When I was growing up, my mom would wear a button during the holidays that said, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.” I found it very embarrassing.
I also remember—for years!—there was a not-small piece of paper taped to the front of our refrigerator, “Nothing tastes as good as thin feels.” I teased her about it.
However, it was about the same time I was listening to Wilson Phillips on my Walkman, with sky-high bangs, saving my babysitting money to buy a pair of Z.Cavaricci’s, so clearly, my judgement is up for debate.
I’m here today to say, as with so many things, I now understand. In other words: You were right, Mom! You were always right! I’m sorry!
My mom knew who she was and what she wanted. She had long-term goals, the success or failure of which was wholly determined by a million tiny choices—hour after hour, day after day. Every time she went into the kitchen. She kept her mantra—front and center—a tangible reminder of her “why.”
And however many years later, I’m a believer! My kids regularly make fun of all my post-it notes. All over the bathroom mirror, my office walls, in my car—a veritable rainbow of reminders to keep me focused on the big picture—where I want to go, who I want to be, and all the things I have to be grateful for along the way.
I’m equal opportunity and use this in-your-face strategy (actually, as it were, my own face) for all different areas of my life, but since we’re all budgeting, all the time around these parts, I thought maybe a couple of my go-to’s might help someone else’s budget like they’ve helped mine:
If Nothing Changes, Nothing Changes.
I mean, how good is this? I can complain or make excuses or throw up my hands month after month, or I can dig in and grind it out—one tiny choice at a time—until I’ve built new habits and experience real change. Sacrifice is never easy, but it gets a lot easier when you focus on the bigger picture. It’s true for fitness and health and relationships and work and parenting and, of course, budgeting. The hard truth is—regardless of your circumstances, tough luck, mistakes, or history—you are the only one who can control what happens next. Take control, make the change—see? I’m already fired up!
Cash Is King.
At first glance, this might not scream motivational, but for me, it’s been one of the most powerful reminders of my most core priority/desire/value: freedom. The more money I save is directly related to how many choices I have, my ability to take advantage of opportunities, and my overall sense of security. Everyone is different, of course, but these are feelings that increase my day-to-day quality of life. Sometimes it is hard to maintain the urgency of long-term saving goals, and for me, this reminder helps me keep things in perspective.
When You Love What You Have, You Have Everything You Need.
I just want to be very clear, no matter how much I feel like YNAB has transformed my finances and my future, or how many blogs I write about budgeting, I still really like pretty things. In fact, my only real hobbies include decorating my house (buying things) and a life-long love of clothes (buying other types of things), soooo… I’ve accepted the fact that the home section at Target will just continue to get better and better and there will always be more walls to shiplap, so it’s helpful for me to focus on being grateful for what I have and letting go of the rest. Contentment is a full-time effort for me, so any and all reminders are helpful.
The Harder You Work, The Luckier You Get.
I first stumbled across this quote when I was freelancing and, in the most literal way, the more hours I billed, the more money I made. But the more I thought about it, the more I started to understand it in a more general measure of the relationship between effort and reward. The more disciplined I am with my budget, the faster I’ll reach my goals. Period. There is a direct correlation. How much do I want it? How hard am I willing to work? It won’t necessarily be easy, but I can influence the results. That’s a powerful place to be!
Scarcity Brings Clarity.
I understood this on an intellectual level, long before I really got it, but now it’s one of my very favorites. Recently, when my entire life was upended and I had to face starting over in nearly every way, the scarcity was real. I don’t want to minimize how hard real scarcity can be (very hard), but the silver lining, at least for me, was laser focus. I experienced simplification, both literally and figuratively, and my priorities felt crystal clear, straightforward, obvious. I had more constraints, but on some level, I had improved perspective and peace. Today, I love the reminder, that scarcity isn’t always negative, in fact, if it is the impetus for digging deeper, increased creativity, discovering a new approach, it might actually be the ideal outcome.
I’d love to hear what other people use to stay focused and motivated! Mantras are made for sharing!
Your Next Step
Budgeting is not restrictive. You won’t be spending less, you’ll be spending right. So what do you have to lose? Except all that debt and stress?