One of the many benefits of growing up ‘down south’ (the southern US, for those of you outside the country) is that your parents and grandparents are chock full of… erm… ‘unique’ phrases like this one:
Don’t Worry ‘Bout The Mule, Just Load The Wagon
It’s a saying I usually hear from him accompanied by a wry smile and an impatient tone, and often it’s uttered after I stop working and question the plan or the process. For instance, if I were helping him rake leaves and, instead of simply raking steadily, I stop to ask “what if we raked into 3 piles instead of 1?…”
See, I’m a planner. I like to study the map, plot a course, and check my progress regularly. I set a lot of goals for myself. But as my grandfather kindly reminds me from time to time, sometimes just putting in the work is more important than planning all day. Planning is important, but action is what gets the job done.
People are wired in all kinds of ways, though. For some of us, managing a budget is like having all of our teeth pulled at once. We would rather put in more hours at work than have to manage the details of our spending levels. For others, we’d rather know exactly where all of our money is going and have the ‘weight’ of unbalanced books off our minds.
If you are in that latter group, like me, here are some areas where you might need to stop reading blogs like this one, and just get out there and get some things accomplished instead.
Obviously if you owe a bunch of money on loans or credit cards, that’s GOT to be the first priority for your finances. There are some things you can do at the beginning, like look into a debt consolidation program, or use low-interest loans to pay off high-interest ones. But after that all you can do is quit spending all your money on stuff and pay off that debt post-haste!
It will take a while! Look for some quick wins by paying off small loans first, then attack the larger ones next. There is no magic bullet though, you’ve just got to buckle down and load that wagon.
Emergency Fund Savings
It’s not sexy, but an emergency fund is probably the single-most important financial tool you can have at your disposal. A new dishwasher? $600. Not having to pay any interest after the replacement? Priceless.
Especially in a passive-investing scenario, this can be about as exciting as watching grass grow. From time to time you do need to check on your accounts, life situation, and plans, but for the most part you’ll just have to incrementally add to your retirement savings. A little bit at a time, looking for long-term performance over short-term gains. Trying to squeeze everything you can out of your 401k has a diminishing return on your time. The term paralysis by analysis comes to mind on this one.
Paying Off Your Mortgage
If you’ve read much on my site before, you know that a few years back my wife and I downsized our home in order to try and attack our mortgage and get out of debt completely. That was an exciting time, although we made a ton of sacrifices in order to make that happen.
Since then, there’s not been any glamour. No excitement. No big victories. Just a slow plodding toward May 2015, at which time we hope to be free and clear of any debt. We’re just loading the wagon. We’ll get there when we get there.
What About You?
Are there areas in your life where you need to stop worrying about the process and just get to work? Going back to school? Becoming a valued employee? Saving for a college fund? Growing a business?
Please don’t think that I’m against proper planning here. By no means! I mean, how did that mule get hooked up to the cart in the first place?
There are just times where keeping your head down and working will accomplish way more than mulling things over again. Get to it!!