Already behind on your money resolutions? This former preschool teacher can get you motivated.

Even though she’s a popular personal finance podcaster, educator and motivator, Tiffany Aliche always slips up a little on her New Year’s resolutions – just like the rest of us.

The Budgetnista, as she is known, was going to start this year fresh and eat right with vegetables, fruit and lots of water. “But I had pizza and ribs last night,” she admits. 

As a personal finance guru with a new book, “Made Whole,” and a big following for the podcast she co-hosts, Brown Ambition, she’s doing a little better with her money goals. But still, those take time, and she’s already behind on a few things, like estate planning. 

And the other day, she had an overdraft in her bank account. “I paid a bill from the wrong account,” Aliche says. 

Forgiving herself is the first step to dealing with the problem, and then telling others about it is the next, so they know that she’s there to help them deal with their problems — not to judge. 

“I know life is hard enough, and you’re already judging yourself hard enough. I’m here to just create the resources. So when you’re ready, you can use them to make decisions about the life you want to live,” she tells MarketWatch. 

When it comes to keeping yourself on track with your money goals – whether they come at the beginning of a new year or anytime – Aliche has developed a few motivational tricks inspired by her days as a preschool teacher that she can now use with unruly adults who just can’t get a handle on their money. 

Give yourself some space

The first rule is that things take time, and retirement is a particularly long goal, so give yourself some space. Aliche started teaching at 22, a little more than 20 years ago, and had to learn patience for the different learning paces of her students. Some lagged behind in reading, some would never move from the blocks to try new things. “I met them on the carpet where they were, so if you only wanted to play with blocks, I taught you colors and numbers with the blocks,” she says. 

Aliche got laid off from her teaching job in 2009 and ended up in debt on her sister’s couch. She rebounded by starting her own financial education company. At this point in her life she’s running a multimillion-dollar enterprise, and at age 44, she’s probably her own best student. 

“We all should understand that we won’t be perfect overnight,” she says. “You might think if you get this book it changes everything – or you get a gym membership or eat a salad. But life accumulates in bits and pieces.”

While “Made Whole” outlines a 10-step program to getting to a fully-functional financial life, this part of her philosophy is more like a 70-30 portfolio. “Even if you make some bad choices – like 70% good and 30% bad – you will see remarkable change by the end,” Aliche says. 

Share your shame

The important part of the bad choices is to confess them to somebody you trust and deal with them directly. 

“You can’t outrun your shame,” Aliche says. “The mess you made does not make you a bad person. It does not mean you’re out there antagonizing puppies. You made some bad choices, but new choices can be made.”

Aliche says talking about your bad choices is like a muscle you can train, and she can lift about a thousand pounds by now. She details her story regularly on her blog and her podcast, and her first book, the bestseller “Get Good With Money,” dove deep into her story of debt (which also led to taking part in a Netflix documentary in 2022 called “Get Smart with Money“). “Now I’m the help queen,” she says. “I can see trouble coming from two miles away and ask for help before it even comes.”

She also listens. One of her followers messaged the other day to say she read in Aliche’s book that if you didn’t have anyone to share your shame with, Aliche would be there. “So then she laid out the thing that she was ashamed about financially, and I said, ‘Well, first, can I just say I’m really proud of you.’” And they went on from there to work out some possible solutions. 

Pick a team

Once you’ve given yourself space and shared your shame, then Aliche’s advice is to get a whole team on your side. Financial management “is not meant to be done alone,” she says.

You might need an accountant, a financial planner, an estate lawyer, an insurance broker or other professionals. What’s most important is that you have an accountability partner. This person might be the same as the person you tell your deepest darkest money secrets to, or it might be another person in your life who is good at keeping you on track. “They do not have to have a financial background at all. That’s not what they’re there for,” says Aliche. “They’re there to be kind. They’re there to be encouraging. They’re there to be consistent.”

For instance, if you are trying to save money and suggest going to dinner with your best friend, who is also your accountability partner, they might suggest staying in and watching a movie so you don’t overspend. 

Aliche’s current accountability partner is a friend who also runs a business, and she can discuss more detailed strategies with him because he is also struggling with the same issues. 

“If you’re fortunate enough, you can kind of build a tribe and have different people for different things,” says Aliche. And if that fails, well, you always have Miss Tiffany, as her students once called her. Just know that you’re going to get a little tough love along with the support, which is, of course, just what we all need. 

“What I’ve learned is that I’m actually not here to change you,” Aliche says. “My job as a teacher is to provide the tools and resources. You need to change yourself.”

More interviews from Beth Pinsker