Soil, sun, water and seeds: the ingredients of a garden are simple, but the end product is never guaranteed. Bringing a property to a thriving state takes intent, expertise, and a fair amount of trial and error.
Like many people who stayed at home, I spent much of the last year tending the soil in my garden and creating a garden oasis of my own imagination. The work wasn’t easy, and I’m sure many now dead plants wish I was a little better.
But when my vision became a reality – and I realized the care this new hobby requires – I saw parallels between caring for a garden and being conscious of finances. Here’s what my garden taught me about money management.
Have a vision
Before you stick a spade in the ground – or sign up for a new financial instrument – define what you want to achieve. Like a garden, your financial future can reflect your passions and priorities.
“There are no rules – it’s your garden,” says Brooke Edmunds, associate professor of community horticulture at Oregon State University Extension. “Don’t be afraid to try new things. You will have so much joy from the pride in growing things yourself. “
The way in which you manage your money is also an individual task. “When you envision your goals, a good starting point is to define your needs, wants and what is important to you,” said Lacey Langford, a North Carolina finance coach. “Not everyone values the same thing. Some people appreciate a nice home or a nice car or a pension plan more. “
Understand that achieving great goals can take years. “Take the long-term approach,” says Edmunds. “It really takes about five years to really see what plants really are and to get to know your garden space.”
Also, think about different aspects of your finances – debt, income, investments – and define what you want them to be five years from now. Do some self reflection and sketch the life you want. Then start implementing that vision.
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Make growth easy
With goals defined, dig in and lay the right foundation for growth.
In a garden, this step means testing the soil to see if it contains the right components to support your specific plants. Developing the right soil can mean the difference between a season of vigorous growth and a lackluster performance.
When it comes to money management, think of the basics – things like income, expenses, and savings, and your attitudes and behaviors towards money – as the bottom. Your ambitions are the plants that you plant in the ground in hopes that they will take root and thrive. Upon inspection, you may find that you are prepared for growth or that the soil needs to be changed.
One example is adjusting financial habits to meet an ambitious savings goal, such as a down payment on a home. When you can’t save a lot after you’ve got your running expenses covered, get creative and Cut expenses or Increase Your Income.
Next, turn to your attitudes and habits around money, says Kathleen Burns Kingsbury, a Vermont-based wealth psychologist.
“I encourage people to see what lessons they have learned in dealing with money,” says Burns Kingsbury. “How has this belief in money affected your behavior as adults? The fundamental part is to really look at how these thoughts and beliefs affect your ability to progress along that path. “
Reorienting yourself towards money can help you achieve your goals. For example, you may have been taught that debt should be avoided at all costs. You could reconsider your thinking and explore ways to get around Use debt as a financial instrument with less risk. If you’re paying for a larger expense, a credit card with a 0% per year period can help cover the cost while keeping your savings intact.
Do the work
A green thumb or a certified financial planner is not necessary to achieve your goals. Similar to weeding, it’s easier to get things done on a regular basis than trying to get everything done right away.
“You don’t have to weed the whole yard in one day,” says Burns Kingsbury. “Take a little piece and think about how you can get rid of this weed.”
Focus on regular tasks to maintain your finances. For example, when paying off debts, you spend a day organizing accounts in a spreadsheet or using a debt tracker. The next day, choose a payout path like that Debt snowball or debt avalanche method then stick with it. Breaking tasks down into small steps makes administration easier. The same goes for improving creditworthiness; Making regular, on-time payments will increase your score over time.
“Your garden doesn’t have to be perfect, but keep control of your weeds so they don’t affect your garden’s productivity,” says Edmunds.
Maintaining a garden and managing its finances is about combining a bold vision with daily, incremental tasks to bring it to life.
This article was written by NerdWallet and originally published by The Associated Press.
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Sean Pyles writes for NerdWallet. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @SeanPyles.
A Garden’s Lessons for Growing Your Money article originally appeared on NerdWallet.