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Prioritizing Your Dollars

Prioritizing Your Dollars

| March 14, 2023

Money is tight for many families today. Just a couple of years ago, most Americans felt pretty good. We had higher than ever real wages, the government was pumping money into the economy, and prices were cheap. Today these are mere memories: Families are being squeezed by both inflation and the government pulling money out of the economy, and rising interest rates.

It’s times like these that remind me of the oil fields of Texas as prime example. When things are good, things are really good. Workers are making money hand over fist, and our economy thrives from it. The problem is that most of these workers build up a lifestyle that they can’t maintain when the party ends. The oil industry is and has been notorious for its monetary roller coaster and this happens time and time again. These bad habits don’t break. People spend before they save. They make hay when it rains, but consume it all before the next drought.

What can we learn from these recent years? We went from some of the healthiest income levels and bank balances our country has seen in modern history to, well, where we are today. Most American families are on pins and needles. They saved – some - but was it enough?

We have an addiction in this country. Well, we have several, but the one I want to note here is the addiction to spending. “Keeping with up the Jones’” has been the name of the game for far too long. We carry a lot of baggage to justify it. The two biggest bags are called “blame” and “excuses.”

This is very candid talk, but necessary. We are at a breaking point. Across the board, we need to change our ways. The question is, How do we do it? Much less how do we do it right now, when money is already tight and consumer debt is climbing?

It starts with “the truth.” Dan Sullivan, founder of Strategic Coach, gave us one of the truest statements ever said. All progress starts by telling the truth.

First, you have to tell yourself the truth. If you can’t recognize your own baggage, then you won’t be able to drop it at all. So, ask yourself some questions:

  • Where are you today financially and how did you get there?
  • What are the best decisions you have made financially? What were the worst?
  • What are the good habits you have? What are the bad habits?
  • What keeps you awake at night?
  • Where are you spending each dollar? Do you even know?
  • Are you saving enough? Do you even know?

This is where progress begins!

Now, imagine that you have a magic wand. Imagine you could swipe that wand and start fresh. Then answer this question:

What do you value most?

I don’t know your answer, but I bet it isn’t the new cars, fancy house, nice clothes, or toys. My bet is that your answer consists of your faith, family, friendships, causes you support, your own well-being, or something close to at least one of these.

We forget that our money is a tool and it should be treated as such. We lose ourselves in the stack obligations that are self-generated by things we buy or we justify we need. That is entirely backwards!

If your faith is important, then give first!
If your future, family, and well-being are important, then save now and save big!
If you value your relationships, make room for quality time, vacations, and memory making instead of things!

There is a great book called The Opposite of Spoiled by Ron Lieber. It was written for parents to teach their kids how to have a healthy relationship with money and live a financially savvy life. I use many of his teachings with my own children and I want to share some of this insight.

Our kids each have four jars:

  1. Give
  2. Invest
  3. Save
  4. Spend

Each time they receive money, they divvy it up before they do anything. They give first, pay themselves second, save to spend for major purchase or things they want to do, then spend the rest.

Why should our money, as adults, be treated any different?

I want to challenge you to tell yourself the truth, give yourself grace for what you can’t change, and start changing your future one step at a time. You don’t get out of a forest that you have walked into for years or even decades overnight. But if you don’t start somewhere...what will that future look like?

Prioritize your dollars to match your values and don’t delay!