How Do You Eat a Financial Elephant?


Welcome to Day 5 of America Saves Week 2013!

Moven is thrilled to be among the thousands of organizations coming together to promote healthy savings behavior to millions of Americans.  Whether you’re a new college graduate, or about to  retire, we’ve got some great savings insights for you!

Get in on the conversation! Share your best tips for saving on Twitter by tagging @AmericaSaves and #ASW2013, and don’t forget to join in on the Moven Facebook page!

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!

You may have heard this old saying from a teacher coaching you through a daunting homework assignment, or from your parents as you tackled a messy bedroom. Regardless of the context, its message was that no challenge is insurmountable if you just take it one step at a time.

But can this simple statement actually apply to real-life money challenges?

Think of how many financial elephants roam your financial life. Whether it’s saving for a down payment, paying off debt, or setting aside money for a big purchase, any of these goals can seem like daunting tasks.

But as the stories below will show, if you’re persistent in your efforts, you can finish off your ‘financial elephants’ one bite at a time.

The Consultant on the Go

Emily, age 26, New York City

As a consultant, I was so frequently on the road for work I found myself in my apartment only a few nights a month. I gave up the apartment, moved my boxes into storage and while work covered most of my living expenses, I continued to set aside what I normally would have spent on monthly rent. This little nest egg eventually made it possible for me to go back to school without the burden of a student loan.

Emily was able to take big bites out of her financial elephant by giving up her apartment. While this lifestyle may not work for everyone, Emily acknowledged that her needs and wants meant that she was different.  Rather than live the life that others might expect or want, she made her money decisions match her personal goals.

This is the very definition of being financially healthy. By aligning her money decisions with her own aspirations (and not anyone else’s), she was able to fulfill her dream of attending college without taking on any student loans.

Emily teaches us our first rule: Financial health means aligning your money decisions with your needs and wants so that you always have room on your plate for some pachyderm paella.

What money decisions have you made that don’t align with your needs and wants?

Working My Way to a New Laptop

Clay, age 36, New York

When I got my first Mac, I fell in love. I used it for 24 hours straight. A year later, when the new, smaller, faster models came out I really wanted one, but there was nothing wrong with my current one. So I made a deal with myself. I would only buy a new one using money I made (and saved) from the old one. So I taught myself how to build simple websites. I built two websites for local small businesses, sold each one for $500 and used that money to upgrade my Mac.

Clay was able to make quick work of his financial elephant by picking up a new skill and doing freelance work. Rather than view his plate as being limited in size, he found a way to make it big enough to accommodate his goals.  He realized that he needed to create and leverage a skill or asset that could give him the freedom to meet his goal.

Like Clay, if you’ve made the right money decisions and still can’t make financial room for all your dreams, sometimes you just need some creativity. You can pick up a part time job, do freelance work, sell handcrafted jewelry, or go through your closet and sell clothing you’ve never worn or gadget’s you’ve never used.

Whatever you do, remember the second rule that Clay’s story embodies: Financial health means leveraging what you have, whether it be a skill or an asset, so you can have a big enough plate for some elephant etouffee.

What skills or assets do you have that can give you more money choices?

The Mouse Took Down the Elephant

Aoife, age 23, New York

I recently moved to the United States from Ireland, and I wanted to make the most of my time in America. My roommate and I shared a goal of travelling around the country and experiencing new cities. So for Christmas, I bought each of us a piggy bank as a dedicated fund to help us travel across America.

Aoife’s approach is the quintessential example of eating a financial elephant one tiny bite a time. She realized that putting aside just $5 a day was something she could commit herself to doing. While it was a small amount, it also meant that each day brought her one step closer to starting her cross country adventure.  By sticking to her plan for only a year, Aoife saved $1,675, enough to stop daydreaming and start planning her trip.

Aoife teaches us our final rule: Financial health means that with discipline and vision, even the tiniest mouse sized money chunks can take down a financial elephant. Commit to a daily amount you can afford and find ways to keep yourself disciplined, even if it makes putting an X on the date you’ll finally meet your goal.

Which of your financial elephants can mice-sized money tame?

What Your Savings Say About You

As Tim Sullivan from Get Rich Slowly explains, saving is all about choices and using your money to create the best life possible for yourself. “Figure out your values. Spend on those, skimp on the others”, he writes. By tying your savings efforts to your personal goals, you will view your savings as a long-term investment in yourself, rather than a short-term deprivation.

So at the end of each and every day, make sure the choices you make support your goals and dreams.  Like Emily, make sure your spending fits your goals so that you have room on your plate for the things you want and need.  Like Clay, be sure to leverage whatever skills or assets you have to make your plate as big as you can. And like Aoife, don’t underestimate the power of disciplined savings no matter how small.  Because as the old adage says:

“How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!”

Editor’s Note: No elephants, mice or plates were harmed in the making of this article.  Special thanks to Dumbo, Mr. Snuffleupagus, Babar and Jerry the mouse who were brought in as technical consultants.

Have you been inspired to save this week?

Share your savings goals with the #ASW2013 tag on Twitter, and help motivate your fellow Americans to reach their goals!

Image Source: Saying What You Mean

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