*Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, so I may receive a commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. This is not financial advice. I am not a financial advisor.
Money is a beast. We earn it, and we spend it. We depend on it, and we make countless decisions based on it.
It can bring us enormous joy or great suffering. It tears apart relationships and ruins families.
We chase it, and yet we never seem to have enough of it. And mostly it completely slips through our fingers, losing it faster than we can even think.
Let’s take a better look, why most of us are so terrible at managing our money and how we can win at personal finance.
BOOKS ABOUT PERSONAL FINANCE
Dave Ramsey: Total Money Makeover
Robert Kiyosaki: Rich Dad Poor Dad
Tony Robbins: Unshakable
Napoleon Hill: Think and grow rich
HOW MINIMALISM HELPED ME WITH MY MONEY PROBLEMS
Seeing my mom almost killing her self working for money and then fighting about it with my dad most of the time, has manifested two thoughts into my young brain:
1. “Money won’t buy you happiness, but poverty neither – so you better work for it.”
2. “Money is the root of all evil.”
And due to these contradicting beliefs, my money spendings got out of control once I finally earned my salary.
I worked my ass off to make sure I had enough money but spent it mindlessly on unnecessary and expensive stuff to show off that I wasn’t poor.
I rented expensive apartments, bought cars, motorbikes, expensive road bikes, lots of fancy gadgets, and ate out almost every day. By the end of the month, I was mostly broke.
I often felt terrible guilt of being so reckless with money. However, I hardly ever questioned my spending habits. Luckily, I never went into consumer debt, though, I was still terrible at managing my finances. Even when I earned more, I found ways to spend more.
One day, I took the foot of the pedal, looked around, and thought: “Damn, I put so much effort, time, and energy to earn money to then lose it on things I don’t even need. What a waste!”
I finally realized that money is one of life’s most significant resources. I knew I had to regain control of my finances before money got too important, namely when having none of it.
I had to learn to make repeated wise decisions about my money, change my financial habits, and start living deliberately. And that’s when minimalism came in handy.
REASONS WHY MOST PEOPLE ARE TERRIBLE WITH FINANCES
1. LACK OF FINANCIAL LITERACY
Most people avoid financial education, just like I did. Why? Because it’s connected to math – and I know we all hate math. I found it complicated and dull. Plus, financial education at school is ridiculous.
We learn all the fancy algebra and trigonometry stuff, but close to none about managing money!
However, knowing now that it can cause so much sorrow when not under control, it is vitally important to learn about finances from an early age on.
Most parents don’t teach their children about finances, due to their lack of financial education as well. No wonder we also rarely talk about it, which brings me to my next point.
2. TALKING ABOUT MONEY IS TABOO
How often do you talk about money with your family members, friends, or co-workers? I mostly have conversations about if something was cheap or expensive, but that’s about it.
We rarely talk about money because it feels awkward and out of fear of being judged or downright offended.
Money in our society is too personal, and we think we are all better off by avoiding talking about it – and that is a huge problem.
In order to improve our relationship with money, we need to learn and have honest conversations about it.
We need to normalize the idea of money by immersing ourselves more in money conversations and learn skills for personal finance.
Only then can we make wise decisions, feel secure, pay our bills, and get comfortable with it in life.
2. INABILITY OF LATE GRATIFICATION
Making wise money decisions is simple but inherently easy, especially in the tyranny of our present consumer culture.
We buy a ton of shit, and we convince ourselves that we deserve it. And most advertisements are designed to make us feel as if we deserve the indulgence.
As a result, we reward ourselves immediately by buying useless stuff compulsively instead of using money more deliberately. And further, many dig themselves into a debt hole so deep that it seems impossible escaping it.
Some justify their spending habits with the saying “You live only once!”, “You might die tomorrow, so why save?!”. Well, if you are rich, then I guess it’s easy to think that way.
But for most of us who are not, this thought is honestly too short-sighted.
