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So what should you do when it’s not working? You’re certainly working hard, and you’re reading all of those helpful financial blogs every time your friend pumps one out (hopefully), but your financial situation is just not improving that much. What should you do? In three words:
Try something different.
If you’re having trouble saving money, open a second cash account and direct deposit a portion from each pay check into it. Pretend it’s another one of those deductions on your check no one really understands, and I bet your cash will finally build!
If you’re having trouble paying down your credit card debt or you keep “overusing” your debit card, play rock, paper, scissors with your plastic cards and go with scissors! Cut them up into a lot of pieces (to help reduce the chance of identity theft), and try using cash. When you see how many pictures of Andrew Jackson or Benjamin Franklin something takes, it may feel different and help your self-restraint.
If you’re having trouble actually increasing your contributions to your retirement plan at work, think Nike - just do it! As long as your increased contribution isn’t horribly unreasonable, you’ll probably naturally figure out how to make your reduced income work once you have less income actually coming in.
The one I’ve actually seen a lot of lately is someone trying to do too many good things at once. I admire people who do this, but let’s be realistic; you can’t boost cash, pay down debt, save for a new car, save for a new house, save for your kid’s college, save for your kid’s wedding, and save for that long overdue dream vacation all at the same time. I mean you could, but unless you’re making really big money, that “shotgun approach” isn’t going to work. Based on my experience, most people taking the “shotgun approach” end up feeling like they aren’t making any progress, get frustrated, and then return to spending what they make. Instead, I’d suggest that you go with a “surgical strike approach,” and go after one or only a few items at a time. Boost cash, then pay down debt while keeping your cash up. Save for a car, buy a car, and then save for the new house. This way you will feel like you are making financial progress because you are accomplishing something that is tangible and observable. Things will get checked off your list, and you may find that your rate of financial progress seems to pick up momentum.
If what you are trying to do financially isn’t working, don’t feel bad. When talking about his many attempts to invent the lightbulb, Thomas Edison said that he had not failed, he’d just found 10,000 ways that didn’t work! Edison also said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always just to try one more time.”
If you don’t want to listen to this Thomas, that’s fine, but please listen to Thomas Edison. Try one more time!