What Is Financial Discipline? [+ 5 Ways To Be Disciplined With Your Money]

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As layoffs continue to rise and money becomes tighter across the nation, you may find yourself wondering, “what is financial discipline? How do I get it? And how can I be more strict with my money?”

Trust me, you are not alone. Today we are going to answer all of that, plus an in-depth look at ways to be more disciplined with your money, including actionable tips to get you started and stay motivated!

This post is sponsored by Lexington Law, a trusted leader in credit repair.

They work with clients every day to repair their credit and know firsthand the importance of financial discipline. That stretches from healthy spending habits to monitoring your credit report. They have an established credit repair process which helps clients with unfair, inaccurate, and unsubstantiated items on their credit profile.

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First let's look at what does finance mean?

Finance is a really broad term that covers anything related to money. Such as banking, investing, credit, debt, and SO much more.

What does discipline mean?

Discipline has two meanings. First, the one most of us think of when we hear discipline, is the idea of training people to follow a set of rules, even by means of punishment.

The second meaning of discipline has to do with acquiring knowledge and skill. I always heard my dance instructor say “the discipline of ballet!” in my classes growing up.

What is financial discipline?

With all of that in mind, the meaning of financial discipline is simply the acquisition and integration of knowledge related to money and then coming up with a set of rules to follow to help reach your financial goals; a deviation from these rules would likely incur some sort of punishment or adverse outcome.

Why is financial discipline important?

The value of being financially disciplined is immeasurable.

When you're disciplined with your money you are able to do what you want with it. Instead of your money controlling you, you control it. You use money as a tool to reach your financial goals.

With that said, money goals can vary. Most commonly, we think about saving money to buy our first home, traveling the globe, or preparing our budget for a baby.

But financial goals can also include our emotional and mental world. Things like feeling confident about money. Feeling safe and secure about your knowledge and skills if you were to lose your job or need to cover an emergency expense.

Financial discipline covers the entire spectrum of our traditional lifestyle goals that money can fuel, but also a much deeper set of goals that relate to our inner peace and contentedness.

Do you have financial discipline?

Before we get into money rules to become more strict with your personal finances, let's figure out if you already have some serious self control with your money!


Here is a list of 10 questions to evaluate how financially disciplined you are with your money:

  • Do you check your accounts regularly?
  • Do you understand how all of your financial accounts work?
  • Do you have a fully funded emergency fund?
  • Do you pay your bills on time?
  • Are you free of outstanding “bad” debt?
  • Do you have a budget that you stick to every month?
  • Are you looking ahead to irregular expenses and preparing sinking funds for them?
  • Do you pay your taxes?
  • Do you have financial goals and a plan to achieve them?
  • Are you able to hold off on buying an item until you've done more research, comparison shopped, or know it's something you'll actually need/use in your life in the long haul?

If you answered yes to all of these, congratulations! You are most likely pretty strict with your money!

However, if you answered “no” or “unsure” to any of these questions, you may lack financial discipline.

Don't stress! It's a skill you can develop and we'll look at that now!

How can I get financial discipline?

Financial discipline is a skill you develop. Just like any skill you need to know what your end game is.

We'll look at more specific steps and examples in a moment; but on a high level, I think you need to have a set of money rules and financial goals acting as your guide for being more strict with your money.

Then it's all about training! Discipline is often the side effect of training and working to develop a skill or integrate new knowledge.

Just like you do strength training for muscles to reach your fitness goals, you'll follow the rules you've created to train your financial habits.

5 ways to develop financial discipline with your money:

Educate

Educate yourself on all the financial terms, accounts, and tools available to you in life. Understand how your checking account, credit cards, and taxes work.

Discover what an emergency fund and a sinking fund is.

Learn about retirement account options available to you. Lexington Law put together this helpful guide to retirement plans here!

Another favorite post from Lexington Law: How the Stock Market Works: Explained with Pizza <– you have to read this if you're nervous about investing!!

Diving really deep into your financial literacy is the first part in solving the “what is financial discipline?” problem.

Get mad

Now that you're deep in learning about how your money works, allow yourself to get angry!

Seriously, HOW DID YOU WASTE $20 A MONTH IN CHECKING ACCOUNT FEES?! That could've gone toward a a nice staycation last year!!

Look at all the ways you've let money slip through your fingers or not work hard enough for you. Write down all the things you feel angry, foolish, or upset about. You'll use them in the next step.

Before we go onto the next step, I want to remind you one really big thing: get angry with the money, not yourself.

Don't beat yourself up. You're learning and course correcting right now.

Use your anger to motivate you in becoming strict with your money, not to drive self loathing. (…gets off soapbox.)

Create

Now that you have a deep understanding of what finance is, all the financial tools available to you and how you've been underutilizing this information, it's time to create the rules, guidelines, and goals that you plan to follow.

