Finding Your Financial Motivation

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I talk to a lot of people about their finances who don’t have a single plan, or oftentimes even a single goal in mind when they think about their money. They know they’re bad with it, but because they can afford their minimum payments they’ve got no motivation to improve their situation. This is my biggest struggle when trying to help people. How do you get someone out of a minimum payment/monthly interest mindset? How do you make a nonbeliever see the debt-free light? No really, I’m asking. 

My catalyst was Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace, but now I actually prefer The Total Money Makeover. {Those are Amazon affiliate links and while we definitely appreciate the support, I always recommend utilizing your local library.} Dave worked for me. He is direct, simple, easy to read, and he doesn’t take any crap excuses. While neither of us have had any debt in over a decade, we still have some solid motivation for financial freedom:

  • I would rather pull my fingernails out by the roots than throw my hard-earned money away paying someone else compounding interest. Compound interest works for us, not the other way around.
  • I never want to be in a situation where I have to depend on someone else to take care of us. Not like, in a clinical setting, but a personal one. Bad things will happen to all us and when it rains it pours. Make hay whilst the sun doth shine.
  • I want the ability to travel when and where I want, and to always maintain a profession that allows that. I’m happy to work full time, but on my own time. And if I decide to go to Paris for dinner tomorrow night, I always want to be able to go to Paris for dinner tomorrow night. Huh, Greg, what do you think? That burger place in Trocadéro? Nutella crepes for dessert?

What about you? Are you trying to get out of debt, or retire when you’re 40? Do you want to pay cash for your next car, or save up for a down payment on a home? Do you wish you could stop working nights or weekends, or that you could take a whole summer off to spend with your kids? Are you sick and tired of living paycheck to paycheck? Are you sick and tired of stressing over, or even fighting about money? Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? Envision your life if money weren’t a concern. Those are your dreams, baby. Your motivation. 

Everyone knows I’m a huge fan of life plans (and you should be too!) because they force you to consider what is most important in your life, and encourage your actions to reflect your values. ‘Financial Freedom’ is one of my top values, and I see it a lot on other peoples’ life plans, but that topic alone is too big and broad to force many changes at an everyday level. That’s where establishing specific financial goals comes in real handy. You have to find your motivation to make a change, even if you do nothing else but just establish a few goals. Of course being the lister I am, I’d recommend writing them down and taping them somewhere massively visible, like your bathroom mirror. That way you see them everyday, and every day they sneak a bit more into your brain, and you start to think about things a little differently, and maybe make a change here and there.

When I worked full-time I would tape old vacation photos or travel pictures from magazines to my locker so every time I started a shift I was reminded again what I was working toward. After I basically forced her into a life plan (jokes), a friend of mine taped two pictures of Scotland next to her computer for motivation. When she showed me what she had done I literally teared up I was so proud, and happy, and excited for her. Establishing goals and making plans changes lives, unlike simply existing and wishing things were different. 

What motivates you? How do you envision your life? You don’t even have to think about making any changes yet, just take a few minutes to write down some of your financial dreams. Post them where you can see them. Share them with your spouse, and make him/her do the same thing. Tell your friends. Tell your kids. Tell your parents. Get that fire burning in your belly. Just not in the backcountry.


…can prevent simply existing and wishing things were different.


p.s. You can read about our trip to Paris, including the burgers in Trocadéro:

City of Lights, part un

City of Lights, part deux


If you’re working toward financial freedom, or have already reached financial independence, I would love to hear what keeps you motivated. 


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