Mostly those who think that way struggle with money or are unhappy with their financial situation. It’s more likely that you will live a long life!
Therefore we need to find the right balance of living a good life without overspending or being too thrifty.
3. FEAR OF MISSING OUT
I’m sure you have also felt the pressure of buying something that everybody else had. And you surely told and convinced yourself that you needed to buy that thing out of fear of missing out.
I can completely relate to that because we face pressure from all directions, from our families, friends, social media, and also from our selves.
If we are not mindful of our surroundings and social media feeds, it can be very tempting to keep up with friends or influencers who tell us to buy things that we don’t have, because we so desperately need them.
But this only holds us back from our own goals and dreams.
4. FALSE BELIEFS ABOUT MONEY
I believe that what we experience in our youth regarding money has a significant impact on how we view and behave with money as adults.
We receive various messages about money as children, some good, some bad. Most of us grew up with the wrong stories about money. As a result, we have cultivated negative subconscious beliefs that influence our behavior as adults.
That said, if we grow up experiencing negativity around it we create faulty belief systems about money like “money is the root of all evil”, “money makes corrupt”, or “rich people are greedy”.
And vice versa, if we learn positive things about finances from an early age on, we develop positive thoughts such as “money is good and provides us with what we need” and “we can use the money to help others”.
To say or think that “money is not important” is honestly silly! Why work for it then for decades? Lack of money will get you nowhere, but owning it gives you a ton of options and more freedom.
As a financial minimalist myself, I decided to be in peace with money. And changing my negative money beliefs into positive helped me do so.
5. BAD MONEY HABITS
There are numerous cases of high earning individuals who end up in debt troubles due to overspending.
Or lottery millionaires who end up being broke again soon after because they can not handle money responsibly. Their spending habits are simply out of control.
Earning a big salary doesn’t automatically mean that you are rich. Because in the end, it doesn’t matter how much you make, but how much you keep!
If you avoid learning to manage money, it will control you and have an enormous negative impact on your life!
That is the reason why rich people are rich. They learn positive things about money, develop good money habits, learn how to control it, and make smart decisions around it.
Fortunately regaining control of our finances is no rocket science. We just have to decide to take back control of our finances and follow simple steps to ensure that we never again struggle with money.
SIMPLE STEPS HOW TO WIN AT PERSONAL FINANCE
I know that life can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be, and managing your money doesn’t have to be complicated.
In fact, it’s pretty straightforward and there is a simple formula to win at personal finance: SPEND LESS MONEY THAN YOU MAKE!
I know, in practice, it’s not so easy, but there is no way around it! You have to learn to make repeated wise decisions with the resources you have, change your financial habits, and live more deliberately.
Here are the steps I took, to ensure that I will never again struggle with money.
POWERFUL TIPS TO GET RID OF YOUR MONEY PROBLEMS
We all need money. But we also need to learn how to manage it before it gets out of control and vanishes for good. Most of us are awful with finances and handle money carelessly.
But it becomes clear how important it is when we think about having no security and safety, or not being able to take care of ourselves and our loved ones when they are in trouble without it.
And debt makes everything even harder. But we all deserve to be debt-free and live in freedom.
We need to realize that we have a problem with money and then follow these steps to succeed in personal finance.
1. FOLLOW A SIMPLE BUDGET PLAN
No matter how much money we make, our bank accounts seem to run a totally different program. That’s why the first step to live more financially free is to step back and take stock of all your accounts to get a perspective of what’s going on.
It’s like opening a messy closet full of clothes and having a look into it. It can be intimidating at first, but once you have identified and eliminated unnecessary expenses, it will get less overwhelming.
Another way is to use expense tracking apps like Every Dollar or Mint that allow you to track your expenses on your phone with ease.
Do weekly or monthly money checking and see if your spendings align with your goals and values. And if you are unhappy with the results, you will know what to change.
3. GET OUT OF DEBT
It’s so much harder to live free when you are drowning in a car, consumer, or student-loan debt. According to The Minimalists, there is no such thing as good debt.
