What Is Your Financial Screaming Baby?

Peter's picture

If there is one thing that I've noticed since becoming a father, it is the ability of a screaming baby to get what she needs. It got me thinking about personal finances and how great it would be if I had a financial equivalent of a screaming baby to make sure I was doing everything that needed to be done financially. I guess there is no true equivalent, but there are a few things that can help.

It's Tough To Ignore A Screaming Baby

Now I don't necessarily want to get into a debate about parenting techniques since I know that there as many different styles as there are different parents. However, regardless of whether you decide to leave your baby to "cry it out" or whether you come when you're called, I think you'll agree with me that it is tough to ignore a screaming baby!

Babies are experts at getting their needs fulfilled. The simplicity of their method for doing so is amazingly elegant: they scream until they get what they need. Whether they need food, a diaper changed, a burp, some company, whatever it is, they usually get it eventually.

It's Easy To Ignore Your Finances

Unless you have creditors knocking at your door, you can usually pretty much ignore your finances all the way down to total financial ruin. It's unfortunate but it's true. Until the creditors show up, you are the only person who can identify your own personal financial issues.

Some Methods That Can Help

Although I don't have any ideas that will create quite the same effect as a screaming baby, I do have a few that can help:

  • Keep track of your finances using money management software: There is something quite sobering about seeing how much money goes towards paying the various expenses you've got. When you sit down at the end of the year and see that you've paid $1200 for cable, you'll likely get at least a whisper of screaming baby in your ear!
  • Set financial goals and track your progress towards meeting them: This goes hand in hand with the previous point. Once you've identified some areas of your finances that need work, establish some realistic goals and monitor how well you are doing at meeting those goals. This can be in the form of a full budget or just a simple list of goals. If you are aiming to reduce your overall expenses by 10% and they end up increasing by 5% instead, I think you might hear a tiny baby scream somewhere in the back of your head.
  • Get an accountant or a financial coach: If you are still not hearing that distant screaming baby, or if you are having a tough time getting started with tracking your finances or sticking to your goals, you can try paying for some professional assistance. It might increase the cost in the short term but if your finances are in rough shape, you'll likely end up saving a lot more than you spend on the professional help. If your accountant starts screaming at you, you know you're in bad shape!

Maybe there are some other tips that people have for keeping your finances from running off the rails without you noticing. I'd love to hear them.

Nothing Quite Matches The Real Thing

As you can see, nothing quite achieves the same level of effectiveness as a screaming baby. We're a long way from having our wallets start shouting at us as we reach for our credit card to make a frivolous purchase. If we pursue at least one of the points above, we'll be a step up from complete financial ambivalence and, if we really stick with it, we won't hear any screaming at all. We'll have everything under control already.

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