Financial discipline is not something that comes with age or growing obligations. People may lack discipline in managing their money even if they are able to lead successful personal and professional lives. They may be misusing spending as a therapy — something to cheer up when feeling down, or they may be simply unable to manage their money effectively.
Regardless to the reasons, lack of financial discipline can spell trouble across all facets of life, eventually sabotaging their success. Debt can strain personal relationships and impede efforts to pursue meaningful living upgrades that are typical for someone who is your position in life.
So is there a way to develop good financial discipline? The answer is: Yes. But it is not easy and it may require more than a strong will. Here are a few ways to consider if you feel that your lack of discipline is causing you a financial disadvantage.
Don’t be a spending addict
Dependency is at the core of any addiction. If you’re using shopping or spending as a coping mechanism, you need to seek help. Take a good look at the cores of your behaviour. They could be as benign as having too much free time on your hands, or they can be much more serious — stress or depression, for example.
Once you identify the causes, find ways to deal with them more effectively. For example, have a hobby that keeps you busy — and away from the mall and online shopping. Exercise, mediate or do whatever helps you reduce your stress levels. If all fails, it is time to get some professional counselling and cognitive therapy to help you alter your behaviour effectively. That is not an extreme measure if it will help you lead a more successful life and avoid grave consequences. Get more involved
Budgeting and financial planning may seem too abstract for someone who has never had to deal with money. That is often the case in marriages when one spouse is responsible for managing finances, and the other has a vague idea about what goes into this process. Getting more involved is the solution. If you’re single or a spouse, and want to learn more about how to manage your finances effectively, talk with a professional.
There are also plenty of online courses that can help you with the basics. If your situation is more complex, meet with a financial adviser or wealth management consultant. Of course, be as familiar as you could be with your situation and your goals, and be involved in your household budget to be able to set realistic expectations.
It is your money, your life and your future. Be in charge, even if it means making some tough decisions. If your spending or debt is spiralling out of control, you certainly will need to scale back somewhere, which could mean less travel, dining out or shopping. And yes, this the core of financial discipline. Know what needs to be done, and do it.
Taking charge also means recognising the scale of your problem and dealing with it effectively. For example, if you have thousands of dirhams in debt, cutting back on your morning coffee won’t solve it — although it is a good gesture of responsibility. But be realistic; what you might need is a debt-consolidation solution.
In addition, be willing to stick with your resolutions for the long run. It is not uncommon for people to get serious about financial discipline when they are faced with a problem, and go back to their old habits once the problem is sorted out. Avoid this cycle of debt and debt relief because it doesn’t always work. Embrace your financial discipline as a lifestyle that helps you stay within your budget and focus on growing your wealth rather than falling into spiralling debt.
The writer, a former Gulf News Business Features Editor, is a Seattle-based editor.
Grow your financial discipline
Don’t use spending for coping
Seek help to change your behaviour
Get involved in your financial planning