For Big Results, Start with Small Actions

Summary:

  • Without action, goals are nothing
  • Take small, easy steps every day
  • Don’t make things complicated
  • You will stick with habits that are easier

You want financial freedom. But you have credit card debt, student loans, a car loan, no savings and no investments. Plus, you have constant expenses like food, rent, cable, electricity, and maybe a gym membership. How can you handle all of that at once?

You have great intentions and a great goal. Now, you need a system that works for you. Rather than trying to attack every loan and every expense at once, start small. Make a small positive change in your lifestyle that moves you in the direction of your goals. In Atomic Habits, James Clear describes this approach. When we focus on doing one skill 1% better every day, we will have improved by 3778% in the first year.

Don’t expect yourself to achieve financial freedom in one day or one week. This will be a lifestyle change that lasts forever. What is one thing that you can do today that moves you in the right direction?

Tracking spending and establishing a budget is ALWAYS the first step in a personal finance journey. Without knowing where you’re money is going, you have no hope to control it. There are apps that make this very easy to do. YNAB is the one I used when I started out.

Using an app is better than collecting receipts and entering expenses by hand. When you’re just starting out, lifestyle changes need to be sustainable. You want this new process to take as little time and as little mental focus as possible. Make it so easy for yourself that you have no excuse to slack off or to quit.

This is the main takeaway from today’s post. Without action, a perfect plan is nothing but an idea. Ideas don’t get results. Repeatable systems of actions that drive you toward your goal get results. And people are more likely to act when it’s easy to do (or even better, automated). So if you want results, make things easier for yourself.

My personal finance journey started on r/personalfinance on Reddit. Unfortunately, Reddit has a tendency to complicate things in an effort to find the optimal solution. The chart below is their attempt to “boil it down”. It is daunting for a beginner to understand and to use.

The information in this chart is great. It may be the best solution that anyone has. But you probably didn’t read it. It’s so complicated that I can’t imagine any beginners using it to achieve financial independence.

On the other hand, there is Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover. His approach is often attacked by financial planners and experts for being one-size-fits-all. I think that its strength is that it’s a simple road map for people to go from a paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle to one of financial independence. Look how much simpler his steps are:

This is significantly easier to understand and to follow than Reddit’s chart is. Combined with a strong budgeting habit, this approach will absolutely get you to financial freedom. Is it the optimal strategy for every single person? No. But it is simple and easy to implement. I am willing to bet that more people have stuck with Ramsey’s plan than Reddit’s plan.

Tackle one thing at a time. Make it easy for yourself. Automate actions like bill paying and balance transfers into a savings account. Make your road to financial freedom as smooth as possible. You will be much more likely to stay on the road and get to your destination.

Thank you for reading! What was your first step towards financial freedom? Comment below!

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