Getting this money stuff right is often a marathon, not a sprint, especially for those of us who have some bad habits to unlearn. To me, the secret to good stewardship isn’t any of the four keys to financial health (giving, saving, living below your means and hard work) although each of those is critical. But if you’re miserable in the process, good stewardship doesn’t do you much good.

The secret to doing this well is living the very best life you can with what you have today. It means, yes, making every dollar go as far as it will go, but it doesn’t mean being obsessive about it or turning into a miserable tightwad. (Confession: I have caught myself doing both of these things in the past week!)

It means saving without hoarding, living below your means without taking on a poverty mentality and working hard without making work the reason for your life and neglecting your family. It means paying off your debts as quickly as you can without being consumed by them and punishing yourself for having them in the first place.

One of the principles I teach in my classes is The 1% rule: If you can make your life just 1% better every day, in 100 days, your life will be twice as good! Think about it: can you make a 1% improvement TODAY in how you manage your time, your family and your money? Can you be 1% better at work without staying late? Can you be 1% better as a friend? As a parent? As a spouse? Maybe you can’t put 1% into every area every day, but can you pick three that need the most work and put 1% more into those areas?

Some ideas that might help you improve an area by 1% or more:

Work: stop procrastinating, get your most dreaded daily task out of the way first, clear out your email in-box (that’s gotta be worth 20%!)

Home: clear out a drawer, hang hooks by the door you use most often, clean out the fridge, tackle the laundry while watching TV

Finances: find coupons for something you buy often, do once-a-month meal planning (10%! search this site for more info)

You may not be able to turn your financial problems around in one day, but you can incrementally make them better by making choices every day. You can do the same thing with any troubled area in your life. Just choose to start!

Get over the idea of perfection and aim for daily progress. You’ll be much happier and eventually, you’ll get to where you want to be.

So…. what can you do to make today a little more fun and a little more lively without sacrificing tomorrow? Ideas?

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