If you seek advice from a financial professional in an effort to gain control of your finances, develop a budget, and create a savings plan that hopefully will lead to a comfortable retirement, virtually every expert in the financial field will tell you to Pay Yourself First.
That means that you should determine an affordable amount – whether it is $1 a day, $5 a week, $50 a month – or whatever amount works for you, and then set that aside and bank that amount in a disciplined and consistent manner. Treat it like a mortgage payment or utility bill that can’t be avoided without consequences.
But make certain to Pay Yourself First. Otherwise the money might not be there to pay yourself. Few of us have the luxury of being able to spend in an undisciplined manner and still have money left over for savings.
Today’s blog is really not about financial planning, but it’s about a subject that relies upon the same principle of paying yourself first. I’m talking about the subject of behavior change.
In working with patients, I find that many of them have a few – or a lot of – behaviors that they would like to change. Most of those changes require putting extra time into their schedules to do things such as exercising regularly, reading for pleasure, spending more time with the family, learning a new subject, or simply committing some time to relaxation or meditation.
Since most of us are already pretty busy, there is a challenge is to find the necessary time to make a behavior change. How can we do it? By Paying Ourselves First.
The first thing that I recommend is take an inventory of how you spend your time, and I’ll bet that you will find blocks of time spent watching mindless TV shows or surfing the internet or daydreaming. Those activities may all have a legitimate place in your schedule but they shouldn’t be more important than your commitment to exercise or having a date night with your spouse or friend. Don’t relegate those precious behavior change activities to last place – or you may never get to them.
When you initiate a behavior change, commit small amounts of time in your schedule to the new activity. Be willing to start small. Just like it’s better to commit to saving a consistent $5 a week than an overwhelming $25, it’s better to commit to reading or exercising or meditating a manageable 15 minutes a day than an overwhelming hour. You will be able to increase the time soon enough.
The important thing is to get started with a manageable schedule, and Pay Yourself First.