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  • Writer's pictureRyan P. Cleary

Float Finance 1.4: Keeping Focused on Your Financial Goals (Part 4 of 4)

Updated: Mar 23, 2020

Float Finance is a series of accessible articles, tools, and resources designed to empower early career employees and students to navigate their financial journey.

Strategies for staying focused

With all the external influences and competing demands it can be hard to keep focused on your financial goals. Sometimes emergencies happen and you might have a setback, but that’s okay!

What matters most is that you continue to work towards your goals. To make it easier, we’ve put together basic strategies to help:

Recognize the tactics used to influence you to spend money

Advertisers and influencers purposefully try to get you to spend money on their products and services. Often, they try to create a sense of urgency so you don’t stop and think about whether you’ll really enjoy the product or if you can afford it. They also try to make it as easy as possible for you to spend money- think about candy bars in the checkout line! You probably didn’t plan to buy one but then you see it and it looks really good- it only takes seconds to hand it to the clerk.

Charities also operate this way- Facebook makes it easy to do on their website (so you don’t have to visit a different website). Thinking about these tactics and learning about them makes it easier for you to spot them and realize how you may be influenced.

Notice when and where you’re tempted

Start paying attention to when and where you feel like making purchases you didn’t plan. It might be helpful to spend a week and make notes of when and where you make purchases (use a notepad or your phone). Once you’ve spent some time doing this you’ll notice what triggers your impulses and identify patterns. This might influence you to avoid these places or just be more conscious of them. A member of our team avoids working at Starbucks because he often is tempted to pay for a fancy coffee while he’s there. Instead, he sometimes brings a travel mug of coffee and works from a local co-working space.

Control your environment

As we mentioned, sometimes it helps to find ways to avoid temptation altogether when possible.

  • If some people you follow on social media temp you to spend money you might consider unfollowing them or spending less time on social media

  • Unsubscribe from mailing lists. You can shop for deals when you’re actually ready to purchase something (there’s always deals out there!)

  • Check customer reviews on sites like Amazon when you are considering a purchase.

  • Use a list when you’re shopping and stick to the list. This is very helpful at the grocery store- stores deliberately set themselves up to force you to spend as much time there as possible so you see more items. This increases the chance you’ll make an impulse purchase.

Sleep on it

It can be tempting to spend money on something you weren’t planning on. One of the best tricks we’ve found is taking time to pause and think about it before making the purchase.

  • If you’re shopping online, add the item to your cart and then wait a few hours before making the purchase (we like to wait until the next morning) if you weren’t planning to buy it. A great trick is to add items you plan to buy to an Amazon list- you’ll see when they go on sale and will have already budgeted for them!

  • If you see something while you’re in a store that wasn’t on your shopping list, don’t put it in your cart. Instead, wait until you finish your other shopping and then come back to it if you still want it.

  • Don’t save your information at online retailers. This both helps keep your account information safer and forces you get your credit or debit card- if it isn’t worth the effort the item probably isn’t worth buying.

Ask questions

When you are thinking about making a purchase you haven’t planned for we suggest asking these questions:

  1. Is this in my spending & savings plan or in my budget?

  2. Is this something I want, or is it something I need but forgot to plan for?

  3. Is this something I need right now or can I wait a little while?

  4. If this isn’t in my budget and I can wait, can I plan for it by making a savings goal?

  5. If I spend this money now, will it affect my ability to achieve the goals I set?

  6. Is there something I’d rather spend my money on?

This is a great way to answer whether now is the right time to make a purchase.

Calculate how many days or hours of work something is worth

If you think about numbers a lot (hello fellow numbers nerds!) this can be really helpful. One of our team members uses this technique a lot!

If you’re paid hourly think about your hourly wage. If you’re paid a salary take your annual salary (less taxes) and divide it by 2,080 hours.

(if you are paid every other week you can just divide your paycheck by 80, if weekly divide by 40, and if you get paid twice a month divide by 87)

You can use this number to understand how many days or hours it would take to buy the item you want. For example, a new iPhone XS costs $999. If you make $15/hr it would take 67 hours of work or 9 days! That can help you decide to wait and set a savings goal.

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