Tom and Sue had some great financial goals in mind. They wanted to start saving for the girls college education, but weren’t sure what kind of account to use.
“There’s so many choices, I’d like to do some more research before I sign up for something. I want to make sure we’re using the right account. After all, this is for my baby girls.” Tom told Sue affectionately.
They also wanted to start maxing out Tom’s 401k at work, but haven’t gotten around to it.
“Did you increase your contributions to your 401k yet Tom?” “No, I wanted to wait to see what kind of expenses we had coming up with birthdays and our anniversary right around the corner. I wanted to take you out to that new Italian place that just opened up to celebrate” Tom responded. “That place is expensive isn’t it?” “Yeah, but it’s our anniversary, it’s OK to spend a little on a special day like that”.
They set a goal to establish Roth IRAs this year too, but haven’t been able to find the money to fund it.
“Sue, did you run the numbers on the budget yet to determine if we can get those Roths going?” asked Tom. “No, I haven’t had time. I’ve been so busy with the girls and plus if we are going to take that cruise this year I just don’t think we’ll have any extra money. I guess we could just put the cruise on the credit card as long as we pay it back right away.”
“How much do we have saved for the cruise?” asked Tom. “Right now we have about $100 that we just put into savings” Sue responded. “Where did all the rest of it go?” asked Tom with an agitated tone.
“Are you kidding me? You’re looking right at what happened to it!” Sue said sharply. Tom gazed at his brand new 50 inch Plasma TV. “The ’12 months same as cash deal’ was coming due and I didn’t want to pay the interest so I took the money from our savings account to pay it off.” Tom felt a twinge of guilt, “but that HD sure is sweet”, he thought.
“We really got to start tightening our belts and get our finances in order” Tom said. “I know, but every time we try it seems like something else comes up” Sue responded.
There’s Always Something
Have you ever felt that way? Every time you start getting your finances in order something else comes up? This is true for all of us. There is always something else to take away our time, energy and money. The difference between those who actually reach their goals and those who don’t is discipline.
Let’s face it, working at our finances is usually hard work and often not that fun. Taking a realistic look at your expenses, developing a budget and researching where you should be saving your money requires effort. For some of us it requires a lot of effort! It’s often tempting to allow ourselves to be distracted by the things we’d rather be doing than the things we know we should be doing.
This is known as the path of least resistance. Wikipedia describes it this way: “The physical or metaphorical pathway that provides the least resistance to forward motion by a given object or entity, among a set of alternative paths” We could say it’s why certain objects or people choose the paths they do.
Water takes the easiest path downhill as it’s pulled by gravity; storms follow zones of low barometric pressure that offer less opposition; and humans often take the easy way out than rather than fight through difficult circumstances, temptations or trials to accomplish goals or tasks.
It’s ironic from a human standpoint though isn’t it? Think about the times you felt most proud of yourself. Isn’t it usually when you disciplined yourself to do something difficult and came through on the other end having accomplished it? We get the most satisfaction from doing the hard things, but often times we don’t do the hard things because, well, they’re hard.
Avoiding That Path
So how do we avoid taking the easy way out and truly change our habits so we can accomplish the tough financial goals we’d like to get done? Here are some simple strategies to get you thinking.
Work As a Team
If you are married, it is extremely important that both of your are on the same page when it comes to your money. Husbands, as the servant leader, you need to step up and cast the vision and provide the direction for where you want your family to go in terms of your finances.
Start With a Small Step
Radically changing your money habits won’t happen overnight, but begins by taking some “baby steps” as Dave Ramsey often says. Instead of going out for lunch five days a week, pack a lunch for one day and save that money.
Do Hard Things First
This is easier said than done, but rather than saying you’ll start that budget next month, start it today. It’s easy to procrastinate on the things you don’t want to do. Giving and saving are things you have to be intentional about, otherwise those are the things that are easy to push back until you “have the money”
Stop Making Excuses
Let’s be honest, most of us can make some sacrifices and save a little more, pay down a little more debt, be more generous and get our finances in order, but we just don’t – for a million different reasons. We need to recognize the excuses and work at killing them!
Review Direction Regularly
Charting the course to financial freedom is never a straight path. It requires regular review and adjustments. Oftentimes you’ll find yourself cruising along with some new goals you’ve established only to find those bad habits creeping back in.
What About You?
Avoiding the path of least resistance takes hard work and a motivated effort. With some discipline, you can get on track towards achieving your financial goals. You’ll feel so much better about yourself and your situation when you stop taking this path, lay down the excuses and start doing the hard things.
Have you taken any difficult steps to get off the path of least resistance? What were some of the sarifices you’ve made to help get you started in the right direction? What were some of the biggest excuses you made (or are making) that kept you from getting ahead financially?