This is my son Ted. He and I were playing last night, and something hit me: joy is a powerful thing. Look at Ted. He is filled with joy. His joy is contagious. I felt his joy last night, and this picture of his joy brings joy. To me, joy is overwhelming happiness. Not superficial contentment, but overwhelming excitement. Who doesn’t want to feel joy? What if you could use joy as a tool during one of the most challenging times in your financial life, if not your life in general?
For a moment, let’s look at an example of a situation that requires significant change. Dave was a director of business development for a mid-size tech company. He made roughly $120,000 per year. His financial life was hell. While his income is certainly attractive, the debt that he had incurred was choking him. He owed roughly $90,000 in credit card and unsecured debt. He was miserable. Most people would be miserable in this situation. He was paying nearly 35% of his income towards debt, and another 35% of his income towards a car payment and his mortgage. Dave got in the habit of spending every single dollar he made. If he was paid a $7,000 bonus, it was spent within two weeks. This made him content, but it didn’t bring him an ounce of joy. To dig out of this massive hole, Dave needs to be incredibly focused and disciplined. But I also think he needs joy.
In this situation, Dave will be forced to say “no” to many things. He’ll say no to things that he’s habitually spent money on weekly over the last five years. This constant no festival can be daunting. I’ve urged him to say yes. He won’t be saying yes to purchases, he’ll simply be saying yes to his future. He’ll be saying yes to his mental health. He’ll be saying yes to joy. Dave will be faced with incredibly challenging financial decisions over the next several years, in order to get out of this situation. I believe that he needs to focus on being out of debt, versus focusing on being in debt. Every credit card payment needs to bring joy, not despair. Every major decision, such as downgrading his car and house, need to bring joy, not sadness.
If you currently are spending ridiculous amounts of money on stupid things that don’t bring you joy, then stop. Is that daily $10 lunch bringing you joy? No. But saying yes to your future by saving over $200 per month certainly brings you joy. We all face financial challenges. I know that I do. I’ve decided that I’m going to stop saying no. Instead, I’m going to start saying yes to my financial goals. This brings me joy. What can I say, I just want to be like Ted.
Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.