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21 Days To Rock Your Finances: Day 2- Identify Your Financial Weaknesses

Today we continue our series: 21 Days To Rock Your Finances with identifying your financial weaknesses.  This is day 2 of our series – Did you create your financial plan?  If so, then let’s move on to identifying your financial weaknesses.  Think of creating your financial plan and identifying your financial weaknesses as laying the groundwork for the tasks later in this series.  You wouldn’t jump into the deep end of a pool before taking swim lessons right?  Same rule applies here.

What prevents you from achieving your financial goals?

Success doesn’t have to mean paying off all of your debt in one year. It can simply mean taking baby steps to reduce the amount of money you send eating out. Avoiding trips to Target. Reducing mindless shopping habits which only further the raging spending addiction preventing you from seeing into the financial promised land. Those are all my Achilles’ heels, by the way.

What Or Who Gets In the Way?

Where do you most regret the money you spend? My pastor often says a man’s heart is where he spends his money (Luke 12:34). This rings true for me. When reviewing monthly transactions, I often saw where my money was going, as painful as it was to look at plainly in front of me. I kept saying to my self, “I spent what?!” There was a time when visiting Amazon.com and Target meant spending loads of money that I had no business spending.

Other financial transgressions meant spending more than I care to share eating out for no other reason than not wanting to cook that evening or choosing to eat instead of addressing how I was really feeling about a situation that upset me. The question I’d often asking myself is, “How did this help me towards my goals?” It didn’t help, as I had nothing to show for it but an empty plate or an item that I’d soon forget about once it arrived on my doorstep.

One day it all clicked.

This has taken some time. I’ve been writing my blog about money for a few years now. I finally connected how destructive my spending habits were in relation to my stated financial goals. I was sabotaging myself without really understanding why.

Everything changes with a decision

The same pastor I mentioned above also speaks about how many of the changes we need to make in life start with a decision, one decision to change the behavior and continuing to make that decision to stick with it. This might not — and often doesn’t — feel good, but if we’re to get to where we need to be then yes, it’s necessary.

Divorce yourself from your emotions

The pastor then goes on to tell us about the need to divorce ourselves from our emotions. And again, this rang true for me because shopping was almost like an addiction. I wasn’t shopping for clothes but more so for little things I needed, but if you know Amazon.com, you know it racks up! If I felt the desire to go out and buy something, I did so with no real thought about the connection between the purchase and my goal. I just knew that by buying this this item, it filled some unmet need within me.

In psychology, we talk about food and substance abuse addictions in the same way. The same rings true here, when sabotaging success for a momentary feeling of pleasure or fulfillment that never lasts.

It’s taken me some time to just decide not to visit Amazon.com. That was a huge victory for me since it’s just so convenient. I work a considerable distance from my home so I don’t really have the time go into stores, plus I don’t like shopping on the ground. Amazon Prime makes this really easy for me. If I order by noon, I will usually get my purchase by the next day. The cost? $3.99, or free if I choose the two-day option. As you can see this can get out of hand if you’re not careful. Now I add things to my cart and they stay there for weeks before making the purchase. My rule is to wait at least two weeks after adding something to the cart, and if I forget about it, I don’t need it.

Target is another beast. I won’t speculate about product placement marketing tactics in the store, because whatever they do in there works! I go in, and it never fails that I come out with way more than I need. As a result, I just don’t go there unless I absolutely have to, and these days my trips there are few and far between.

Has it been hard? Yep! But am I getting closer to my goal? Yes, and that feels even better.

Identifying these weaknesses will take introspection and honesty while making some hard decisions about how to change your spending habits. Deciding to take this on will be difficult but the results are worth it in the end.

To recap:

  • Identify your “heart,” where you spend most of your money.
  • Decide to change your heart from reckless spending to whatever financial goal you have in mind.
  • Engage in serious introspection about why you spend the way you do. Are there other psychological needs that spending temporarily meets?
  • Divorce yourself from the emotions which enable you to rationalize and accept destructive spending habits.

What are your financial weaknesses and how do you plan to tame it?

  • Leslie H. Tayne, Esq

    These are great questions and thoughts to consider when evaluating one’s financial decisions. Spending habits are very much tied to decisions we make based on emotion. Once you separate yourself from your emotions it will be easier to determine whether that meal was worth eating out or if those shoes were worth buying. Sit back and ask yourself, do I really need this? These steps will help you reach your financial goals.

  • http://budgetandthebeach.wordpress.com/ Budget & the Beach

    Target is a weakness for me too. 

  • http://twitter.com/IAmDebtProject AmericanDebtProject

    I really like the Day 1 financial plan, but I think this one is even more important! I have to admit that what gets in the way of my financial goals (mostly paying off debt) is my own impulsiveness. I make too plans to go out to dinners, take trips and do quick little activities that cost $20 or more. This is the seemingly innocent money-drainer. I’ve been consciously making an effort to change since I started my blog, but I need constant reminding and encouragement. Thanks!

  • Canaan

    I agree with your comments above.  Emotional addiction to shopping, or just shopping out of habit, is rampant in the western world.  Stress shopping is another addiction, although it is emotional as well.  I realized that I was shopping to fill a void out of boredom and habit, because that’s all I did with my friends on the weekends.  It wasn’t easy to stop it, but I did.  I stopped it by realizing that it was pointless, wasteful and I had larger financial goals than just accumulating more stuff.  I created a budget and got really serious about it, not just paying lip service.  The consumer culture really encourages people to live a life style that they can’t afford, and don’t really need to make their lives fulfilling.  The tide had really changed in terms of needs and wants and thank goodness for that.

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