Both parents work, and they make good money. From the outside, life looks good – a new Tahoe, a big house and private schools for the children. But in reality, the Smiths are barely scraping by. With the help of credit cards and car loans, they spend more money than they make, and they’re just one financial emergency away from being in serious trouble.
Then, there’s the Williams family.
One parent works and makes decent money, while the other stays at home and takes care of the children. The Williams family lives on a budget, and even though they still have a lot of student loan debt, they’ve cut the balance in half during the last two years. They have a small emergency fund saved, and they expect to be out of debt completely in two years.
So, what do you think is the difference between the Smiths and the Williamses? Why is one family able to pay off thousands of dollars in debt on a tight budget, while another family barely gets by week after week? Why does one person succeed with money, while another person struggles?
There are dozens of factors, but, many times, it comes down to these key characteristics.
They’re patient. People who win with money are patient. They can delay a short-term pleasure for a long-term gain. In other words, they can walk right by the shoe section without blinking. They know $100 shoes would be nice, but they have higher priorities. That’s because they understand the bigger picture. It’s about retirement and college funds and that beach vacation they’re dreaming about. Believe me, I love the shoe section. But when I stop and pick up a pair of designer shoes in a store, I ask myself if we’ve budgeted for this and if buying that pair of shoes effect our priorities.
They’re confident. When you’re in control of your money, you’re confident. You also don’t care when other people look down their noses at you, because you’re cutting back on lifestyle costs. Keeping up with the Joneses? Forget about it. One of the mistakes people make is to fall into the social media comparison game. You pull up Instagram and see beautiful photos from your friend Sarah’s Caribbean cruise. Meanwhile, you haven’t been on vacation in a year because you’re working so hard to get out of debt. But confident people stay focused on their goals and understand that sacrifices are temporary. They know they’ll be able to take that cruise soon enough.
They’re goal-oriented. People who win with money approach goals with incredible passion. Save $1,000? Check. Get out of debt? Check. Build a full emergency fund? Check. For them, setting goals is fun. This isn’t some special skill you’re born with. Anyone can develop the habit of goal setting, and here are a few basic tips.
• Write them down and put them in a visible spot. Seeing your goals written out every day will keep them at the front of your mind.
• Be specific. Exactly how much debt do you want to pay off each month? How much weight do you want to lose each month?
• Set a time limit. Where’s your finish line? And, remember, be realistic. You’ll probably need more than a month to get out of debt.
They’re responsible. They get it. They understand in order to get to where they want to be financially, they might have to take a year off from vacation, skip dining out for a few months, or cut back on grocery spending. And honestly, couldn’t we all cut back on grocery spending? When I talk with people about their budgets, food is one of the main areas where people overspend – either at the grocery store or dining out. Responsible people are willing to look at their money situation and make smart choices. I know sometimes “adulting” isn’t fun. But those smaller, “boring” decisions, like budgeting and staying on top of your account balance, can put you in a place to have a lot more fun later. That’s becoming a theme here, isn’t it?
They aren’t materialistic. They understand that you can have a bunch of stuff without being wealthy, and you can be wealthy without owning a bunch of stuff. Big houses, nice cars, and fancy vacations are perfectly fine, but someone who wins with money understands all those things by themselves don’t bring happiness. They live their lives with that in mind. That doesn’t mean they’re against owning stuff, or they think wealthy people are somehow “evil,” they just get the fact that money isn’t everything.
They’re willing to sacrifice. They understand budget cuts are just temporary. Five years from now, once they’re out of debt and winning with money, they’ll look back on those sacrifices with a smile. This is a big one, and it works closely with patience and responsibility. Sacrifice can’t happen if you aren’t patient or responsible, because you can’t get past the immediate rush of having something or doing something right now. When it comes to sacrificing with money, you must look past today.
The great thing about these characteristics is you can develop them. Even if you aren’t naturally patient, or you aren’t a big goal setter, you can develop these character traits by working to create new habits in your life.
And when these habits turn into character traits, you’ll be well on your way toward winning with money for good.
As a No. 1 New York Times bestselling author and host of the Rachel Cruze Show, Cruze helps people learn the proper ways to handle money and stay out of debt. She’s authored three best-selling books, including “Love Your Life, Not Theirs” and “Smart Money Smart Kids,” which she co-wrote with her father, Dave Ramsey. You can follow Cruze on Twitter and Instagram at @RachelCruze and online at rachelcruze.com, youtube.com/rachelcruze or facebook.com/rachelramseycruze.