Four years ago, I was a broke student who had recently moved to a new city with less than $100 in my bank account.
I was barely getting by, struggling to stay out of credit card debt and counting my pennies in hopes that I would be able to pay for the next semester in school.
Since then, I’ve managed to quadruple my income, max out my emergency fund, buy a car and a house and contribute a substantial chunk of money toward my retirement accounts. Four years later, I’m 50% of the way to reaching my goal of saving $12,000 for travel.
I was able to do all of these things because I started small and worked my way up.
The Power of Starting Small
My story isn’t the type of overnight success story that we are so attracted to in Western culture.
I didn’t win the lottery or land my dream job right out of college.
I didn’t start a blog that immediately went viral or a business that blew up and landed a thousand paying customers in a month.
I started small and built upon my learnings and successes over the period of four years.
I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way. Things have happened beyond my control that set me back. I’ve become demotivated and discouraged. I’ve gone on spending binges and wasted money. I’ve won money, lost money, and mistreated my money.
But one thing that I’ve always done right financially was learn from my mistakes, take steps forward, and, at the very least, start, no matter how modest my beginnings.
There is No Such Thing as Quick Fixes
It’s probable that some of the readers who clicked on this post did so because they thought they might stumble across a different type of article. Maybe a quick-fix, or the secret to increasing their income and taking control of their finances. Something that successful people have been hiding from them until now.
Our society leans too heavily toward quick-fixes. Who wouldn’t be interested in quadrupling their income without effort or a pill that will make them drop ten pounds in two weeks?
Here’s the problem with those giant leaps and the quick fixes, though: they don’t exist, and they aren’t realistic.
The quick fixes that actually work are never quick, and you have to put in some serious time and effort to achieve those desired outcomes.
How I Actually Quadrupled My Income and Took Control of My Finances
I didn’t strike it big on the stock market or inherit a successful business.
I took the first step and got started, despite that there were no quick fixes in sight.
I came across a frugality blog, and enthusiastically read every post. A week later, I started my own, excited to impart the money-saving wisdom that I’d struggled to obtain over the years and combine helping people with my love of writing.
I began reading literature about money every day. Part of the blogging territory, over the course of that first year, I collected knowledge, bit by bit, each and every day: theories, opinions, facts and assumptions.
I played with my budget, then created it all over again. Every weekend, I reviewed my spending and learned from the previous week’s mistakes.
I began setting $25 aside from each paycheck into my emergency fund. It sounds like too small a number to make a difference, but it was a start.
After some moderate success with my $25 savings plan, I began putting all found or extra money into my emergency fund. There was no big bang. I didn’t suddenly amass a $10,000 emergency fund by outsmarting my money, but over the period of the year I had saved $3,000 in my emergency fund. I saved $3,000 because I started.
I began working on my confidence and pushing myself out of my comfort zone a little bit each day, so that I could feel confident enough to apply for higher level positions. I began emailing companies for which I wanted to work to introduce myself.
It didn’t land me the job over night, but it was a start.
A year after engaging in these exercises in confidence and networking, a year after I started, I landed a job which afforded me a $4.50/hour raise and provided me with a higher level of experience.
Five months later, I landed another job which doubled my income.
I started small and built on my progress every step of the way.
No Step is Too Small
In 1891, a man named Thomas from Glasgow, Scotland used his life savings to open a small market, using his experience and wages gained from travelling the USA and working at his parent's store to get his foot in the business.
Now, his small business has blossomed into arguably the most successful tea empire in the world.
Thomas Lipton took the first step by gaining experience in the business; he started something which he improved on and built over time. By the time of Lipton's death in the 1930s, his company had merged with a number of other companies, amassing to 3,000 stores worldwide.
Mr. Lipton would not have seen that type of success - or any success at all - had he not taken that first step and started. He started small - with gaining experience and starting one store, and progressed to huge success. Every business, every entrepreneur you've ever heard of or admire had to start small and work their way up.
It sounds unlikely that reading about money and starting a personal blog could lead to an outcome like quadrupling my income and gaining control of my money, doesn’t it?
It sounds far-fetched and frankly like a load of bull.
You know what is even more far-fetched? Quadrupling your income and gaining control of your finances to live the life you want by sitting here, reading this article, and then going to seek out the next quick fix.
The beauty of taking the first step is that the second step follows shortly thereafter. Then the third, and the forth, because it’s easier to keep going after you’ve started then it is to start in the first place.
When you wake up in the morning, it’s damn hard to get out of bed. It’s warm and inviting and you aren’t ready to face the world yet. But once you hoist yourself out of bed and start your morning, it’s far easier to stay awake.
Starting something is like that, too. If you can bring yourself to make the first move, momentum helps keep you going.
What could you do to improve your life if you just start? What could you make better by ridding yourself of the notion of the quick fix and taking the first, tiny step?