I was at dinner a couple of months ago with a group of ladies I’d just met. As we were getting to know each other, the conversation turned to what we all did for work.

When I shared that I help women make the best money and career decisions they can make, the conversation took a nerdy turn.

One person asked me what I thought financial stability was, I answered that to me it’s having enough to be able to make the right choices in my career and my life. To be able to leave a job I don’t like, pursue something that may be less lucrative, or move to a new location if I want or need to. To not feel beholden to things because of lack of funds.

Apparently, that wasn’t quite the right answer for her. She scoffed (rude) and told me that was a fantasy. Awkwardly, the conversation moved on quickly.

A few weeks later a different person who was at the dinner reached out to me. While my answer clearly hadn’t inspired much confidence in the person who asked it, it had caught the ear of someone else at the table. And not only did she want to learn more, she wanted me to come in and teach a workshop for her women’s group.

So next weekend I’m off to teach the workshop, and as I’m preparing for it, I wanted to share my system with you.

Now this isn’t a get rich quick scheme (obviously) or something that will happen overnight (my loans took just over 3 years to pay off).

But here’s why it works for me: I hate feeling stuck.

 

I want to know that I’m doing something every day that is helping me to have more options down the road, whether that be 6 months or 5 years. Yes, saving for retirement is great, but I don’t want to wait until I’m in my 60’s to have real adventures. I want to know that I also have something stashed away (or that my debt is gone) so that I can make the best decisions for me, rather than out of fear of my bank account.

Money impacts both your big and small life decisions, including career decisions. It can give you the power to make the choices that are best for your career or it can leave you feeling stuck. I prefer to use it to help me make the best choices.

Step 1: Own where you are

This is the worst part, but I swear it’s like ripping a band-aid off. Once you do it and do it quickly, you’ll feel so much better. I vividly remember the fear of having to get totally honest with myself about where I was financially. My debt, my savings (or lack thereof), and my real income. But you really can’t move on until you’ve done this, so buckle up.

For this first step, you want to get a handle on where you are right now. Today. Take a look at what you have in your bank and investment accounts. You could also add in any assets that you have, to make this a comprehensive net worth calculation.

Then we move to the part that makes people (myself included) squirm. Take stock of any debt you have. Credit card, student loan

Want help making this list? Grab the spreadsheet to help guide you through it all.

Step 2: Set your goals

If step 1 is the worst, step 2 is the best. This is where you get to actually put all of those wants down in writing! Dream big with what your (financial) goals are. Do you want to save up money so you can switch to a lower paying job? Do you want to strike out on your own and need a little cushion to get you through the rough first months of business? Or do you want to travel, take a sabbatical, move to a new city, or buy a house?

Pick what your goal is and give it a dollar amount.

When I wanted to leave a job, I knew I needed to get rid of my student loan. The dollar amount I set was equal to my student loan debt.

A friend of mine made a move to a job that was lower paying, initially. To help her bridge the gap for the first two years until she began making more, she set her goal to save up half of the difference between her current salary and her new salary.

A woman that I helped with this plan decided to she wanted to move to a new city for a job. New city = more expenses. We set the goal to help her save up for a deposit on a new apartment, a new car, and some fun money to get to know her new spot.

Setting the goals is fun, I promise.

Step 3: Make a plan

Once you’ve decided what you need in the bank, it’s time to figure out how to get there. You’ll want to bridge the gap between where you are and where you’re going.

Don’t overthink this – it doesn’t need to be difficult. Simply figure out in how many months you want to get to that goal and then how much you need to set aside each month in order to hit that date.

Make it easy and get my spreadsheet, which will do the calc for you.

Step 4: Build your dream

So now that you know what you need in your bank (or paying off your debt) each month, it’s time to either make more or spend less.

While I’m pretty vocal about my disdain for budgeting, I hate waste. Especially when it comes to money. So while I won’t “budget” per se, I will look for these things to make sure that less money is flowing out of my bank account:

  • Are there any recurring subscriptions that I don’t need?
  • Can I call and negotiate any bills (like my cell phone or internet)?
  • Am I spending in line with my priorities
  • Am I mindlessly spending?

And while those are all great steps, one that’s just as important, though is often overlooked is making more. Scrimping and saving only gets you so far and if you really want to make progress in getting toward your goals, you have to look at how you can also make more.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Are you underpaid? Use these tactics to figure out if you are making less than market rate and then negotiate!
  • Have a skill others need? Pick up a side hustle. I started writing as a side hustle – with no writing experience – and that money went straight to funding my dreams.
  • Rent a room out for the weekend, walk some dogs (it’s amazing how much some people pay!), or babysit some kids (not just for 16-year-olds, this helped put me through business school).

Step 5: Make like Nike and Just do it (consistently)

I make lots of plans, but if I have to depend on my own discipline to stick to them, they’re likely not going to happen consistently. That’s why if I’m really serious about doing something – saving money for a specific purpose or paying off debt, it must be automated.

If you’re the same way, try my anti-budget, budget. It’s the system I use on auto-pilot to make sure I stick to what I say I’ll do.

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