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Posted: 3:32 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013

Figuring Out Your "Big Why" of Money

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By Joel Larsgaard

ClarkHoward.com


If you're just treading financial water, keeping up with the Joneses, you have yet to discover your Big Why of money. Here's how to do it...

Do you want to be as rich as Warren Buffet?
Maybe you just want to be as entrepreneurial and laid back cool as Jay Z. Your dream might even be to live in a one room cabin in the woods. Either way, if you haven’t thought through the Big Why of money you are almost assuredly not allocating your funds in the best ways for you and your family.

Most folks do what they’re “supposed to do.” They drive a reliable two year old car. They purchase a 4 bedroom 2 ½ bath home about 40 minutes from where they work. They hate their commute every day. There’s a 52 inch TV on the wall of their living room. And a few other flat screens scattered elsewhere. And they’re all obviously hooked up to an expensive monthly TV service. This is the “stock lifestyle.” It’s what the all too often referenced Jones’ do. In this scenario the “stock lifestyle” is living the life that everyone else around you is living. It is rarely deviating from the norm. This way of life makes me cringe.

And it’s not just because it isn’t my cup of tea. I’m pretty sure that most of the people running in this type of rat race don’t want to be there either. They just don’t know how to define their Big Why of money. They don’t understand themselves well enough to make the right decisions with what they bring in every month. Instead of thinking outside the box (I’m obviously all about that) and making the proper changes, they succumb to a bland existence – one that would make a 21 hour Ted Cruz filibuster seem lively.

So what’s the remedy? How do we cure what ails us and quit living a bland existence?

The answer lies in defining your Big Why of money. Here are three suggestions to help you figure out yours.

Make a list of your priorities. Not just with money – in life. Is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro your dream? Maybe owning a vintage Mustang is something you just have to do before you die. It could be that you just want to live closer to work and stop spending two hours of your life in a car every day. I like the way you’re starting to think.

Here’s the deal. Someone else isn’t going to make sure that your dreams are realized. That’s your job. And if you don’t start thinking about these things at some point soon life is just going to pass you by as you continue on in that bland reality I discussed earlier. So write these things down. Know where you are headed and where you ultimately want to be. And just so we’re clear, I’m not talking about retiring at 65 and skipping rocks at the lake. I’m talking here and now.

Brainstorm the possibilities. Brainstorming is a lost art. We don’t do it often enough in our work lives or our personal lives. So now that you know your priorities, how can you clear the clutter in your life in order to get there? Let’s say your family brings in $60k a year. You’ve got a mortgage, a car payment or two, some student loans, etc. Guess what? For most of us those aren’t static and unchangeable objects in our lives. Houses can be sold. Cars can be too. Just know that your current status doesn’t have to be the same tomorrow. Maybe your quickest route to that priority is downsizing and getting out of a mortgage that costs you too much. Maybe it’s getting rid of the car payment and driving a clunker. Cutting the cord could save you an all important $80 a month. That’s a decent little chunk for a sweet vacation at the end of a year!

Act accordingly. Now that you’ve made a sweet list of awesome stuff you want to accomplish and you have brainstormed the possibilities of how your money can be allocated more properly, do it! The awesome thing about the fact that you are still alive is that you can change stuff about your life. And to a seriously gargantuan extent! Did you know that if you lease a car as opposed to driving an old clunker it’ll be an over $10k hit to your wallet over just a few years? And how much does it honestly cost to climb Kilimanjaro? There are a few things of importance to me and I make it a point not to cheap out in those areas.

I love folk art
. So my wife and I buy an awesome piece on our anniversary every year.

I love craft beer. So you’ll pretty much always find a tasty brew (or 12) in my fridge.

I love travel. I make it a point to take at least one awesome trip a year. Sometimes more.

Here’s the rub. I couldn’t purchase great folk art, tasteful craft suds, or a $502 plane ticket to Ireland last November if it weren’t for compromises I made elsewhere. I figured out my Big Why though and it’s made all the difference. Because honestly, I don’t care about being as rich as Warren Buffet.

Have you figured out your Big Why? What are the important things for you about money? Are there any lifestyle changes you’ll make after reading this in order to fulfill your Big Why better?

Check out more money saving tips from Joel on his blog SaveOutsidetheBox.com or follow him on Twitter.

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