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Financial temptations are everywhere. Don’t believe me? Just flip on your TV for more than 15 seconds. Heck, even if a commercial is not on, product placement is all over your favorite show, even if you don’t notice (though lately, it’s blaringly obvious to the point where Michelle and like look at each other, roll our eyes in disgust, and even chuckle a bit at how over the top it is. I mean, seriously, almost every episode of two of our favorite shows have at least one full on advertisement for cars, delivered by the cast, trying to act like it’s part of the original script. It really is painful to watch.). I’ll even take it one step further. Just take a look out your window at your neighbor’s houses and cars. Does one of them drive a nicer car, have better landscaping, a bigger house, whiter teeth, better behaved kids?! Advertising has ingrained our psyche so well, that I bet you can think of a commercial for every one of those circumstances that would help you one-up your neighbor. So, what are you going to do about it?
Here’s what most people will tell you to do: Avoid places that cause you start going into a nervous fit and give you an itchy credit card finger. Stay away from the mall, don’t window shop, ignore commercials. The truth is, if you do that, you would have to shut yourself in forever, throw away all possessions and live in a cave. Now, that may not be a bad idea if you are just realizing you have a shopping addiction, but it is definitely not sustainable. Plus, the goal of overcoming temptation is not to avoid it forever, but to not be tempted by it anymore. With financial temptation, how do you go from a shop-a-holic to a fully-reformed thrift master?
Why Are You Tempted?
First, let’s break down the reason WHY you are financially tempted. There could be many reasons, but here are a few; 1) you want to keep up with the “Joneses”, 2) you are depressed and need a “pick me up”, 3) you are not content with what you have, or 4) you don’t have a plan for your money, so what the hay?! Why NOT?! Now, I’m sure there are books and books written about the first three, but I want to focus on the last reason here.
I am convinced the world would be a better place if EVERYONE was on a budget. I’m talking no national debt, world peace, free Justin Bieber t-shirts for everyone and all. And though that may be a bit far-fetched (I don’t think so), I do believe that have a plan for your money can be the answer to not just avoiding financial temptations, but killing them altogether! Let me show you how this works:
First, you figure out your priorities, and then write down your income and expenses. Setup your budget and make sure to add in small savings goal throughout the year, called “savings buckets.” If at all possible, I also recommend getting a month ahead, because it will get you out of the “living paycheck to paycheck” mentality which can exacerbate the temptation of just spending the rest of your money (“because I’ll never get ahead, anyway”). You can find all these steps in detail in my Budgeting Basics Series.
Use Your Budget As A Gun
Once you have set up your budget, you can start writing down your financial goals and dreams. For example; when Michelle first got a job out of college and we did our budget together, we talked about what we wanted to do with any extra money at the end of the month. We decided that we would put as much of it toward debt as we could. We even created a “debt thermometer” on a chalkboard in our apartment which we filled in every time we made an extra payment on the student loan. This was extremely motivating for us, and kept us focused on our goal instead of being worried about what everyone else was doing.
For some smaller goals, we set up our savings buckets for Christmas, Birthdays, Vacation and Car Maintenance. We love giving, but to be honest, the most motivating category was “vacation.” We loved seeing our vacation savings grow and grow, putting us one step closer to camping, a trip to Disneyland, and eventually, Hawaii! Having clear, short-term goals helped keep our eyes on the prize and away from shiny new trinkets.
As we shopped for Christmas items, we were not tempted one bit to overspend, because we had a set amount for each person on our list. When we would see a nice car in our apartment complex, we just cocked back the budget pistol and shot that temptation right IN THE FACE! “Want some new shoes?” BAM! NO! “Don’t you NEED a new iDevice?” BLAOW! Back off fanboy! “Doesn’t this pizza look delicious?” What? Pizza. Psshhh, we use eMeals, SUCKA! BOOM! “Need some extra cash, how about taking out one of our quick loans?” HUH? I hate payday loans, back-off shark! “Here, buy this new toothbrush.” WHA?! I got 90% of my bristles still, PLAYA!
It was pretty easy to walk away from any “sale” or awesome deal because we had some sweet goals in mind. So, let’s try a quick exercise. Close your eyes. Closed? Good (liars! You’re still reading!). Now imaging you just woke up to the sound of waves crashing to the shore, and you step out of your beach condo to your home for the next two weeks. Sound good to you? Great. Now, imagine NEVER GETTING THERE EVER BECAUSE YOU SUCCUMBED TO EVERY WHIM AND FINANCIAL TEMPTATION YOU CAME ACROSS! Sucks, huh?
Just Try It
If you find yourself just NEEDING a new shiny trinket, whatever it is, give this exercise a shot. Use your budget as a weapon to defend against the financial temptations that you encounter during the day so you can remain victorious in your quest for financial freedom. I bet you’ll feel a whole lot better about your decisions knowing you put some thought into them.
Comments: How has budgeting helped you avoid financial temptations? Do you find it easier to walk away from a “killer deal” now that you are on a budget? For those who do not have a budget, how does impulse spending affect your bottom line? Do you find it easy to walk away from financial temptations without any set goals? Also, does anyone else think that Romney has a savings bucket for his #bindersfullofwomen?