4 Steps to Harness Financial Self-Discipline

by Alexa Mason · 18 comments

What separates the financially successful from the financially doomed?

Two words: self-discipline.

Self-discipline is “the ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it.” And when it comes to personal finance, self-discipline is what you can thank for your success — or your failure.

If self-discipline is one of the areas in which you’re lacking, it’s time to regain control. Here are four steps to help you develop financial self-discipline.

1. Stop Making Excuses

How many times have you set a big audacious goal only to find every reason in the world not to follow through? We’ve all been there.

Making excuses is easy. Blaming circumstances is easy. Following through is not.

Before becoming interested in personal finance, I thought credit cards were fun. After all, how nice is it to walk into a store and buy a flat screen TV? My nineteen-year-old self definitely thought it was pretty cool.

It was only after I maxed out my credit cards that I realized I was the one paying for the TV, and then some. I would tell myself “I’ll pay extra next month.” Next month always came around, and I always had the same excuse. Two years and many excuses later, I finally paid off a measly $1,500 in credit card debt.

Fortunately, I chalk this up as an experience that has encouraged me to make wiser financial decisions. Make sacrifices now; get rewarded later.

It’s time to stop making excuses. You’re the one in the driver’s seat, so take control.

2. Make a Plan

No matter what your financial situation is, you need a goal and a plan. If you want to pay off debt, set yourself a debt-free target date and calculate how much money you need to be paying each month.

If you’re trying to save money, tie an amount and a date to it. Giving your goals deadlines make them feel more real. You need concrete numbers to work towards. Break your big goals into monthly, weekly, and if applicable, daily goals. This is your plan.

3. Follow the Plan

Once you have the plan, it’s time to execute.

If you’ve made your goals a bit of a challenge, you’re going to have to make some sacrifices in order to reach them. You’ll have to scale your budget down, work extra hours, or both. This will require self-discipline AND follow through.

Use your mini goals as motivation. No excuses. No giving up. Self-discipline breeds self-discipline. Stay strong for the first few weeks, and you’ll find that following the plan gets easier.

4. Pick Yourself Back Up

You are human. You will mess up. You will fall down. That’s okay: just remember to pick yourself back up.

We all come with our own set of flaws. If you really want to succeed financially, you’ll need to realize that success starts with you. You’re in control of your future. The power’s in your hands, so use it wisely.

If you’re willing to make temporary sacrifices to get to where you want to be, your efforts will pay you back tenfold. Practice self-discipline in your finances, and you’ll soon find it spreading throughout other areas of your life. Before you know it, you’ll be the person you always dreamed of being.

Do you have financial self-discipline?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Saiful says:

    Self-discipline is “the ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it.”

    Nice info…

  • The whole giving up indulgences now for that future reward is something I struggle with. I can convince myself that I need something now and that it can’t wait. Oh you should really upgrade your computer or just one night out on the town to celebrate…uhh…another week not quitting your job! I’m going to be too old to enjoy retirement so might as well blow it all now.

    And a million other excuses. With practice though it does get easier to harness that discipline, and the future reward is much greater than any new computer or poorly cook steak and bitter mixed drinks now.

    • MoneyNing says:

      Thinking about expenses as it relates to how much you are delaying retirement is an incredibly effective way to reduce consumption.

      I’m sure you’ll be telling us about your final day of work really soon. Congrats in advance!

  • Raja Premi says:

    We need to really focus on the plan anda take action !!. Good luck for all of us

  • Phil says:

    Several things about budgeting:

    1. Create it yourself. Don’t use a template, except to help you. You will “own” it more.

    2. It takes 3-4 months to get it right! Really. I sometimes go back and look at my first budget, and laugh at the amounts. $200 for groceries! In my dreams. Today it is more like $1500 to $2000 (family of 4).

    3. I have my on drive.google.com. I never lose it because of viruses, etc. After creating your spending and income categories have someone help you type in the formulas to add/subtract on the budget spreadsheet.

    4. It is an evolving document. Give it time. Give it 3-4 months to get it “mostly” right. Don’t give up.

    Here are my categories/ with FAKE amounts next to them.

    Mortgage $1200
    Water $30
    Electricity $150
    Garbage $15
    Auto Insurance $87
    Child Care $200
    Cottonwood HOA $25
    NetFlix $12.99
    Dish Network $40
    Frontier (DSL) $30
    Cell Phones $90
    Husband Life Ins $25
    Wife Life Ins $20
    Husband Roth $400
    Wife Roth $400
    FAMILY$2000
    WIFE (fun money) $300
    HUSBAND (fun money) $300

    The last 3 categories are very important (hence the ALL CAPS). I print out 3 sheets to show what was bought or where it was bought, and then subtract remaining amount from cost. All three sheets sit on the kitchen counter next to a calculator and pencil.

    Example: I have $300. I bought a pair of Asic running shoes for $73. $300-73=227 remaining.

    • MoneyNing says:

      Thanks for the example. Our household could really use an explicitly stated FUN money category! It’s an awesome way to stop “my” addiction to seeing my account balance grow! 🙂

  • dojo says:

    I am not as disciplined as I wished, but am making a pretty serious progress towards it. Budgeting, being consistent and having clear goals will surely help.

  • Tiffany says:

    4. “Pick Yourself Back Up –

    We all make mistakes! Don’t beat yourself up, but be sure to fix it! Thank you. 🙂

  • Phil says:

    #5 Make a budget, and stick to it. We have been on a budget since spring of 2007. We have since paid cash for 2 cars, have thousands more in the bank, and managed to invest over $1000 per month…on school teachers salaries.

    It is all about the budget.

    • Britney says:

      Thank you for that motivating comment! A great excuse for me is always saying, “But I don’t make enough!” Do you have recommendation on where to find a good budget outline?

    • Alexa says:

      That’s awesome Phil. Definitely very inspiring! Making a budget, or a plan, and following through is definitely the best way to get ahead financially. No matter how much you make. Congrats to you!

    • MoneyNing says:

      Congrats Phil. I would second the praise for a budget. We started one a few years ago, and seeing each expense laid out really motivates us to try to reduce them.

      It’s great because most things, like calling the internet provider to extend our discount, requires absolutely no sacrifice on our part. But the result of all the savings is more money in the bank and being much closer to freedom!

      • Phil says:

        MoneyNing,

        Thanks for creating an awesome blog. I enjoy reading. I have been “broke”, but never “poor”. “Poor” is a state of mind. I decided to make more and spend less.

        When you have money, you get to make more money. Next year, a family boat. Budget…about $3000. Should be fun. Most people would finance a $10,000 boat, and try to see if they could afford the monthly payments. Not how you want to live life.

        • MoneyNing says:

          Thanks for the encouragement. I’m glad you found the blog and what we write about enjoyable.

          You are definitely on the right track with your boat purchase. I bet you’ll have more fun with a $3,000 boat than those people who just whip out their credit card and finance a $10,000 one. And you won’t have the debt they will end up carrying either!

    • Silas says:

      Hardest part about that is definitely sticking with it. You can never really predict the unexpected “dates” and “outings”. Self-discipline requires sacrifice and the sense to say ‘no’ to unnecessary spending.

      • MoneyNing says:

        One tip I got before about budgeting is to add the unexpected, and infrequent expenses into the budget as well. If an once every 10 year car purchase costs $12,000, then add $1,200 to the yearly (or $100 to the monthly) budget.

        You won’t know where unexpected expenses will be ahead of time, but you can probably guesstimate an approximate number to add to the budget based on past history. Use the same logic as the infrequent expenses to change that into a monthly dollar amount to allocate to the “Opps” expense.

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