Once you’ve examined your beliefs about money and discovered what your money type is (see previous blogs about relationship to money), you can start to use your money differently. You’ll start to notice the decisions you’re making about what you spend and why you feel the need to spend it in this moment or on this item. You may find yourself with your family or friends going shopping when you don’t need anything in particular and be curious about why you do that. You might find that there are important things in your life that you aren’t supporting financially, like a charity you really believe in or a friend who needs help. The first step is to notice what you’re doing and notice what you’d like to do about it.

It may not be practical to make a lot of changes very quickly. You may have to pay down credit cards or start an emergency savings account before you can donate money to the charity of your choice. You may decide that putting more into retirement is your real goal right now or that it’s time to look into taking that vacation you’ve always wanted to take. Chances are, you’ll be making some hard decisions about where to squeeze and what will just make you feel deprived if you take it away. We have a lot of status and emotional thinking wrapped up in our financial decisions. Being a good steward of your financial life is all about balance, and it takes constant recalibration to keep it on track.

Additionally, you may have to talk with family members about their money habits and how they can support your goals or create a new budget together. This can be tricky at best, and usually downright painful.

After you have made some decisions about what you’re doing now, you’ll also have to start thinking about the future. Maybe you got a big commission and don’t know when the next one will come. It may be time to apportion out what you think you need until then or make some big purchases that you’ve been waiting to make for just such an occasion. Are you going to get a bonus or a tax check or a pay raise soon? What are your plans for that money, and do they square with your new budget and thinking about how you want your financial life to be? Is there a way to split it up into some ultra-responsible decisions and still have some fun? And with each decision you make, check in with yourself and ask if it’s authentic to who you want to be. Make sure you’re doing whatever you do with your money for the right reasons and not out of guilt or obligation or habit.