I grew up hanging drywall for my dad’s company, which was very small – just him and his four sons. On nearly every job site I ever stepped foot on I usually heard something like this: “Alright boys, let’s leave the place better than we found it.”
While this was an adage he used for his business, it can easily be applied to our daily lives, and everything else we do as well: leave it better than you found it. That’s how to improve your finances.
LEAVE IT BETTER THAN YOU FOUND IT
Long before I was ever big enough or strong enough to lift a piece of sheet rock I was brought to the job site to help out in any way I could. As a little guy running around I usually had two jobs:
- Stay out of the way
- Keep the job site clean
“When the site is clean, our work is clean,” Dad was fond of saying. Drywall, especially the mudding part, can get messy. The drywall mud easily slides off your trials and onto your hands, clothes, and the floor, where it gets stepped in and then tracked all over the job site. Messes lead to more messes and unless you’re careful and make a concerted effort to stay clean, the job site can get very messy, very fast.
So it is with life. Although I learned this lesson on the job site, it can easily be applied to personal finances: leave it better than you found it.
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR FINANCES
Said another way: improve your situation every day. Is that even possible? I think that yes, it absolutely is. No matter how small, we should do something every single day that benefits our financial situations. At the very least, even if you don’t have anything to save or don’t have extra money to pay down a debt, you can make a good decision that will improve your situation in some way. Some examples:
- Brown bag your lunch instead of eating out.
- Don’t buy that new shirt.
- Don’t put that purchase on a credit card if you can’t pay it off at the end of the month.
- Get a drink from the water fountain, not the vending machine.
- Shop around for cheaper home/auto insurance.
Yes, these are small and seemingly insignificant things to do. In fact, you could do every single one of these things and still end the day with less money that you started it with. I understand that might not feel like progress, but you’d be piling up small wins and laying the groundwork for new and better habits. Over time, these small wins begin to pile up and eventually become significant.
PICK UP THE TRASH
Disneyland is renowned for being clean. That’s an impressive feat for a park of that size, but it’s incredible considering how many people (and messy kids) walk through the park every single day. Disney manages to keep the park clean because of a motto instilled by Walt Disney himself:
Everyone picks up the trash.
Picking up trash isn’t just for the custodial team. Everyone that works at Disney is taught to pick up litter if they see it. It’s such a simple thing to do, and it makes sense to implement this same strategy your financial plan as well. If you see a mess – clean it up! Doesn’t matter if the mess is huge or seemingly insignificant – if you see something wrong with your finances, clean it up immediately.
Not only will this prevent small issues from becoming large issues, but you’ll also get into a good habit of monitoring your finances. Wondering how to improve your finances? Start by picking up the the trash.
SMALL VICTORIES ARE STILL VICTORIES
Every day we can do something, no matter how small, that will have a positive benefit. If you get into this habit of improving your situation every day through small wins, then over time you’ll end up far better off than if had you done nothing.
Then, every once in a while, you’ll have the opportunity to hit a home run. Maybe you’ll get a bonus at work and you can save significantly more than you’re usually able to. Or maybe you can pay off a bill that’s been lingering.
Together, these small wins along with the occasional home run combine into a winning formula and a funny thing begins to happen. Small wins start becoming medium sized wins, and you’ll start making progress even faster. Then you’ll begin to have more opportunities to hit home runs.
I call this the Personal Finance Multiplier Effect and it’s what helps you reach financial independence much faster than you realize. But none of that’s possible if you don’t start leaving your situation better than you found it. If you don’t, you’ll just find yourself in a big old mess.
What are you doing today that will make tomorrow better? Small or large, it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you keep making progress. Agree or disagree? Please leave a comment and let me know.