How you spend and save your money is heavily influenced by what others say and do. We often tend to follow others’ leads on how to spend and save — and even what goals to save for. Taking that approach can make it hard to follow a fulfilling financial journey. The key is to remember that personal finance is personal. To be motivated to change and improve your financial life, that journey needs to be unique to you.

The most important step toward achieving financial freedom is to take time to establish what your ideal financial life looks like. Having clarity on why you work so hard and what you are working towards means you can make conscious decisions that will align with your unique financial journey. This will lead you toward more intentional spending, and savings that will be aligned with where you want your financial life to go. With that said, there are challenges that are hard to avoid and might derail you. Here are some key steps to help plan for achieving your ideal financial life no matter the obstacle.

Establish What Your Ideal Life Looks Like

Asking yourself the right questions is a crucial part of this process. Set aside an hour of your time and write down your thoughts. Feel free to add as much detail and description as needed.

To get you started, here are a few to consider:

· What matters most to you?

· Who matters most to you?

· Where do you want to live, what does that look and feel like and what would that afford you?

· What type of work do you want to do?

· How do you want to spend your time?

· What do you own and why?

· What does your financial situation need to look like to make this happen?

· What is this future you like?

Add Inspiration From Those Already Living Your Ideal Financial Life

As a personal financial coach, I live and see the value of having a mentor, role model and/or coach in helping you along your financial journey. This is part of creating an environment that supports your vision. The key is to surround yourself with individuals already living your ideal financial life and/or are striving for it.

You can do this by looking for influencers and creators within your own personal social network, in social media, and in online and local communities. These days, there is literally a hashtag or keyword that will lead you to almost every kind of desired financial lifestyle. Instead of ignoring outside influences completely, you want to replace the wrong influences with the right ones. This environment will help support and encourage you to succeed.

A Little YOLO Mindset Is Healthy

There are ways to achieve the financial life you want while still setting aside some savings to enjoy the things you love along the way. Consider using the 50/30/20 rule as a baseline. You can consider ways to reduce your essential and needs bucket (50%) to allow you to save more money and still have a budget to start enjoying elements of your ideal financial life now. For example, you might try getting the essentials to 40% of your net income, 40% toward saving and paying off debt, and 20% on the activities that bring you joy.

The last thing you want is restriction, which can lead to relapses like what you might experience through crash dieting. The key is to stay motivated and experience some of the very things you are working so hard for. Whether you lean toward more enjoyment now versus waiting for the future, is completely up to you.

Use Your Ideal Financial Life to Make Your Spending Values-Based

Remember that the why factor behind your money is to help live and create your ideal financial life. I encourage you to distill the meaning behind it into a few short sentences and keep those words with you everywhere you go – perhaps on a note in your phone, a sticky note on your computer, or a printed blowup hung in your office and on your desk. The key is to use this exercise to help resist temptations and outside influences that are trying to derail you so you can remember to align your spending with the values captured in your ideal financial life.

Reduce Negative Influences And Distractions

We live in a time where we are constantly bombarded with outside influences trying to get us to live, think and spend in a certain way. Social media and marketing companies have invested billions of dollars and enlisted thousands of experts in these efforts. To ensure that you stay focused on living and achieving your ideal financial life, consider reducing and eliminating these influences and distractions as best you can.

Consider removing negative influences from your social media feeds, newsletter subscriptions, and devices in general. Try to turn off notifications strategically. For some people, setting aside time every day to put away/shut off devices not only helps them stay focused on their finances, but also to be more present with the most important activities and people in their lives.

Try starting with just 30 minutes a day and work your way up from there. You’ll feel better, more fulfilled and more focused. You can check your progress by monitoring the screen time stats on your devices.

In Summary

When trying to improve and plan for your financial life, it’s crucial to start by establishing what you want your vision to be. It’s challenging to work toward financial goals when it’s not personal and unique to you.

Once you figure out what your ideal financial life should look like, you can set your environment to add positive influences that will help you along the way and subtract the negative influences that will get in the way. Revisit this process periodically so that you can ensure your financial journey brings you and ones you love the most joy, fulfillment and happiness.

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