For many of us, money may feel like a sleight-of-hand magic trick: it disappears and reappears before your eyes without any reasonable explanation. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Not sure what’s really getting in the way of your goals? Here are the top four reasons people don’t reach their dreams along with some practical fixes to help turn your financial situation right-side up:
You have no budget. Living without a budget is like going on a road trip with no map: It just leads to poor choices and mounting frustration. If you hate thinking about or dealing with money, you’re not alone. Only one in three Americans prepare a budget, which means that two-thirds of people don’t have a clear idea of where their money is going.
Fix: Getting a firm grasp of your financial situation begins with basics such as knowing how much you’re bringing in each month and how much is going out. “It may be the “b-word” to some people, but setting financial boundaries keeps me from living beyond my means,” explains Erin Lowry of Broke Millennial. You can use a free app such as Mint, Level Money, or LearnVest, which will do most of the work for you, or you can create your own with a spreadsheet (free templates here). “Look for places you can trim the fat and save a little more each month,” Lowry suggests.
You are ignoring your debt. The average student loan balance per household in the U.S. is $30,000, while the average credit card debt is $15,609. Whether it’s student loans, credit card bills, or looming car payments, ignoring the fact that you have debt to pay off will hinder you from making headway on what you want in life.
Fix: Sophia Bera, founder of GenY Planning and author of What You Should Have Learned About Money, But Never Did, recommends focusing on paying down any debt with an interest rate of over 5 percent. Where there’s debt, there are also options. For student loans, check the Student Federal Aid site to see what repayment plans you might qualify for. If you have a car loan with a high interest rate, consider visiting your local credit union branch to see if you qualify to refinance your auto loan.
You suffer from lifestyle inflation. Sure, it’s your money and you’re free to do whatever you want with it, but it’s a problem when you overextend your finances into things you can’t afford or bank on money that is yet to come. In our age of YOLO and FOMO, where missing out on all life has to offer is considered a cardinal sin, it can be hard to separate your wants from your needs.
Fix: If you experience a change in income, it really helps to carefully look over your budget and make any necessary adjustments. If you find yourself resorting to swiping plastic during rough times, build a small buffer fund to get you through the tough times. You can also use CO-OP’s CardNav feature, where you can automatically turn your card off once you’ve reached a set limit.
You are a compulsive shopper. We’ve all been guilty of it. Whether you indulge in retail therapy, are a gadget head who just has to have the latest and greatest technology, or fall prey to online mega sales, it’s easy to go overboard and fall into a vicious cycle of debt and overspending.
Fix: Practice delayed gratification by putting items you want on a wish list, and give it 15 or 30 days to see if you still want it. To resist temptation, you can also try unsubscribing to email lists and unfollowing Instagram feeds of your favorite stores. Remember: It’s up to you to make sure something you buy has value in your life that goes beyond the initial thrill of purchasing it.
Your long-term goals and dreams won’t materialize unless they’re backed up with a sound financial plan. By understanding where your money pitfalls lie, you can avoid obstacles that get in the way of going for what you really want in life. By changing a few habits and taking baby steps, you’ll get there in no time.