found myself in a similar position years ago. If someone were to ask me how to pay off debt and build wealth – I probably would also have said stop spending and save money. The more I studied finance, the more confusing I found the world of personal finance to be. There is no one size fits all for people, and cutting expenses in one area may not be appropriate for another person.
As I thought about this post, I broke down his simplistic ideology. Spend less – what does that even mean? If you are in debt, how much less should you be spending? If you have moved out of your mother’s basement, you obviously realize that life has a way of sneaking up on you – no matter how much less you spend.
Take Christmas for instance. My wife and I budget for Christmas months in advance but we still always seem to overspend. Last year we went over our Christmas budget because there were several key areas we did not think about. My kids’ school had a Christmas party and we were required to spend $160 for decorations. I went from having 4 sergeants under my command to 7 sergeants. Each year I usually buy a $25 dollar gift card as a way of saying, “thank you” to my employees, but this added $75 dollars was not in the budget.
Each year there seem to be more and more unexpected purchases that we fail to budget appropriately for. So it seems the idea of “spending less” is not always an option. I can tell you to spend less at Christmas, but even I could not follow my own advice this year. (Please tell me I’m not alone in this!)
The Myriad Of Strategies
As a student of personal finance, I have found there are many different ways to cut back spending and some are more beneficial than others. Obviously, the first step to spending less is to create a budget, but the steps after that become a little hazy. While the cash envelope system may be best suited for one person, a structured electronic budget planner may be better for another.
Spending less involves a significant shift in mindset to learn what you really value in life and what you can do without. This shift is probably the biggest hurdle that I encounter when I help mentor and guide people in their financial life. Spending less is definitely easier said than done.
The “save more” mentality is what catapulted me into personal finance in the first place. I had saved a chunk of money and I had absolutely no idea what to do with it. It sat in a savings account losing 3% each year (due to inflation) and I didn’t know how to invest it. Saving money alone will not make you wealthy and you will never be able to retire by putting money under your mattress. Inflation alone will kill your savings. So while, “Save More” is a noble goal, saving alone will not do you much good in the grand scheme of things. You need to invest if you ever hope to stop working. This is where personal finance bloggers earn their keep. There are millions of different investment vehicles, and many of them can do more harm than good to your investment portfolio. For instance, putting all your money in Enron would not have been a good move back in the day. It’s about finding what investment strategy is best for your personal situation based on your risk tolerance and the time you plan to invest. By educating yourself on the games played by those in the financial industry, you can better protect yourself from poor investment choices that can take the form of life insurance, stocks and bonds, or real estate.
So What Can We Do?
I feel somewhat sympathetic for my confrontational critic because he obviously never encountered someone who truly cared about him and was willing to educate him financially. Perhaps he was taken advantage of by an overzealous commissioned broker. Perhaps he never had anyone sit him down and explain the basics of personal finance and how it is still possible for the average person to build wealth. Either way, I appreciate him for giving me a topic to write about in my quest for financial education and mentoring! The first step to being successful in this financial journey is to take your head out of the sand and stop pretending there is nothing you can do about your finances. It is not about making more money, (Why Wealth And Income Is Not The Same Thing) it’s about taking control of your money right where you are, right now. If you can’t control your spending by making minimum wage, you will not be able to control your spending if you’re making six figures. Anyone can pay off debt and build wealth with the right mindset, and I hope today is that day for you. I encourage you to look towards the future and take the first step to achieve that goal. If you need help in your journey, you can refer to The Debt Payoff Playbook to get you started. If you’re a bit further along and ready to start investing, I would encourage you to read Exposing The Mutual Fund Industry
No Grudges Held…
Finally, I don’t fault my critic, I actually am even more motivated to succeed in my mission of educating and motivating as many people as I can. I want you to learn to take control of your money and make it work for you, rather than you working for it!
I truly appreciate you taking the time to read this article and I encourage you to subscribe to my blog below so you never miss a post! If you think other people would benefit from this article, please share it across your social media feeds. I look forward to working with you and remember, you work too hard to be this broke! (P.S. if you still need your free budget printables, get them here!)