We all know about the buddy system. Most people get acquainted with the buddy system when they’re young and in school. On field trips or at a summer camp is a common time for this to be introduced to kids – find your buddy, and make sure everything you do, you keep your buddy accountable, and she keeps you accountable. The buddy system works as adults too, and I find it’s very helpful with keeping me on track to reach my financial goals in the form of a Financial Buddy.
I first got started with the concept of The Financial Buddy System when was in Florida talking with my friend about our financial situation. We both wanted to do better, but knew that if we were left to our own devices – at least initially – we’d resort to our old, irresponsible ways. So, we made a pact – and a challenge.
We agreed that we wanted to really focus over the next several years on improving our net worth, and would work hard to do so. But instead of just saying that we wanted to do it, we challenged each other to who could hit a specific milestone net worth number the quickest. Our net worth tracking was done through Mint at the time and we had some pretty basic rules like not counting cars (because they’re generally a money pit) as an asset, but counting any associated loans as a liability.
Through this pact and accompanying challenge, I essentially made the Financial Buddy System without even hearing about it at the time. We’d have frequent check-ins on our progress, about once a month, and would make sure that each of us was moving toward the goal. When one of us hits the goal (we haven’t yet, it was a pretty ambitious goal in retrospect…but we’re both working diligently toward it which is the important part), we’ll make a contribution to a charity of the winner’s choice. We thought about throwing a party or going on a vacation (and we may do those things), but ultimately felt that we could pay it forward and benefit other people, as well.
It’s worked out fantastically for both of us, and whenever I tell people about it they think it’s a cool idea to help keep yourself on track. If you want to get started, here are some things to keep in mind:
Pick Your Financial Buddy
This part is obvious, but take great care when choosing your buddy. If you’re dating somebody, engaged, or married, it may seem obvious to choose your S/O as your buddy – and that can definitely be the best choice. What I found, however, was that the most important thing when choosing your buddy is to pick somebody you can trust, who will keep you honest too, and who will encourage you when you slip up. Because trust me, you will slip up. We’re human, and it happens to the best of us.
I also think that having this be somebody who isn’t intimately involved in your finances can actually help, if you’re willing to be that open about money with somebody else. They get to share in the big milestones – but not sweat the small stuff..something that a spouse, for example, may be a bit more likely to do.
Enjoy the Ride – Together
My Financial Buddy and I made a bit of a challenge and game out of the whole thing, but not everybody will, and that’s fine. Do what works for you and your buddy – but be sure that you’re enjoying the ride together. If you’re dropping $500 a month eating out at restaurants and you’re trying to cut back to $200, call up your friend when you hit your first month of $400. Just because you aren’t at the “finish” line doesn’t mean you shouldn’t celebrate your progress. This was something that I found was extremely helpful. And, remember: personal finance is never over. You don’t “finish”; sure, you may hit goals, but it’s not like that means you suddenly get to disregard your finances altogether.
I’ll be honest: saving money isn’t really that fun for most people. It’s not glamorous. In fact, it’s pretty boring and monotonous most of the time. So when you get those milestone wins, you’ve got to take some time to step back for a minute, look at how far you’ve come, and just enjoy the moment. You’ll have time to regroup and focus on your goals later. For now, if you’re tackling debt, generating additional passive income, or just saving money, set some intermediary goals and celebrate those as you hit them. If you’re like me, the good feeling of reaching one goal will help propel you to the next.
Life Changes – Your Goals Can, too
This is more of a general thing to keep in mind, but just realizing that life changes and priorities shift is crucial. Just because you have a goal today does not mean you’ll value that goal as much in 5 years. Perhaps you’re saving up for a down payment on a new house, but then you meet somebody who you fall in love with and you want to travel the world with them. It’s okay to change. A coworker of mine last week told me life is change; growth is optional.
This holds true to pretty much everything, and money’s no exception. What I wanted five years ago – even one year ago – is not the same as what I want now. But we keep chipping away at what drives us, and I’m still making progress on my net worth goal. The reason for it may change over the years, and things may come up that change my current focus, but the only way to get there is one step at a time.
And if you’re lucky, you don’t have to go on that journey alone.
Do you have a ‘Financial Buddy’ or use something else to help keep you accountable? What’s your favorite?