Do you ever look at your past mistakes and get frustrated about how you are the source of most of your problems?
As I’ve become more financially aware of what is going on in my life, I realize most of the pain has been from my poor financial habits.
Maybe you are not like me and have made pretty good financial decisions most of your life. But I know there are people out there who can relate to being a financial idiot. This post is meant to give you hope to overcome your weaknesses and turn your financial life around. Because that is exactly what I’m trying to do.
It’s easy to find ways of blaming others or situations for our financial troubles. Even though there might be some truth these things contributed to the problems in some way, I don’t think we are honest about our role in what happened.
This is especially true when we rack up massive credit card debt buying things we don’t need.
We all experience negative outside forces that can drain our budget. But were we adequately preparing for the unexpected? Can we honestly say that we used our money 100% perfectly?
To me, this is where we can strengthen our financial perspective. Looking for weaknesses in how we spend, save, and look at money can help us plug holes in managing our money.
The drug addict could blame his friends for giving him his first drug. The gambler could use the excuse that their spouse shouldn’t have picked going to Las Vegas for a vacation. There might be a sliver of truth in these claims, but who chose to use the drugs? Who decided to take out money and gamble with it? In my own life, I’ve made many stupid decisions that caused pain and grief. I’m sick of it. I have no one else to blame but myself.
No one sets out to make bad financial choices. At least in my case, I knew what I was doing, but was able to justify going into credit card debt for things I didn’t need. Maybe it was overextending ourselves on a car that we couldn’t afford. Or justifying spending excessive amounts of money on a vacation that would bring the family closer together.There are so many good reasons I could come up with for going into credit card debt. But all of them are bullshit. Click To Tweet
Be Transparent With Yourself
I’ve tried to be brutally honest with what I write about on Money Stir. This has helped me in a few ways:
- I confront my issues
- It requires me to analyze the “why” behind my behavior
- Sticking my neck out there creates a level of accountability
- Helps me think about how I’m going to overcome my weaknesses and tendencies
Ignoring our problems is not going to magically lead us to a place where they “go away” in most cases. Unless we work to actively change things, our future is going to look exactly like our past. In my case that was being in massive credit card debt and being bound to my negative net worth.
It’s not that I ignore the struggles I’ve gone through that were not my fault. I can acknowledge the past, and how that influences my thoughts. But that still doesn’t justify my bad financial decisions.
Creating an accurate financial picture of where you are at right now, can begin the process in recovering from your mistakes. But you can’t do that unless you acknowledge the problem.
Dig Yourself Out
I’m learning that many forces in my mind and life are working against me. But I need to strengthen the voice in my head that knows how our financial future can look if we start making smarter decisions.Fight for what you want, because no one else will do it for you. Click To Tweet
I have self-destructive tendencies. These focus on fleeting pleasures. Buying a new luxury car. Purchasing every new piece of technology. Living in a massive, luxurious house. All of these purchases will make me feel good for a short time. But none of them give me what I truly want: time.
The amount of time I have to do whatever I want right now is limited. I’m bound by my PTO time and running a business. The question I’ve been asking myself: are the choices I am making today putting me on a path where I will have more freedom to use my time the way I want?
It’s so easy to look up and realize how much of a hole we’ve dug. The light might be faint, but it is there. But what we forget is that once we get out of the debt hole, how much open space and light will flood into our lives and make us experience the exact opposite feeling: freedom. Before you know it, you are flying like a bird and looking down at the pit of despair you’ve worked so hard to get out of.
I’ve found it helpful in the past that it is best not to think about the hole you are in, and how deep it is. Instead, focus on the possibilities that will open up once you conquer your credit card debt.
Don’t Forget the Pain
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at our budget in the past and felt deep depression. How the hell do we have $20,000+ of credit card debt? Or how are we going to cover this unexpected expense and pay down our debt?
These are questions that would consistently come up. It caused stress, arguments, frustrations, and mental pain.I will never forget how it feels being under massive credit card debt. I never want to experience those feelings again. Click To Tweet
The second I forget about this pain, I make myself vulnerable in repeating the past. I know this because I’ve seen it happen multiple times in our lives. We get out of debt, or very close to being credit card debt free. But then something comes up. We start to justify why we need to go into debt to do this activity or get this new shiny object. And then the process goes on repeat. Our net worth goes down, and we are back to trying to pay off credit card debt.
My high credit score didn’t make things easier either. Companies were dying to lend me money. They don’t care about my future. And since I’ve proven that I pay off my debts, they are more than willing to give me whatever I want.
But I’m not going to let credit card companies dictate my future. I micromanage every credit card we use and don’t carry any balance from month-to-month. Credit cards scare the crap out of me, and I will not let myself use them to abuse my financial picture.
Make Yourself Stronger
Being honest about where you are at doesn’t do anything. It is just stating facts. The real question becomes: what are you going to do about it?I honestly don't trust myself with money. My past behavior has proven that I should not be left alone with money. Click To Tweet
This is how I prevent the past from going on repeat:
- Continuously question and challenge how I am using money
- Increasing communication about our finances with Andrea
- Setting up systems to make it challenging to buy things we don’t need. This system can include automatic deposits and paying off our credit cards automatically every month.
- Talk about my past and struggles on Money Stir
- Be hyper-aware of our budget to avoid overspending
- Remembering that I can’t say no to everything. For example, going out to eat, going on vacations, and enjoying life are just as important as increasing our net worth. It becomes about balancing priorities.
- Train my mind to get more excited about our net worth increasing, over buying material possessions we don’t need
So many bad habits and thoughts are ingrained in my psyche, that I have to manipulate myself in a way. Will I always have to do this? I hope not. Maybe with enough time, I can learn to overcome my internal struggles.But until then I'm not leaving my life up to chance. I will do what it takes to pursue the life I want for my family. Click To Tweet
There is no doubt that I will mess up in some capacity, but I will continue to strive to learn from my mistakes. By focusing on making it harder to make bad financial decisions, I hope to increase the chances of changing my bad habits over the long-term.
Get Rid of Negative Influencers
Getting rid of cable tv in our house was a smart move. The commercials alone would tempt us in buying things we didn’t need.
I remember our kids seeing a commercial for a toy that picked their interest and asking if we could buy them that toy.
I’ve talked about how browsing Costco without a plan is dangerous for me. The same concept applies here. There are so many things I could magically determine that I need, that avoiding these temptations is the smartest move. Most of these gadgets will not add to my life.
This idea can also apply to the people we hang around. Are they always buying new things and showing off their latest purchase? Does this tempt you to want what they have? Or maybe you struggle with thoughts in making someone look up to you based on what you own.
All of these things will be fighting for your wallet. And ultimately you will be spending your future time on these things. In my case, most of these types of purchases will offer temporary relief, but nothing that I will be proud of on my death bed.
Work Towards Freeing Your Time
I want to free my time in the future. That is my goal. I don’t want to be told when I need to get up, or where I need to live. Bending over backwards for client requests constantly can be draining.
I love the analogy of flying like a bird. Birds are not limited in where they can go. One day they could decide to perch on the tallest tree in the valley. The next day, they are headed towards the mountains. This my friends is freedom. Not being bound to generate income, unless you want to, allows us to fly through life like a bird.
If you could live like a bird, what would you do?
Chris Roane is a financial blogger who loves to be transparent about money-related issues. He’s paid off massive amounts of credit card debt and is the blog author of Money Stir. His main focus on Money Stir is talking about how money relates to our relationships, personal development, and how to plan for the future we want. He’s been quoted on Market Watch, The Ladders, and other publications.