“Money can’t buy happiness”. Or so the popular saying goes. I wholeheartedly agree. Just because money can keep you from becoming depressed due to financial hardships, that doesn’t mean that it’s the ultimate key to happiness.
At the end of the day, I realize that I can pay off all my debt, buy a house, travel, save up a year’s worth of expenses and never want for anything, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll be happy. If I didn’t have my family and my health, I’d probably be extremely depressed regardless of how financially savvy I become.
This is why I don’t understand why so many people rely on money like it’s the answer to all their problems. I’m sure we’ve all heard a friend of family member say things like: ”I wish I had more money to do xyz” or “If only I had enough money I’d be _____.” Getting stuck in this type of mindset opens up the door to you allowing your money to control you and every aspect of your life. It’s okay to want to earn more money and it’s great to have financial goals, but it’s important not to let it consume you and allow your desire for money to control your life.
Money is easy to obsess over and it’s common for money to become a powerful and very controlling element of your life if you allow it to get to that point. If you’re tired of seeing your money slip through your fingers and leave you feeling helpless and lost, here are a few ways to help regain control and stop letting money run your life.
View Money as a Tool
Money is simply a tool that you use to do and obtain things that you want out of life. Money itself is an inanimate object just like a wrench, hammer or any other object you’d find around your home. Money is the ‘how’ that helps you get where you want to be.
When you start prioritizing money itself and giving money a greater purpose in your life, it can easily start to control you. For example, I love to travel and take vacations, but I don’t love money. Money is the tool that helps me provide for my family and do the things that I like to do.
Being able to provide for my son and get him school clothes makes me feel great, and while money does contribute to this, it alone doesn’t make me feel happy. Understanding this difference is crucial.
Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck
Living paycheck to paycheck sucks. I know how hard it can be to get paid every two weeks, pay all your bills and still feel like you don’t have enough to make it to the next pay day. On pay day you probably feel uppity and treat yourself to a meal or a few small gadgets. The two week stretch between pay periods allows your bank account to get dangerously low. Then pay day rolls around again and your spirits are lifted.
This vicious cycle places you under the direct control of your money. When you live paycheck to paycheck, you plan your life around money and depend on it heavily for your happiness and wellbeing.
In order to break the paycheck to paycheck cycle, you’ll need to start saving heavily. Cut back on your spending, increase your savings rate, start side hustling or get a second job to bring in more income for a few months to boost your savings.
Try to beef up your emergency fund and separately set aside at least one month’s worth of expenses so you can start living on the previous month’s income instead of desperately waiting for a paycheck to come in. Knowing how much money you have to spend at the beginning of each month will help you be able to budget better and gain more control over your money.
Pay off Debt and Cut Back on Expenses
Paying on debt each month reduces the amount of money you have in your pocket to save, invest, and spend how you please. The one thing I hate about being in debt is having someone else tell me where a large chunk of my money has to go each month. Depending on how much money you owe along with interest that is being accrued, debt can have a huge hold on you and dictate how you will live your life.
Debt has controlled a lot of what I can and can’t do with my life and that’s why I’m working hard to aggressively pay it off and free up more of my income.
Other aspects of your financial situation that can dictate where your money goes are your fixed and variable expenses. It’s safe to say that no one likes paying bills and I try to limit the amount of money I pay for utility bills, housing and other expenses as much as I can. I recently moved to save money in order to cut down on fuel expenses, vehicle maintenance and childcare costs, and I continue to live and spend by my own terms and not by what society says I should buy.
Who says you have to spend $100+ per month on cable T.V. or buy an iPhone 6? When you make the conscious decision to be thrifty and cut back on your expenses, you’ll give yourself more say in where your money goes and how much you need to keep each month.
Do More Free Stuff
No matter how much money I end up earning, I will probably never stop finding free things to do and frugal ways to entertain myself. I’m a firm believer that you don’t need a ton of money to have a good time and your wallet should never dictate whether you get to relax and enjoy yourself or not. Taking advantage of various different freebies can make you feel more carefree when you don’t have to check your bank account before leaving the house or budget for specific outings.
Back in February, I gave myself a $0 entertainment budget and it challenged me to get really creative. That was one of the best challenges I could have done because I was able to open my eyes to all the free activities my community offered and break out of that mindset that associated ‘fun’ and ‘entertainment’ with dropping a ton of money.
I don’t have $0 entertainment months every month, but I have no spend weeks and weekends regularly – not because I don’t have any money to spend – because I want to. It feels great to bond with your child or do something fun with your friends or family and spend next to nothing.
Have you ever felt like your money was controlling you? How can you gain back control?
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