Motivation On Your Financial Journey

By | November 29, 2015

I think most of the advice I dispense is common sense. Spend less than you earn. Make plans. Set goals. Document the progress. For most people (me included), it’s tough to stay motivated. Here are some tactics I used to keep my goal in sight and my financial avatar galvanized.

 Tip 1: Email your future self to celebrate and recognize how far you’ve come

One of my favorite websites is Future Me. Here you can write a letter to yourself and pick a date to have it delivered to your email account. I try to do this every month or so because I LOVE receiving emails from the past. Here is an excerpt of one I received a few days ago from 2011-Thriftygal.

Hello Dear,

You’re sad and you’re frustrated. Because it’s past 3 am and you’re still at work and you’re rather an incompetent little fuzzball.

Are you out of debt yet? Does it feel awesome? $42,685 left.

I wish I were you.


Incompetent little fuzzball.

Incompetent little fuzzball.

I don’t mean to brag or harp on this, but I love my life now and all the Future Me emails I currently send are optimistic and cheerful. I wake up when I want. I go to bed when I want. I eat. I bike. I walk. I swim. I travel. I read. I hammock. I write. I meet friends old and new. I look forward to every day. I’m sure that your ideal post-work life will differ from mine, but the point is that money gives you the freedom to make your life what you want it to be. Don’t waste it on things and stuff and junk.

Set small mini goals and remind yourself of the victories along the way. It’s all about the progress.

Tip 2: Place a motivational quote on your phone.

I know. I know. Cheesy! But I had a quote on my Blackberry so I could read it every time I had to unlock my phone — an action I performed several dozen times a day. Big Law is lucrative and I am extremely grateful for my time at my firm, but I always felt shackled to that device. That world came with many many perks, but in return, you give up your life. You agree to put work first. Before family. Before friends. Before vacations. Before sleep. Every time I saw that little red light flash signalling a new email, I would first get to read this –

“Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for – in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it.”

– Ellen Goodman

Tip 3: Take Vitamin D

You’re right; this has nothing to do with personal finance, but I couldn’t think of a third financial tip that I actually did and that I haven’t already written about. And since taking this pill has made such a mindbogglingly enormous difference in the quality of my life, I would feel remiss not to pass on this tip.

I receive a physical every year and the only major comment my doctor ever has is to note my cripplingly low levels of vitamin D. For years, I would buy a big bottle of the pills and then neglect to take them after a week or so. I now keep a resolutions chart and I give myself a smiley face when I remember to take it. When I do take it regularly, I feel like a different person. I can get up in the morning with ease. I’m not tired during the day. I have energy.

Obligatory lawyer comment: I’m not a doctor and this is just anecdotal! If you’re tired all the time, consider asking your doctor to check your vitamin D levels.

Tip 4: Create challenge months for yourself

calendar-159098_640Okay, I just thought of another of my financial quirks. Over the past five years, I would occasionally think up new “Operations” for myself and add them to the resolutions chart I mentioned in tip 3. These challenges usually lasted a month and had ridiculously long names. I used this exercise to entertain my financial avatar and to understand myself better. Here’s a list of some of my operations.

  1. Operation Use Only Cash Except for Rent and Utilities, Of Course
  2. Operation Use No Cash and Charge Everything
  3. Operation Buy Whatever Even Briefly Tempts You, But Evaluate the Purchase Two Months Later to See if it Made Your Life Better
  4. Operation Don’t Eat Out Except If You’re Ordering In and Eating at Your Desk
  5. Operation Don’t Eat Alone
  6. Operation Don’t Buy Anything New
  7. Operation Shop Every Weekend

You can do anything for a month. I started to recognize what worked for me after trying these experiments. I understand that I’m lazy and can’t track cash. I can now predict better which of my Wants are fleeting and disregard it quicker. I also now immediately buy whatever Want I feel would make my life better. I found out that I used to eat a lot of meals at my desk. I reinforced my belief that shopping sucks.

I initially drafted this tip as its own post, but I think the operation names are pretty self-explanatory. You learn about yourself by going outside your routine and your comfort zone. Try it. Make up your own operation and tell me about it.

7 thoughts on “Motivation On Your Financial Journey

  1. Marty Jenkins

    You are probably inundated with new friends this week (in January 2016), due to your recent exposure by Mr. Money Mustache. I am one of your new friends. Hello, Thriftygal.

    I feel a bit of kinship already–I am also a lawyer, also interested in money that buys time and experience rather than things, also…uh, human. But my situation is different from yours. I am over 60, married for decades, male…but still human.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say hello, and introduce myself as someone who will be reading your thoughts.


  2. JjamesP

    Hello hello!

    I am also coming in from MMM. I’m new to the ‘Stache game. I like the looks of your blog. Can’t wait to have one for myself one day.

  3. Tonja

    Hi Triftygal,

    Love all of the “operations!” and the fact that you named them. I have done something similar in the past (although not always based on financial goals) and called them campaigns. My close friends teased me about it., but I always told them, “If you can name it then you can own it!” Time to start a new campaign…Thanks for the motiviation!

  4. Frankie911

    Hi There, Thriftygal –
    New here, love your writing! Keep it up!

    I can never get my husband to jump on my crazy bandwagon to do things like “Buy Nothing at the Grocery Store except Necessary Perishables Until We Use up All the Stuff Stocked UP at Our House” – I guess I just need to do these things without telling him = ) It’s nice to see I am not the only one who loves month-long-operations with even longer names!

  5. David Robarts

    I think Tip 3 would be better phrased: “Get good nutrition”. Many people don’t get quite the right vitamins and minerals from their diet. Of course eating a great variety of nutritious foods goes a long way, but different people may respond differently to the same diet; so, getting tested for deficiencies and taking supplements can provide an additional boost for even those who already eat a healthy diet.

  6. Kiwi

    You used a kiwi as your little fuzzball! I don’t know whether to be stoked or offended haha! Keep up the ramblings, I hope to be in your shoes one day!

  7. Classical_Liberal

    I’m stealing “Operation Don’t eat alone”… I may have to rename it to avoid copyright infringement… “Operation be slightly more Epicurean”? It has a ring to it…


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