Sometimes we ignore reality and just say to ourselves “la la la la la” whenever we are confronted with an unpleasant thought. It’s especially true when it comes to the way we deal with our money and personal finances. Tell the truth…do you suck at money?
The blurting out of the “la la’s” and pretending everything is just fine is something that mostly happens when you’re age 9 (I’ve done exhaustive research here, so please believe me on this). Why? Well, that’s because when you are a kid you almost never have to bear the consequences of a bad money decision. Losing your lunch money on the way to school doesn’t qualify.
While it’s true that no matter how small or insignificant a money issue might have been, even for a 9 year old, you weren’t ever going to sit down and admit that you just aren’t very good with money—and you didn’t sit down and write yourself a memo that said: “When it comes to money, I suck!”
Why Do Your Finances Suck?
Face it: if your finances suck, it sucks! The only comforting news here is that you are not alone. Most people around are in a similar position. Why is that?
Talk about opening up a can of worms…asking and answering that question isn’t as simple as it may sound. When you are growing up and you’re just a kid, the answer to just about every problem in life that you think is important revolves around money. That’s the way you get all the things you want, whether it be some comic books like when I was a kid, or going to a movie with your friends on a Saturday afternoon. You either had to earn some money somehow (collecting empty soda bottles for the 2 cent return was the preferred way in my neighborhood) or depend on Mommy and Daddy to supply the funds.
If you were really lucky, you got an allowance. That may have made you a little bit advantaged if you did. You had an “income” that you could depend on every week and that was pretty cool stuff. Movies, here I come! But, thinking back on that now, maybe that self-confidence spoiled your perspective on “future you”. You probably can’t depend on an allowance when you’re 29, can you? If you do depend on it, please let me contact your mother and father right away!
Why Do You Think That More Money is the Answer to Everything?
I swear that almost everyone I have ever known thinks that “if I just had more money, all of my problems would be solved”. It sounds so good when you say it, doesn’t it? After all, if your finances suck, more money falling from the sky does seem to end the problem, but how likely is that ever to happen? Yeah, you could win the lottery but then again you could make the hole even bigger by buying tickets every day, too.
If you need more money, then the typical way to do it is to earn more, either at your job or some kind of side hustle that has proven to be successful. The list of those things is as long as a football field and I can cite them easily from “flea marketing ventures” to “driving for Uber part time” and a gazillion ways in between. So it is very possible to earn more money, if you try.
But you still have to figure out what’s wrong in your financial world, then fix it. As straight up as that is, I have learned something important over the years and it is something that I have to share. I used to think, just like everyone else, that the main problem most people face is a lack of income. Turns out I was wrong. It is not that reason at all.
The number one reason you suck with your money is that you just don’t—or even worse won’t—change the way you handle it!
Success with your money depends on good and improving financial habits and the willingness to change your bad ones into good ones! If you aren’t doing that, then you are back to buying lottery tickets and hoping and praying for the money fairy to come visit. If you don’t change your bad habits and develop new better ones, you’re just like an alcoholic who won’t admit they have a problem.
So What Do You Do Now?
What to do: first admit you have a problem, then change. Yes, it is very hard to change, but even if you start very slow, it is a good thing. And yes, even starting slowly is hard. If your finances are hurting it may be because you are an “addictive” spender. Addictive spending is very real and requires real changes.
When you do the little, subtle things like packing your own lunch each day instead of eating out, skipping take out, and making a big dinner to last you for a few days is a start. The important part is that as you get accustomed to your new changes and habits, each change will feel less and less noticeable to you and become easier to do. And that will translate into better financial outcomes.
The Big Three Rules
There are probably 100 rules I can think of when it comes to ways to improve your finances and maybe if I ever write that book I will share them all in one place with you. For now, I want to concentrate (once again) on what I call “The Big Three”. These are the things I know will work and the change in habits that will make you better and not suck at money!
1. Be willing to actually change, improve financial habits, and do it!
If you aren’t willing to eat out less, move to a cheaper apartment, or find a part-time job, there’s not much that can be done for you.
If you really want to pay off your credit card balance and don’t have enough in your current budget to do it, the answer is simple: change your lifestyle.
2. Learn the power of tracking expenses
It’s called budgeting and then more important, looking at the results and making adjustments. If you don’t know where your money is going, you can’t ever have control over it. Track every purchase you make, even if it’s $1 coffee each morning at the gas station. Little purchases add up, especially when you’re unaware and uncontrolled with your spending.
3. Avoid peer pressure to buy and spend
Peer pressure is a powerful behavioral catalyst. Studies have found that people who surround themselves with less-frugal friends tend to spend and waste more money.
Bad money habits are even worse if your friends are encouraging you to overspend in every way from dining, housing, transportation, entertainment, to traveling. That’s not even mentioning the inherent pressure that comes from comparing your lifestyle to friends who live extravagantly. It’s really easy to get caught in the trap.
You don’t have to give up your friendships to combat the peer pressure, but you should tell your friends about your financial goals and how you’re trying to change. Some might be feeling the same way, but are too embarrassed to say anything. And if they start throwing shade on it then those probably aren’t friends you want to keep around while you do it.
There are some things we can’t change, like the “how” we got into our current financial dilemmas. The only thing we can do is to influence what will happen next. You can pinpoint the reasons behind your current problems and then you can admit the reasons why you suck at money. Take the steps you need to make changes. It’s not easy or fun, but in the long run you’ll be happier—and have more money, too!
What’s your biggest money struggle? How are you working to overcome them? Are you in “la la” land or is it time right now to write yourself the memo? Just because your finances suck today doesn’t mean they have to suck tomorrow.