We chat about money. We track our spending. We even make a laughably simple budget every month. (Hello, “Make a Copy” in Google Sheets.)
My husband and I have also crushed some major milestones. Some that I’ve celebrated here and others that I haven’t talked about yet. We’ve paid over $80K towards our debt in three years. We got rid of our car payments. I even technically have over $100K in my retirement accounts if you count what I’ve paid into my pension. (But we all know pensions don’t count because they are figments of my broke a$s state’s imagination). By many metrics, we are in solid financial shape.
So why do I get so down about money still? It turns out that while the personal finance world is all aflutter with tips and tricks to get your finances in line, there is a psychological side to making progress, too. Here are four things that I’m just starting to figure out:
Progress isn’t a straight line.
In a lot of ways, it feels like we are so dialed into our money goals that we should just be able to set the destination and get there. Like taking the highway with Google Maps. The problem is financial progress is a lot more like setting your GPS to the least efficient route possible, losing cell coverage, and improvising with a lot of left turns. Even if there aren’t setbacks per se, there isn’t one fast lane for the entire ride, either.
Success isn’t something you can always see.
All those left turns that you take? They’re really frustrating in the moment. But somehow, when you make it to your destination, you focus on where you are, rather than how you got there. That’s the problem with success. It is so easy to celebrate the grand moments of no car payments, hard-earned raises, and stock market triumphs that we forget all the teeny steps that it took to get there.
The needle won’t always move.
This year has been an exercise in spinning our wheels in a lot of ways. We used to use our side hustles to plow ahead. Now we use them to attempt to offset the cost of childcare (we failed this month). While rational me knows that covering the cost of childcare is a huge victory, I can’t help but feel more than just a little agitated when I think about using our side hustle income to break even for the month rather than get ahead like we used to. The real truth is that childcare costs aren’t forever, and one day, the needle will move again. Just staying afloat is progress even if it doesn’t feel like it.
Patience is a virtue that I don’t have.
This is the boring part of personal finance. You make a lot of smart money moves, and then you just wait. That’s it.
Want a perfect credit score? Boosting length of credit take times. Want to grow your investments? Compounding takes time. You front load with all sorts of impressive actions and then you let time do its thing. I tell myself to have patience, but it turns out, I’m not a very good grasshopper.
Final Thought on Financial Progress
There’s no denying it. We have a long slog ahead of us. The numbers add up on paper, but it’s important for me to remember that life does not unfold according to a spreadsheet.
So Tell Me…What do you wish you would have known about making strides with your money?