Some may be better than others, such as a mortgage or business loan, but you will never really feel free unless you are debt-free. Naturally, the debtor is always slave to the lender. I couldn’t agree more.
If you are in debt, ask your self why you are in that situation. The reason is because you couldn’t afford to pay that new iPhone, that shiny car or those fancy clothes in the first place!
And guess what? Those consumer debts have the highest interest rates and will cause you to stay in debt for as long as possible.
Make it an absolute necessity to get out of debt. Face your problem, cut down on your expenses, and aggressively pay back your debt.
Get Dave Ramsey’s: Total Money Makeover and follow his detailed, step-by-step formula that will help you to create an accurate plan, cut-up your credit cards, and eliminate your debts.
Lastly, stay out of debt by avoiding spending on things that you can’t afford!
3. PAY YOUR SELF FIRST
This strategy is unknown to most of us, but all the rich apply it, and we all should. Paying your self first means that instead of saving what is left, after paying all our bills by the end of the month, you reverse the process and pay yourself a certain amount before dealing with the rest.
That ensures that your savings or investments are taken care of first and can then grow. Of course, this requires sacrifices, but often less than you think.
And it sets boundaries to your spendings and most likely stop you from going into debt. After using my budget plan, you will surely find something to cut back on.
The money that would otherwise have uselessly disappeared can then be used to pay your self first.
Paying yourself first allows you to build an emergency fund for rainy days. It enables you to gain financial security.
And as soon as your safety net is big enough to sustain you in case of financial instabilities, job loss, or other difficulties, you can then invest your excess money to ensure you more financial freedom.
Apply this strategy today! Even if that means only with 1% of your income. Believe me, this strategy is fun, and you will most probably get more motivated to find ways to pay yourself more. Cultivate this habit, and you will thank yourself later!
4. MINIMIZE YOUR SPENDING, LIVE THRIFTY, LIVE FRUGALLY
What minimalists do well with is knowing that time is the most valuable resource and always question if the money they want to spend is worth the time you have spent earning it.
We have lost the thrifty mentality in our convenience and consumerist-driven world, but its values are immense and worth cultivating again.
Minimize your spending to maximize your financial stability! Live frugally and question your expenses. You most probably already have everything you need, everything else you can call luxury.
Avoid the trap of lifestyle inflation and stop constantly upgrading your life with the newest things. As we know, we face a lot of pressure to do the exact opposite. And sometimes it’s really tempting to surrender and follow those influences.
But you can outmaneuver these forces and find and avoid the triggers of mindless spending.
By building a healthy relationship with money and create positive habits that stick, you will be able to become financially free.
5. EDUCATE YOURSELF
The best way to learn about finances is by reading books, reading financial blogs, or financial podcasts. Here are my absolute favorite resources for your personal finance.
Dave Ramsey: Total Money Makeover
Robert Kiyosaki: Rich Dad Poor Dad
Tony Robbins: Unshakable
Napoleon Hill: Think and grow rich
Bodo Schäfer: Der weg zur finanziellen Freiheit
Mr. Money Mustache
Budgets are sexy
Bigger Pockets Money Podcast
The Dave Ramsey Show
Der Finanzrocker (German Podcast)
Secondly, find a money mentor. Have conversations about money with someone who you admire and who is good with finances. Pick his or her brains and copy their strategies.
I wish I had someone like me with my present knowledge about finances when I grew up. It would have saved me a ton of money!
Money is neither bad nor good. In its core, it’s another resource. The question is how we use it and how we feel about what we are doing with it.
Nevertheless, it is crucial to learn how to control your money, or it will control you.
By getting rid of the shadows around money topics and money fears, we can start to feel more confident and more comfortable with it.
So let’s embrace money by learning positive things about it. Let’s continue investing in financial awareness and talk more about it. And let us use it more mindful and deliberate so that we can be more financially free.