21 Ways to Make a Big Financial Change
Making a big financial change in your life is similar to making any big change — it can often be overwhelming to the point of derailing you entirely. Here are 21 ways to help you stay on course and make big financial changes in your life. (See also: 25 Frugal Changes You Can Make Today)
1. Start Small
Going whole hog right from the start is a recipe for relapse. Instead, start small. As a parallel example, if you want to start exercising but can't fathom committing to a gym routine, then start with five minutes a day. (I started that way and progressed to an hour — which I now love).
Even if you don't think it will make a big difference, the small and manageable start creates habits you can build on.
2. Change Jobs
It might be to inject some passion into your work, to earn more money, or for another soul-satisfying reason, but changing jobs might be the change of scenery you need to inspire other big financial changes.
3. Eliminate Negativity
Negative people and influences do you no good. In order to stay on track with big changes, surround yourself with positive, supportive people.
4. Understand Want vs Need
The things you “want” will probably detract you from your big financial changes, whereas the things you “need” must be incorporated into the plan.
5. Track Your Expenses
You can't make big financial changes unless you know your starting point and end goal. Your initial expense tracking is your starting point, and continuing the process will help you stay on track.
6. Share Your Plans
Telling your family and friends about your planned financial changes will create a support network and keep you accountable to your goals.
7. Track Your Progress
Big changes can be slow going, so you need to see that you're getting somewhere otherwise you'll give up. To track your progress, you can use a journal, a vision board, or a giant poster-board designed to track your progress.
I have a friend who wanted to get in shape on their treadmill. So they decided to walk across Canada — on the treadmill. They recorded their distance walked each day, and watched their proverbial progress across the country as they logged it on a large map. This kept them motivated to walk every day; the treadmill experience alone was too boring.
8. Revise as Necessary
Be willing to revise the changes you're making. If it's a long-term goal, your life might change along the way such that your initial goal is no longer paramount or relevant. Part of the process of tracking your progress is being willing and able to adjust your goals with your life.
9. Replace Habits
Instead of trying to cut bad habits right out, find a positive or constructive (or at least less counter-productive) way to replace them. For example every time you want to buy a latte, do something else that helps you achieve a similar satisfaction — perhaps buying a pack of gum or eating a chocolate-covered coffee bean. Under the principles of behavior modification, you can change unwanted habits by replacing them.
10. Practice Projection: If This, Then...
Create a projection forward in time from where you are now given your current course. This is what your life will look like in “x” years if you don't make any changes.
Then project what your situation will look like in the same time frame if you make your proposed changes. Compare the two outcomes. Are you inspired by the difference in projections?
Simplify your life. The less “little stuff” you have to worry about, the more focused on your big changes you can be.
You have to see it, smell it, and taste it in order to achieve it. Fear of the unknown will keep you firmly rooted without change. If you can see the end result, it will be easier to achieve.
13. Stop Criticizing
Stop unnecessarily criticizing yourself and indulging in negativity. If you don't feel you deserve what it is you're aiming for, you'll never get there.
14. Run Towards Change, Not Away From Something
If you focus on running away from something, that something will likely follow you around like a lost puppy dog. We respond better to positive goals, not negative ones. Don't allow yourself to be a victim; instead make sure you're focused on the positive outcome instead of the current problems.
15. Stop Thinking!
Analysis paralysis is very real.
16. Start Today
There will always be a reason to wait until tomorrow. Don't do it.
17. Break It Down
Big changes usually involve a series of small steps. Break down your overall goal into small achievable steps. This makes it infinitely more manageable (and satisfying).
18. Ask for Help
There's no shame in asking for help, and you can strengthen relationships while you're at it.
19. Change Your Identity
You want to take control of your finances, but if you continue to see yourself as somebody who knows nothing about money, then you'll forever remain so. Instead, do something to empower yourself to be somebody different (maybe take a class or start mingling with different people who don't know the “old you”), effectively changing your identity and self-image towards the person you want to be in the lifestyle you want to live.
20. Slow and Steady
Don't do everything overnight. If you try to make lots of changes too quickly, it all tends to fall apart at the seams, and you'll feel you've replaced one set of problems with a whole new set. Change one element, get used to it, then proceed to the next step. If you want to ingrain new habits and paradigms, it will take time. Give yourself permission.
Incorporating the elements and suggestions above, create — and write down! — a specific (and revisable) strategy to get you from here to there. This also ties into the points above about tracking your progress, projecting, and visualizing.
How do you make — and stick to — big financial changes in your life?