Although it was still on the brisk side over the weekend, it was gorgeous. There was a clear, blue sky, which gave way to a radiating sun. And, you could just feel that spring was right around the corner.
As I basked in the sunshine, my eyes drifted over to the tiny garden in my yard. It’s definitely time to start getting that in order if I want to grow fresh and delicious fruits and vegetables this year.
As I pondered about what exactly to grow, a thought popped into my head. Gardening is kind of like nurturing good money habits. Both involve planning, vision, effort, and patience. The payoff? You’ll have a bountiful garden that will reward you for the fruits of your labor.
But, just like an actual garden, how can you nurture your financial garden? Well, here are 8 ways to start and maintain it.
1. Prepare the ground.
It’s highly unlikely that you’re going to just stumble upon a bed of topsoil. Sure, maybe you purchased a home whose previous owner was an avid gardener. But, for most of us, we need to start from scratch.
Usually, this involves picking a spot to place your garden. Ideally, it’s somewhere that gets the most amount of sunshine. Next, you have to clear the land and loosen up the soil.
Is this a lot of work upfront? Absolutely. But, getting the garden started is the hardest part. Once you have it going, you’ll just need to properly maintain it going forward.
The same is true with money habits. Before anything else, you need to prepare the ground so that you’ll actually grow whatever you want. This includes;
- Change your mindset, such as getting rid of your negative associations with money.
- Record and keep track of your expenses so that you’re living below your means.
- Learn how to set SMART goals so that you’ll actually reach them.
- Eliminate bad debt through techniques like the snowball method.
- Automate your savings, like automatically deducting 20% of your salary to a savings account.
- Stay within your budget by using coupons and discounts.
- Negotiate better prices with your credit card, internet, or phone companies.
- Establish spending barriers. Examples could be only going to the store with cash or removing credit card information on online stores.
I know this seems overwhelming. When I first put in my garden it was a lot of hard work. However, just like with money habits, I don’t have to start fresh every year.
2. Don’t wait to plant your seeds.
With your garden in order, it’s time to plant your seeds. While this will vary depending on your gardening zone, you usually don’t want to put this off. Planting seeds too late in the season, like in May or June, it’s going to be too late to yield results.
When it comes to money habits, sooner is always better than later. For example, the sooner you create a budget, the faster you’ll dig yourself out of debt — which means less interest you’re paying back. The earlier you plan for retirement, the more time you’ll have to build your retirement fund.
3. Offer proper nutrients.
Your seeds won’t grow unless they receive efficient nutrients. This includes plenty of sunshine, water, and mulch. Well, you also need the same mentality when it comes to your financial garden.
Let’s say that you’re building your wealth. That’s not possible unless you’re creating multiple streams of income. While that could be picking up a part-time gig or starting a side hustle, Grant Cardone recommends that you first start with the income you currently have.
“Increase that income and start adding multiple flows,” advises Cardone. “You want what is called symbiotic flows to that first flow of income. Do NOT add disconnected flows first.”
Rather, find “other ways you can add income to the job you already have.” For example, the person who does advertising for Cardone is also his video guy. As for most people, this could be negotiating a raise or maximizing all of your employee benefits.
4. Plant for pollinators.
Pollinators consist of bees, birds, and butterflies. They are beneficial to a garden since they pollinate plants and eat pests. They’re also fun to watch while tending to your garden.
You can introduce them by planting native plants and herbs in your garden. Seriously. It’s a win-win.
When it comes to money habits, you should also embrace pollinators. For me, this is spending time with like-minded individuals.
“Let’s say that within your inner circle, you have one friend who lives beyond their means,” writes John Rampton, Founder, and CEO of Due. “They live off of credit cards and could care less if they’re in debt. As they would say, “Yolo, y’all'”
“But there’s another friend,” adds Rampton. “They’re aware of their budget so that they don’t live above their means. They even have a retirement plan!”
“Out of these two friends, which one do you think will be a better influence on you?” he asks. “Obviously, it’s your financially-responsible friend.”
“Besides being a source of inspiration, they can share advice on how to build your wealth, as well as help keep you accountable.”
5. Plant a “Three Sisters” garden.
The “Three Sisters” are beans, corn, and squash. Native Americans interplanted this trio since they thrive together. How? By attracting pollinators, encouraging biodiversity, and supporting each other.
You should also take this approach to your financial garden by;
- Diversifying your investments. Don’t put all of your eggs into one basket. Instead, spread the wealth to reduce risk by having a portfolio that contains stocks, bonds, cash, and real estate.
- Having an accountability partner. If you’re in a relationship, this could be setting a shared goal and having a monthly budget meeting.
- Download a complementary app. Budgeting tools like PocketGuard and Mint can keep you on track. But, there are also investing apps like Acorns. You can set it up so that every time you make a purchase, it round-ups the spare change and automatically places it into a savings account.
6. Protect your garden.
If you don’t take the appropriate precautions, your garden could get dismayed by pests and other critters like rabbits or raccoons. Attracting pollinators and biodiversity is a start. But, you may also want to build a fence to keep animals out or use organize pest control.
Having a diversified portfolio and multiple streams of income can help protect your finances. If you lose one source, you have others to fall back on. Other suggestions would be to have an emergency fund, adequate insurance, and protecting yourself from identity theft.
7. Pull the weeds.
Another part of gardening maintenance? Pulling the weeds. If you don’t do this, they can overtake your garden and deprive your plants of essential nutrients.
What does this mean with your finances? Well, make sure that you’re tracking the progress of your financial goals. You can do this by frequently reviewing your budget and cash flow. As an added perk, this helps improve your financial future and identify any problems before they get too unruly.
8. Real gardening takes patience.
Finally, it takes a lot of patience to be a gardener. My first year didn’t result in much. As I kept enriching the soil and maintaining it over the years, it’s luscious and bountiful today.
The same can be said with money habits. At first, it seems impossible to pay thousands of dollars in debt or work toward a retirement goal. But, cultivate patience and keep chipping away at it. It won’t happen overnight, but you will notice progress.
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