Finding Your Financial Motivation

Before I began my financial turnaround, I knew only the basics about personal finance. In fact, to be honest, I probably didn’t even have a basic grasp on most things money. After all, I’d spent most of my 20s frittering away any earnings on junk, and had accumulated credit card debt acquiring even more stuff.

I figured since I didn’t have any money, there wasn’t much point in trying to learn advanced financial concepts. Fortunately, my attitude changed.

I’m not sure if it was the law of attraction, dumb luck, or divine intervention, but it seemed like once I started learning about money, I had more to practice with. Of course, I was working harder, too, recognizing that in the short term the only way to get more money was to work for it.

I started blogging about personal finances, with the realization that the best way to learn something is to try to teach it (or in this case, write about it).

I began reading books on the subject of money. I subscribed to our local newspaper and read the business section (something I usually passed over for the sports section). I began listening to some money shows on the radio – first a guy named Bruce Williams, then Clark Howard, then Dave Ramsey.

As the pieces began to come together it was obvious that winning at personal finance was a fairly simple equation – spend less than you earn, and save the rest. But it was putting this into practice that I found so challenging. It helped to surround myself with like-minded people – fellow bloggers, authors, talk show hosts, etc.

Four Ways to Find Financial Motivation

Find a mentor. My frugal mentor was my grandfather. He was a great teacher because he taught by example, not from some formal financial plan. He kept things simple, avoided going into debt, drove two vehicles for nearly 20 years each, lived in the same house for 33 years, and refused to try to keep up with the Joneses.

Join an online community. After finding Dave Ramsey on the radio, I learned of a community called My Total Money Makeover where I could download podcasts of the show, participate in forums with other listeners, and use some of their tools to track my debt snowball, budget, etc. It was money well spent, and I’ve been a member there for going on six years now. By the way, they’re currently offering a special discount to Frugal Dad readers if you sign up using the link above.

Read personal finance magazines. I used to think these were such a bore. However, I have acquired a taste for reading things like Kiplingers (my personal favorite), Money, and Smart Money.

Check out a few motivating personal finance books.

Where do you find motivation for personal finance? Bonus points if your answer includes!


  1. Actually, one of my motivations for personal finance *is* Also, I like the Planet Money podcast, but I don’t really have many sources. My main motivator is the fact that I don’t want to be poor or so deeply in debt that I ever have to file for bankruptcy again. And I don’t want to wallow in that “junk” you mentioned, either! Thanks for being there.

  2. Jason,
    It is interesting to read about your motivation.
    My motivation is from personal experience. My parents ran a successful business until my Dad grew ill and… well the end result was bankruptcy.
    My motivation, since then, has been to always prepare myself and my family for the worst case scenario. And, of course, to ensure that the worst case scenario becomes “less bad” each year.
    Therefore, the focus is on cashflow. Creating income streams that are not dependant on my ability to work. This includes (for now) disability insurance. It also includes dividend paying common stocks, revenue producing real estate, and online properties.
    Debt is not inherently bad. Less is better of course. But, as long as sufficient cash flow exists to make the debt obligations, debt is just a tool to reach your end game… financial independance.
    Thanks for the post.
    My apologies for rambling.

    • Tyler, so your parents had to claim bankruptcy and you STILL think “debt is just a tool…”? It was not a useful tool for them. Debt is not a tool. A game plan for your money, a spreadsheet that tracks your spending … those are tools. Telling your money what to do is how you reach financial independence; not paying interest to a bank/company that could care less whether you live or die.

      • Gina,
        If I am paying 2.5% on my mortgage and instead of paying off my mortgage I can invest that money to earn a return more than double that, why would I not?

        Yes, there is a difference in the risk and therefore one must calcualte a risk adjusted rate of return.

        Nowhere did I say I was going to leverage my house to 100% of it’s current market value. But, I think it is a reasonable and prudent investment decision to use 40% leverage on a 2.5% mortgage to invest in assets that return more than double that.

