How To Clarify The Reason WHY You Want To Save Money

The 1st step in our 5-part series entitled “How to Save 50% of Your Expat Income and Still Enjoy Life“.

Saving mClarify Your Reason WHY You Want to Save Moneyoney is a habit. And good habits take time and perseverance to develop. Recent studies suggest that it takes, on average, approximately 2 months to develop and internalize a new habit so that it becomes second nature.  This is for good habits.  Unfortunately, bad habits seem to creep into our lives much faster.

Think about that nasty morning $4 Starbucks Grande Cappuccino habit that you have.  You know, the one that costs you about $100 a month when you could be making your own at home before you leave for your workday for a fraction of the cost.  Were you born with that habit? No! You probably started by innocently going in with a friend one morning and just ordering a basic coffee for $1.50.  You liked the atmosphere and company and so went back a few days later with another friend.  When you went in a few days after that, this time on a weekend morning with your newspaper in hand, you decided to treat yourself to that $4 Cap.  Wow, did that ever taste good!  And the Jazz music they were playing  – incredible.  Never mind that beautiful aroma wafting through the store!  The next week you went almost everyday, sometimes for a regular coffee, sometimes for that $4 Cap.  By week three you were hooked, and just had to have a cappuccino every time.  Even bought the mug so that your habit could be environmentally friendly.

Sound familiar?!?!

You Need A Strong Reason WHY

I’m willing to bet that teaching yourself to be frugal and save more money could take even longer, unless you have a compelling reason WHY.

And why do I put the “WHY” in capital letters?

Because it is probably the most important element in developing any new habit.

In this case, if you don’t  fully clarify your reasons to save, you will continue to live high on a constant adrenaline rush of instant gratification fueled by impulse spending.  You need a motivating force to guide you past the day-to-day temptations to frivolously spend money that most other people succumb to.

Think for a minute about some of the big changes you have made in your life.  What were the primary reasons that you made those changes?  They were very likely reasons that exerted a strong enough emotional pull to make you change direction and, most importantly, stay the course on your new path for the long term.

What are those reasons?

Everyone will have their own reasons that they need to save more, but to get you started, here are our Top Seven Reasons We Save As Much As We Can (in no particular order of priority):

  • To be financially free by 2017 (above all, money = freedom to us)
  • To give our kids a good education
  • To give our family epic travel experiences
  • To be able to help our parents have an enjoyable retirement
  • To have the time and money to contribute to worthy causes
  • To buy our dream house in our dream location
  • To have emergency funds set aside to deal with a major catastrophic event

You’ll notice that, aside from the nice house, most of the reasons that I listed above relate to experiences, rather than objects. That’s because we realized long ago that it was our memorable experiences in life that contributed most to our overall feeling of happiness and well-being. This is a fact backed up by extensive research, as reported in this short article from Health Magazine.

Action Plan:

1.  Find your WHYClarify Your Reason WHY You Want to Save Money

Grab a coffee or nice green tea (No, NOT at Starbucks, at home silly!) and sit down somewhere quiet and relaxing and take some time to list your priorities in life. If you are married or have a significant other, make sure that you do it together.

Answer the following questions:

  • Think carefully about what you REALLY want in life.  What are your BIG dreams?  What would make you feel truly alive and free?
  • Why is it important to save for it?
  • How much can you save each month for it?

Try to list at least 7, like I did above. Why 7? Well, it’s a lucky number;-)

 2.  Put your dreams into a short paragraph. 

Keep it concise, yet detailed enough so that your dreams are clear in your mind’s eye. You need to be crystal clear here because this is what will give you the focus and motivation to become a champion saver.

Here is the dream statement that motivates my wife and I to be champion savers:

We will live in a small, eco-friendly house on a spacious property in an active and supportive community on our favourite island on the west coast of Canada.  We will have enough income from our investments to work on whatever pursuits we enjoy, spend quality time with our family, contribute to the community, and do some travelling.  We will achieve this goal by 2017, at the latest.

3.  Put those words into pictures.

Clarify Your Reason WHY You Want to Save MoneyNow it’s time to have some fun!  We’re going to make a dreamboard (also known as a vision board).  If you don’t know what a dream board is, here is a link showing you how to create one.  If you would like to make one electronically, try making a collage using PicMonkey or creating an online board on Pinterest.  Essentially, you are going to collect images that represent your dreams and put them all into a collage.  This will serve as your daily inspiration helping to keep you motivated even on your most challenging days.

4.  Keep your dreamboard where you and others will see it.

Another key element in developing and sticking with a new habit is accountability.

If you see your dream board every day, it will keep you focused and accountable to yourself for achieving your goal.  If your family and friends see it too, and you discuss its meaning with them, you will now feel some positive peer pressure to continue on the path to achieving your savings goals.

Some places I would suggest that you keep your dreamboard or an image of your dreamboard:

  • on your fridge
  • in your home office or your workplace
  • a small picture of it in your car
  • as wallpaper on your digital devices

Congratulations! You have now completed a very important step towards saving 50% of your income.  You have a clear vision of your  WHY.

What’s Next?  How to Determine & Track Your Income and Expenses

How about you? Do you have more advice about clarifying our WHY or can you suggest other steps that you think we should take to help create good saving habits? Please share your wisdom by adding a comment below.  And if you really want to get accountable and share your dream statement with us!

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