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“The more disciplined you are, the more you take control of your life and make it what you want to be.”

– Dr. Magie Cook

These words truly resonated with me at the NAWBO Philly Leadership Symposium and VIP Reception in April of this year. The keynote speaker, Dr. Magie Cook, CEO and Founder of Maggie’s Salsa, LLC, imparted this message to our audience with such enthusiasm and thoughtfulness. I couldn’t agree more on the importance of self-discipline in all aspects of your life.

For our purposes at Ciaccia CPA, this especially holds true for business and personal finance. If you are struggling and you’re not sure why, could it be a lack of self-discipline holding you back?

The more disciplined we are with setting a budget, keeping our books and records accurate and up to date, and using the data we have access to, the more control we have over our lives and businesses and the direction we take them.

Self-discipline is an attribute not everyone possesses but one that can be developed. If you find yourself struggling in this area, here are five steps to building financial self-discipline:

  1. Be Realistic. Recognize Your Strengths and Weaknesses.
    On January 1, most of us are ready to tackle every obstacle and reach every sky-high goal. Often, by mid-February (or sooner) enthusiasm wanes and a more realistic view takes hold. For the sake of your finances, take a down-to-earth approach when embarking on this first step. Set achievable goals to propel forward. Be honest with yourself about what you can accomplish in a day, week, or month. Be honest with yourself about where you overspend or need to cut back.Recognize what has tripped up your self-discipline efforts in the past. Forbes recommends taking stock of your strengths and weaknesses so that you can better utilize the first and overcome the second. If the morning hours are your most productive, schedule difficult tasks (such as paying your bills to avoid late fees) early in the day. If you are easily tempted to make impulse purchases when scrolling the web in the evening, leave your credit card in another room. This will help with your self-discipline.
  2. Develop a Financial Plan
    Write down your short-term and long-term financial goals with timelines to accompany them. Big goals that are vague do not give you a jumping off point. Be specific in writing down what you plan to achieve in one year, each month, daily. Chunk down large goals into small, more manageable tasks that you can check off as you achieve.
  3. Develop Good Financial Habits
    What good business practices and disciplines do you need in place to meet your goals? Determine best practices, then write your own Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and follow it!

    Here are a couple good financial habits to hone for Self-Discipline:

    Maintain a Budget. It serves a very important purpose to know how much you make, how much you spend, and what is leftover. If you track this every month, you will learn a lot about where your money goes and how to keep more of it. It can also help you make better decisions about needs vs. wants. At Ciaccia CPA, we don’t use the term budget. We prefer profit plan. Sounds so much better, doesn’t it?

    Review Your Accounts. Set aside time every day to check activity on your accounts. Make it a part of your daily routine. You can even schedule a recurring meeting on your calendar as a reminder until it becomes as habitual as grabbing that morning cup of coffee. Review accounts. Repeat daily and, after that, revisit your financial plan. Are you checking off tasks and keeping up with timelines?

    Start an Emergency Fund. If you haven’t already done so, set up a certain dollar amount to be automatically transferred into an account that is strictly for emergencies. This will put your mind at ease in case you are ever laid off or if business slows unexpectedly.

  4. Stay in a Financial Mindset
    If you are a business owner, there are many networking groups or chambers that you can join to help you stay in a financial mindset. When you surround yourself with other entrepreneurs, you keep your mind open to new strategies, not to mention events that can help you bring in more customers. You will learn more about businesses in your area and become open to new ideas and possible partnerships with other attendees.
  5. Find Inspiration
    When you feel yourself starting to stray from financial discipline, reignite your efforts with inspiration. Just as Dr. Magie Cook’s simple, yet poignant, remark sparked an ‘ah ha’ moment in me, you too can find the push you need. Seek inspiration through how-to videos, books, motivational speakers, events, resources, financial tools, and training sessions.

    Financial self-discipline doesn’t only benefit your business or your bank account. Taking responsibility for the growth and care of your finances brings you peace of mind, and that is a priceless commodity.