Here are just a few of mine to get you started on yours:

  • Typically wait at least 48 hours before making an “out of the ordinary” purchase. This basically means I delay gratification for anything that's not a “need” like food. The exception: if something is on sale, then I check how long the sale lasts and what the return policy is. If I do buy it before that 48 hour window, I don't take the tags off of it for a week… if I can't help but wear the item (with tags on) around my house during that week, I know I'll use it and keep it. If I don't touch the item during that week, I know I need to return it.
  • Always grocery shop with a list. –> Discover my Cheap Grocery List + Meal Plan for Family On A Budget Trying To Grocery Shop Once A Month
  • Max out my retirement account each year.
  • Balance splurging and budget stays while traveling. I believe life is short and we can't take our money with us. So when traveling, we may stay at a $400+ / night hotel for a night or two, but then we stay at a $90 / night hotel for just as many (if not more) days to offset. Discover 41 Brilliant [+ Easy] Ways To Save Money On Travel
  • Never pay a fee on my checking or savings accounts. That includes late fees or just monthly fees. I'll switch accounts or banks before I pay a fee!! Learn more about how bank fees are hurting your savings from Lexington Law here!
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Your financial rules and goals can be lifestyle habits, short term goals, or long term goals. This is an ever evolving list of money rules you'll live by. Keep it somewhere you can always revisit and revise.

Accountability

Remember how I told you to use your anger to motivate you in creating your new financially disciplined lifestyle? Well I'm sorry to say that is only going to carry you so far.

I think anger is a great way to kick start our goals, but we shouldn't walk around with it forever. Plus… motivation has a half life.


save for later

Looking to get strict with your money? Want to finally start saving money and stop overspending? Do you know how to budget? What about stopping impulse buys? Discover how to gain financial discipline by forming the best money habits with these simple money rules, personal finance tips, tricks, and finance hacks. Your budget, checking account, savings, and retirement will thank you! These are the money saving tips and financial literacy things you need to know to make you rich!  #budgets #finance #moneytips

You've probably witnessed this around the New Year. Everyone says they want to “get healthier” and the gyms are slammed the first few weeks of January.

Then, people start to fall off… the same thing can happen with your financially discipline so we need to bring in accountability to help you stay on track.

You can increase accountability in developing healthier financial habits a few ways:

  • Accountability buddy. A partner you check in with to keep you on track. Ideally someone you don't want to disappoint and really respect. This person is here to talk you out of impulse purchases, cheer you on when you follow through (too often we forget to celebrate the small wins), and do regular check-ins with you.
  • Keep a money journal to understand the ABCs of your money habits. Keep a journal of all your daily spending, including what was happening in your life before the purchase. This is particularly helpful if you're a recovering overspender. Essentially, the goal of the journal is to understand what the antecedent (the thing happening before) is before your behavior (spending money) and then what the consequence is from that cycle. The idea here, is to allow your internal rewards system to become your ultimate accountability buddy and learning how to limit temptations while developing a new habit
  • Envelope system. Sticking to a budget is key and according to a study published by the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes the average person over two months to form a habit. So leave your credit cards at home and only take the exact amount of money you've budgeted out with you for 90 days. Combine this with a no-spend challenge and I think you'll be golden!

Reward + celebrate

Ideally, if you follow all the suggestions above, how you feel will be the reward in itself.

If you need a little extra icing on the cake though, set up actual rewards as you reach predetermined milestones.

E.g. You do a 90 day no spend challenge, and if you follow it perfectly, you celebrate with a new pair of shoes at the end. You've set the money aside in a sinking fund so it doesn't hurt your financial progress, and you're still spending significantly less than you would've otherwise.

Beyond a big ticket reward, make sure to keep a daily gratitude list of all your small wins throughout the day.

“Where your focus goes, energy flows.” The more you focus on how you're becoming successful with your money and sticking with your financially disciplined lifestyle, the easier it becomes according to the law of attraction with money.

Financial discipline quotes to keep you motivated

I wanted to round up and create a series of money affirmations to help ground and help guide your focus on what you're really working to achieve here.

Use these to root back to the purpose of practicing financial discipline and stay motivated with your financial goals:

  • Becoming strict with your money isn't about controlling your finances, it's about not letting them control you.
  • “Money is a terrible master but an excellent servant.” – P.T. Barnum
  • “Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.” – Joe Biden
  • “Never spend your money before you have it.” – Thomas Jefferson
  • Money is a tool that serves me and works for me.
  • My money works harder than me.
  • “Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • Nothing feels as good as financial freedom.
  • I easily make the next right choice with my spending to life a stress free financial life.
  • “Money can’t buy happiness, but it will certainly get you a better class of memories.”- Ronald Reagan

Download the financial discipline PDF

To help you out on your financial discipline journey, I put together a little financial discipline PDF! It's a workbook that you can print and fill out the steps we've talked about in this post, plus tips for teaching kids financial discipline and full of even more money affirmations to help you stay motivated with your money!


Final thoughts on financial discipline

Financial discipline is all about becoming educated around money and using that education to inform your choices around money.

No one should ever feel broke all the time and there are so many lies we tell ourselves when it comes to saving money and using it as a tool.

Financial discipline doesn't mean you hoard your money. It doesn't mean you judge yourself for wanting a massage or spending $600 on a hotel room. It simple means you understand how money works and how to make it work for you.

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