Take Financial Control of Your Life

I have a relative who is at the mercy of every tiny financial bump in the road. When the dog has to go to the vet, or gas goes up two cents, or the power bill is higher than expected, or the car needs new tires, he is thrown into chaos. He hasn’t got the money for these things so everything becomes a crisis. It all either has to go on credit cards or be borrowed from family and friends. Since things like this happen in life all the time, this man is rarely settled. He’s constantly juggling accounts, working two jobs, and running around asking/hoping for money. He’s always changing jobs, looking for one that pays just a little but more. As if it will help.

It would be different if he genuinely had no money. But he makes a good salary. He just chooses to spend it on new cars, a luxury apartment, and a “lifestyle.” One day he asked me for money. (I declined because I think that at age forty-one he needs to sort out his own mess, not rely on others to do it for him.) I asked him in turn why on earth he chose to live like this. Why did he want to live life constantly putting out fires? Why did he want to live with that kind of stress all the time? Why didn’t he want to be in control of his life instead of being buffeted by every little thing?

He just shrugged and said there was never enough money to go around. Right then I knew this guy was hopeless. He’s not motivated to change and he isn’t willing to give up his lifestyle, even a little bit, to get more control over his life. To each his own, but I know it can be different.

If you’re tired of feeling out of control every time an unexpected expense crops up, I encourage you to take control. You don’t need millions in the bank to be in control of your life. You need some money set aside so that you can cover yourself if you have to take a pet to the vet, or pay out of pocket for a prescription, or deal with rising gas prices without turning to credit cards, loans, or family members. Ideally you’d have six months of expenses saved up so you could deal with life even if you lost your job. But even if you can’t save up that much, a couple of thousand dollars will make a huge difference in your chaotic life.

People always say that they can’t come up with that kind of money, but I rarely believe it. You can get that from your tax refund, from cutting out unnecessary expenses, or by diverting $20 a week from your paycheck. Unless you are living at poverty level, it’s not that difficult to stash a couple of thousand dollars in a savings account. Once you have the money, keep it liquid so you can use it to pay for your expenses. Don’t touch it for anything other than emergencies and if you use it, replace it as soon as possible.

It may not seem like much, but having some extra money can be very liberating. Suddenly life isn’t in control of you, you are in control of life. You don’t have to freak out every time a bill comes due. You don’t have to beg for money or rack up credit cards. You don’t have to panic if your company starts talking layoffs. You have a lot less stress in your life. You can focus on more important things. You’ll find that once you have that money, other financial things start improving, as well. Your debt goes down and you get motivated to save for other goals. Your health will probably improve, too, since you’re not under constant stress.

Think about it this way, if it helps. Instead of saving money, you are paying money (into your savings account) to help you get your stress under control and achieve a better life. It’s cheaper than therapy. Living a calm life is much better than living life in a constant state of panic and fear. And you can achieve it without having millions in the bank.

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8 Responses to Take Financial Control of Your Life

  1. Joe Paretta says:

    Excellent piece! I’ve certainly “been there.”

    Thanks for the practical approach that you take.


  2. minny says:

    I’ve met people like this – what we don’t understand is that they , ‘deserve’ an affluent lifestyle! We in the UK say ‘they want to live a champagne lifestyle on beer money’ – mmm, let me know if anyone ever achieves it!

  3. cynthia says:

    Great advice. Been there and just getting out of this type of situation. I am now setting aside money into an emergency fund to reduce the stress in my life. I got tired of living on the edge every month.


  4. Gail says:

    While good advice, it is important to remember that not everyone gets a paycheck or an income tax refund. As lower middle class self-employed people, it is hard to come up with extra each week especially if money doesn’t come in weekly. And think of those that only have Social Security which have not gotten an increase in their benefit in three years! That being said, people in this situation really need to be aware of expenses including upcoming ones like Christmas, and car inspections, etc. Tucking money away when you can is extremely important.

  5. larabelle says:

    Great advice…I used to live on the edge financially and I was stressed out. Now I have an emergency fund and although it took a while to save…I am much more calm.

  6. Debbie M says:

    Even having just $500 set aside can make a really big difference. Often having just $100 set aside will be enough.

    Especially if you can give yourself $20 – $50/month of wiggle room so you can keep adding to that savings when things don’t go wrong (and not have to withdraw any savings for emergencies of only $20 – 50).

  7. Aaron says:

    It’s a sad reality that many adults live paycheck to paycheck and wonder what’s wrong. By cutting out excess expenses and building an Emergency Fund, people can take charge of their Financial Future. You won’t become rich overnight but slowly working towards a goal and making smart decisions can build a brighter Financial Future

  8. Janet says:

    My niece, who is always broke, smokes like a chimney. I continually ask her why she doesn’t quit and she continues to say she is trying. I refuse to loan her any money because to her it is not a loan, it is a gift. She stiffs everyone she has ever “borrowed” from. I don’t mind helping people in need, but I work hard for my money and I really don’t have any sympathy for people who smoke then say they are broke.

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