Willpower is a term that has been thrown around so much, it’s easy to lose track of what willpower really means.
The best description I’ve came across is from personal development blogger, Steve Pavlina. He describes willower as, “Your ability to set a course of action and say, “Engage!”
In this short-lived period, you’re inspired, you’re engaged, you feel like you can accomplish anything. When you have willpower, you saying to yourself, “This time it’s going to be different.”
The problem with willpower, as I’m sure we all know, is that it’s temporary. Taking action is easy the first day but becomes progressively harder. This isn’t just based off of my own experience, the idea of limited will power is a fact.
6 Ways to Change Your Environment in 24 Hours
The question I’m getting at is, when you have willpower, how should you use it? More specifically, what type of actions should you take during these bursts of energy to make changing bad financial habits easier? This way, when you’re willpower runs out, which it will, you’re able to continue course.
Instead of starting a budget or reading a personal finance book from the library, the six actions below make change easier. . The tasks below sound simple but work.
# 1 – Adjust Contributions, Withdrawals, and Payments
What account can you log into right now and make adjustment to slash your spending? For example, if you wanted to cut your spending by 5%, increase your 401(k) contributions by 5%.
Another example is to log into your credit card account and increase the amount you pay on the principal. You need to start paying it off soon, might as well start now.
The idea here is to act like a magician–create an “illusion” that makes it seem you have less money to spend.
# 2 – Freeze Your Credit
When you freeze your credit, you block lenders access to your credit report and score. The purpose of a credit freeze is prevent identity theft. However, you can also use a credit freeze as a way to alter your environment.
Once you freeze your credit, you need to “unfreeze” it to get a loan. Unfreezing your credit isn’t hard but it does require a few days wait. If you’ve made quick financial decisions that you end up regretting , such as applying for a new credit card or buying a car, then freezing your credit gives you a few days to think before acting.
# 3 – Cut Up your Credit Cards
You’ve probably heard of this tactic before but have you tried it? Personally, I’ve never known anyone who has cut up their credit cards to fall back into serious credit card debt. It works.
# 4 – Block Commerce Sites
Amazon sure makes it easy for us to hand over our money. I have spent $9.99 on Amazon in the matter of seconds.
Knowing that I have a pile of books I’ve yet to read, and not to mention a library less than a mile away, I set up my browser to block Amazon everyday but Saturday. If I want to buy a book, I have to do it on Saturday. For the first time in a while, I own less than 10 books that are waiting to be read.
As for how to actually do this, it will vary depending on what type of browser you use. Two programs I’ve used in the past are StayFocused, which works for Google Chrome, and LeechBlock, which works for Firefox.
# 5 – Interact with Frugal Friends (or read Frugality Blogs, Forums, Facebook Pages, etc…)
You’ve probably heard of the old success saying, you’re an average of your five closest friends. This also carries over to personal finance. In other words, you likely spend (or save, invest, etc…) on average what the five closest people to you spend.
If you’re trying to cut your spending, surround yourself with frugal people. Don’t just read more blogs or message boards but interact on them. Comment on them. Email the author. Make friends.
Most importantly, set up a system to where you come across these people everyday.
# 6 – Make Plans for Weekend
Just because you’re trying to cut your spending, doesn’t mean you have to sit on the couch Friday through Sunday. There are plenty of entertainment options that are free or very low cost.
Since most discretionary spending takes place on the weekends, right now, plan your next two. Trent at The Simple Dollar wrote an amazing posts titled, “100 Things to Do During a Money Free Weekend.” Use his post as a starting guide.
Make Success Easier and Failure Harder
When you sense a burst of energy coming, use this energy to change your environment. Never waste willpower on a task that doesn’t make success easier and failure harder.
In the comments, think back to a specific time of where you wasted your willpower, and therefore, were unable to successfully change. I’d love to hear your thoughts.