I have a confession to make, everyone. This morning I went through the Starbucks drive-thru on my way to the post office to pick up some mail. And I bought a fancy expensive coffee. You know the kind.
(Pause for horrified silence)
Honestly, it was a nice treat, and I enjoyed every ounce of it. I was having a crazy mom morning (you know the kind) and caffeine sounded awesome and, well, I needed to get my toddler out of the house before we both had a breakdown.
I really don’t do that very often. I’ve sort of given up coffee altogether, actually. These days it’s only once in a while that I fall off the wagon and decide on a coffee. And it’s usually on crazy days like today when I feel like I need some sort of a fix to get me through, and well… you know… coffee is just more appropriate than beer at 10 am. 🙂
But that got me thinking… does that mean that I’m slacking on frugal motivation right now?
We are still in hardcore debt payoff mode, looking at being done with student loans forever by next summer. I am still hustlin’ my butt off, selling stuff on eBay and Craigslist. Blog revenue is slowly but steadily increasing. I even landed my first consultant gig recently, helping another blogger get his Pinterest strategy up and running.
In other words, despite my recent coffee transgression, I am still super motivated to get out of debt! Nope, that motivation has not died at all. I still work toward being as much of a financial rock star as I possibly can be, on a daily basis! So how do I explain the coffee?
How to Motivate Yourself to be a Financial Rock Star
To begin with, it helps me a lot to think about what money means to me in the first place. I mean, money itself is just paper, right? Is the paper itself that valuable? I have no idea (any counterfeiters out there who know? Just kidding!!) No, it is what money represents that has value. And money likely represents something different to each of us.
I personally think that one of the best ways to help motivate yourself in terms of your money is to spend some time thinking carefully about what money actually means to you.
What Does Money Mean to You?
For some, money represents security- knowing that if tomorrow your job or your livelihood goes up in smoke, that you will be ok. For some, money may represent safety- being able to live with a roof over your and your children’s heads. For others it represents freedom- perhaps freedom to walk away from a job you don’t like, freedom to travel the world, etc. For others it may mean the ability to realize a specific goal, such as purchasing a home or getting out of debt.
I personally don’t think that wanting to be rich just to be rich is enough motivation. I’m sure there are people out there who’ve done it, but are they happy/satisfied/fulfilled?
Said another way, if you do not have a strong purpose for going where you are going, then what is the use in going there?
I think it is essential to determine your motivation, or your big WHY?, before you begin your journey to a specific financial goal. The reason that I think this is because the road to any goal worth achieving is not usually smooth. On the contrary, it may often be long, dimly lit, and filled with various obstacles, potholes, etc., that try to derail us on our journey to financial greatness. You have to have a certain amount of courage to keep going when the going gets tough. You have to have the resolve to succeed no matter what. Otherwise, where will your motivation come from on the many difficult days when you want to quit?
Once you figure out your big WHY?, then the rest will get easier. It’s easier to bring your lunch to work every day (as opposed to eating out) if you can visualize the day your daughter walks across the stage to get her college degree.
It’s easier to say no to the latest gadget if you can visualize your awesome dream of buying a home with a backyard for your kids to play in.
And for us, it’s easier to make decisions like keeping our crappy car for as long as possible, since saving money on things like car payments is one of the reasons why we are currently making mad progress on student loan debt payoff.
This knowledge and this deep purpose gets us through on days when we are experiencing a case of the “wants.” Just last week Mr. CMF had a few days off and we kind of wanted to get out of town for a few days. We even had a hotel booked in our favorite mountain town, about five hours away. But we were both getting over colds, and we knew we probably would not get maximum enjoyment out of it, AND we knew that spending money there would put us farther away from our big goal of getting out of student loan debt forever. Needless to say, we cancelled the trip.
All that being said, I am not perfect and I am not striving for perfection here. That’s how I explain the coffee. Life happens, and life can be pretty short. We may as well enjoy it while it lasts. For me, the little splurge on coffee this morning helped my sanity just enough to make it money very well spent. 🙂
Have you spent time thinking about what money actually means to you? If so, how do you use that to motivate yourself to stay the path with your money goals?
Suggested Reading: A GREAT personal finance book that spends a lot of time discussing this important topic is Your Money or Your Life. This is one of my favorite personal finance books, and it is definitely worth a read if you have not already read it.
CMF’s favorite FREE money management tools!
Some of the best online tools out there for money management are at Personal Capital, and the awesome news is that they are all FREE! Cash flow tracker, 401(k) fee analyzer, investment checkup, net worth monitoring, and many more! I’m a net worth junkie, so the net worth monitor is my favorite. Check out my Personal Capital review here, or click here to check out all the awesome tools for yourself!
Photo credit: Day 283 / 365 – Skills, creative commons (license), 9/30/15, with changes
Kalie @ Pretend to Be Poor says
I think the fancy coffee is only a problem when it represents and overall lifestyle. Sounds like you’re super motivated. I agree that considering what money means to you is important and motivating. For us, its purpose is meeting needs now and in the future, for ourselves and others.
Dee S says
We are definitely hugely motivated right now- looking to be done with our student loan debt next year, hopefully in the summer! Cannot wait!!
Shannon @ The Heavy Purse says
I actually think people tend to over exaggerate the issue of fancy coffee or Starbucks runs. Yes, people should be aware that there is a higher cost associated with buying Starbucks versus brewing their own, but the occasional cup of joe isn’t what caused most people to go into consumer debt. It was mindless spending, playing keep up, living beyond their means. If someone mindfully chooses to indulge in a fancy espresso and still stays within their monthly budget – does it really matter if $4 of their budget went to coffee? I think not. What matters is staying within your budget. Life is messy and emotional and sometimes you really, really want that coffee, so you juggle it in to fit your budget – and that’s life. And I do agree wholeheartedly that you have to give your money purpose to help stay focused AND to also know that a cup of coffee can be its purpose too.
Dee S says
Thanks Shannon! I would agree that often it is easy to focus on the little things and forget about the big things like keeping your car a few extra years rather than buying a new one, shopping around for a low mortgage rate, etc. I try for a balance- not going for the fancy coffee too often, but letting myself indulge if I want to. We try to spend a lot more of our time focusing on the big purchasing decisions since we feel that’s where the big dollars can be saved!
Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says
Having had those “verge of a breakdown” days myself, I think the coffee was a worthwhile splurge since you only do it occasionally, Dee. The question becomes, how often is “occasionally”? 🙂
Dee S says
I know, it’s a slippery slope, isn’t it? Personally, I try not to go for Starbucks more than once a month or so, although I’d be lying if I said it didn’t sometimes happen more than once a month! That’s one of my weaknesses, and I try really hard to watch it! Lately I’ve sort of stopped drinking coffee as much, so that’s been helping a lot in that area actually 🙂
On the bright side, even though you’re still in debt, you have the solid foundation to have the occasional splurge.
We all want to be comfortable. Staying motivated when you’re uncomfortable is easy. Doing it when you’re comfortable takes a special kind of grit. No point causing yourself that same level of pain when you don’t need to. Everyone needs a little break now and again. Especially when babies are involved.
Dee S says
“Staying motivated when you’re uncomfortable is easy. Doing it when you’re comfortable takes a special kind of grit.” <--- Love this! So well said. It was easy for me to turn down things like coffee when I was broke as a joke. It has indeed gotten harder now that we make more, have more in savings, less in debt, etc.