It may surprise you to know that being the master of your money is mostly psychological, and less financial. The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel points out that humans tend to tell themselves narratives, or stories, that fit what they want to believe. That includes justification for spending habits that don’t give you your desired outcome…okay, let’s just call them bad spending habits.
What can we do to build “better” money habits? Well, that depends on what you want to accomplish. Below is a list of questions you can ask yourself to help define this:
1. How much does it cost to support my hobbies?
2. How much do I need to buy food and basic needs for myself? My family?
3. What makes me happy and what does it cost?
4. Why am I spending money on things that don’t make me happy?
5. Do I even know how much I spend each month and where?
6. Do I really need a sports car, or will a regular car fit my needs?
7. Is my credit card debt increasing or decreasing each month?
The above questions are just a few to help get conversations started or to provoke thought and there are many, MANY ways to approach this topic.
Another key idea is to forget the past. Much like looking at the rear-view mirror in your car the entire time while driving will cause you to rear-end someone or wreck, looking in the past on your money will cause similar results. The past is full of things we can latch on to justify our current bad habits because it gives us a story that we can tell to let ourselves know it is not our fault. That’s great for our ego, not great for our wallets.
For example, you have kids and the little money vampires have been sucking your dollars away until there is nothing left except your exhausted body, mind, and soul. But you still need to get a new car because the old one just isn’t cutting it anymore. As you walk into the auto lot with the story that you deserve to get a super nice car because darn it you keep buying everyone else something nice except yourself, you see a luxury car that you decide you are getting. Except you know you can’t afford it…and the money vampires won’t fit inside it. So, the crafty car salesperson tells you that you don’t, in fact, have to be able to afford it because you can finance it with magically low monthly payments…except they neglect to tell you that it is a 7-year loan and you are basically paying for 2 cars after all the interest is paid, nor the fact your insurance bill is increasing, nor the fact that your property tax bill is increasing, nor the fact that the car value will drop significantly the moment you drive it off the lot causing you to owe more than the car is even worth. But darn it you deserve this new car because when you look at the past there is a story that says it’s OK. But it isn’t. You already have a stressed budget and you made it worse by buying an expensive car.
Drop the story from your past that drives your decisions, and ask yourself what do you value, and what is important. Does the financial decision you make support those values or violate them? Once you have those questions answered you may find it easier to build healthier spending habits.
For more information on why new things don’t make you happy, see our earlier blog article on The Trap of Consumerism Aka “The Diderot Effect"
Your financial partner,
Open Doors FP