Yesterday, I indicated some of the specific mechanics that I adopted to turn my financial situation around, and I’m happy to say that my finances have never been better. The solution to the problem, though, is much greater than mere financial tools. Even though I was able to discover and apply tools to solve my specific financial problems, the real solutions came from within, the lessons I truly learned from a lifetime on the road to financial armageddon.
The most important lesson I learned in my life is that the well being of your future self (and your future family) is more important than anything frivolous right now. Whenever I make a purchase now, this thought echoes through my mind. Is having this item now more important than the cost of this item could be in the future? I imagine the path my life could lead, one that sees me losing my job or facing a desperate situation, and I can’t imagine that buying a magazine or a chocolate bar now will do anything at all to help that future me – but not buying the magazine or the chocolate bar will help him.
Whenever you spend money, try to imagine if you lost your job next week. Will it still seem like a worthwhile purchase if you’re jobless? If it won’t, then you should strongly reconsider your purchase.
The second lesson I learned is if money is out of reach, I’m not tempted to spend it. I used to tell myself that I would save $100 a month, but then I would see something I wanted and I would know that I could easily have the cash with just an ATM card swipe and, before I knew it, I’d be strolling down the street with another purchase. Now, my monthly budget doesn’t even mention the saving at all – it simply goes away into an inconvenient to access account (meaning I can’t just withdraw from it if I’m out shopping) for when I truly do need it. If I come in under budget for a month? I sweep that money into the savings before I’m tempted to buy something unnecessary.
Perhaps the most important lesson was that I don’t need to put up appearances of being rich. I still worry about personal appearance, but I’ve learned that grooming and cleanliness really are 90% of the battle – if you’re clean and solidly groomed, you still carry a solid impression without dumping thousands of dollars on expensive suits and dresses. I also don’t need to show off the latest gadgets to impress; I can impress by simply being comfortable with being myself.
It all boils down to one thing: money and material things don’t make me – I make me. Once I figured that out, money became merely a tool in my life, one that allows me to take care of what’s really important to me, like the long-term health and happiness of my family. And that’s the real lesson I learned on the road to financial armageddon and back – I learned what was really important after all.
Want to jump quickly to the other Road to Financial Armageddon posts? Here’s an index to help you out.
#1: The Earliest Mistakes
#2: Early Profits … Lost
#3: Cash & College
#4: The First Taste of Real Money
#5: Love & Marriage
#6: The Yuppie Years
#7: Here Comes Baby
#9: The Road to Recovery
#10: What I Learned