        My family lost our home because of sickness and disability, hence my use of disability insurance at this time. My family had debt, but that debt was working very well for the family business until my Dad took ill. It is true that the business could have been better managed by providing documented systems that would have allowed an employee to be hired to perform the duties that my Dad was responsible for. At that time, the business was not quite ready to scale though.

        In any event, I take fewer financial risks due to my personal experience. But, I also realize the ability of debt (when used correctly) to leverage financial assets is essential in growing any type of significant wealth.

        • So you would borrow money to invest it because it is cheap to borrow? Why not payoff that house, take the mortgage payment you would have paid the lender and invest that. You will be earning 2.5% MORE instantly because you are not paying interest to a lender.

          I won’t agree that debt is a tool to “grow wealth” – it makes you a slave to the lender. The lenders’ wealth grows, not yours. You work (or receive income) to pay it to a lender. Plus, as you have experienced, you cannot calculate the risk of “sickness and disability” into the numbers when you are looking for the return on an investment. And that is why debt is not a tool for me.

  3. I get most of my daily inspiration from Frugal Dad, Get Rich Slowly, the Simple Dollar, and Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s blog. They help keep me on track when I am tempted to get sidetracked into spending too much.

  4. Without identifying the “NEED” for it, it is hard to get the motivation going. Once you find that there is something lacking, and that you have a “need” to do better, the motivation will kick in…. slowly, but then become a habit with enough practice 🙂

  5. just found your site…which is really helpful. I wanted to share a book I just finished reading called ‘The Real Cost of Living’ by Carmen Wong Ulrich. Ulrich explores family-home-career-and saving and what the real costs associated with each are.i.e., not only from a numbers perspective, but also from an emotional perspective. Great read…I highly recommend it.

  6. My motivation was my children. I didn’t want to leave debt behind for them to pay. And Ginger is right. The numbers don’t factor in the risk and emotions that go along with managing money.

    P.S. Found you based on the plug from DR.

  7. Jason your journey into debt is like mine (probably like most of your readers) – lack of finanial education as a teenager and then the ease of getting credit from banks via credit cards etc. Being debt free is wonderful! The internet has been such a wonderful tool to help me get out of debt and blogs like yours have also been such a help during the slog to get out of debt!

  8. Those are some great tips at the end. Personally, I think I knew a lot about finance in my early 20’s, but just plain ignored it. When I was trying to get out of debt, I would watch Suze Orman every Saturday night. I didn’t really learn much that I didn’t already know, but it almost felt like a weekly intervention that reminded me to stay on top of my financial goals…

  9. Good tips, I always feel that you will lose motivation only when you have disposable income. The moment you feel you have enough money you start deviating from your frugal plan. One good way is to continue reading personal finance blogs to keep yourself motivated and get your spouse and children party to your frugal practices.

  10. My financial motivation comes from being a very open blogger. When you know you will be posting that expense for the world to see sometime, you tend not to spend as much. 🙂 So, sharing your spending habits could be a fantastic way of staying financially motivated, lol.

  11. I think having a mentor is, by far, one of the greatest sources of knowledge and motivation. What better source of education than from being able to draw from the experience of those who have gone through so much in life?

    Some other sources of financial motivation: talking to random people on the street (seriously), watching movies (anyone that visits my site knows how big of an impact movies have had on me and how much they can teach us), books (you already know this!), and one of the most powerful ways ever: seminars. Seminars are absolutely fantasic, as not only do you gain immense knowledge and insight from the speakers, you are also surrounded by like-minded people who you can grow with.

  12. Yup, my motivation to get serious about paying off debt and starting my own blog about it was too! He’s got it down. I also found The Richest Man In Babylon to be the kind of inspiring book you can finish in 2 days, but always come back to. I’ve paid off almost $10K in debt since August 2010, but I’ve got a long way to go!