A while back, I wrote a post on “working the system”, where I talked about how systems are a great way to solve your financial problems. (It’s worth going back and reading, if you haven’t recently.) “Great,” you say. “But…how do I do it? How do I know which system will work for me? How do I even know where to start?” These are good questions, and I’ll be covering them over the next few weeks.
First, identify the problem you want to solve. This seems obvious, but it’s critical. Don’t run off and start building a system until you’re sure it’s solving the right problem! If you’re stressed about money, sit down and think about why. Is it because you never know whether you’ll have enough money to pay the bills? Or can you generally pay the bills, but the credit card debt seems to be piling up? Or is it because you haven’t started saving for your child’s education, and you don’t know where to start? The systems for solving each of these problems will look very different! If you’re not quite sure (and believe me, it’s not uncommon to be stressed out without immediately knowing why!), then sit and think about each of the things that *could* be stressing you out — you know, all those things you’ve been trying to avoid. The one that gives you a sick feeling in your stomach? That’s the one you want to tackle first.
If you and your spouse are fighting about money, it’s doubly important to identify the right problem. This will take some effort, because you’re going to need to sit down with them and figure out exactly why you’re fighting — and it may have nothing to do with money at all! Oh, you may think you know (She can’t follow a budget! He won’t let me spend any of our money!), but I guarantee that unless you take the time to really understand your spouse, you’re going to end up running around in circles trying systems that don’t work.
Next up: finding the right system! In the meantime, though — have you ever spent time barking up the wrong tree because you didn’t properly identify the problem, whether in relationships or money? Tell your story in the comments below, and I’ll tell you mine!