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Money problems can happen to anyone.
But have you noticed, for some people, it’s ongoing and just continues to spiral downward, while for others it’s a shorter-term problem? National economy aside, why is this the case?
I think a lot of it has to do with the things that people tell themselves that are simply not true. These lies are very common, and they can keep you trapped in a bad situation for a very long time.
It’s not my fault.
Actually, it probably is.
I know that sounds harsh, but bear with me. Taking personal responsibility for your mistakes is the first step toward setting things right. Nearly every financial situation could have been different if a different series of decisions had been made. Your honest analysis of this will help you to refrain from repeating them and will also aid you in untangling your mess.
So while there are things that are not within our control, like a catastrophic illness or injury, there were also plenty of things you could have controlled. You need to recognize these things. It’s essential to own your culpability.
This doesn’t mean you need to beat yourself up about it. Put away the sackcloth and ashes because we’re all human beings. I know I’ve made purchases I regret in the past. I’ve made an insurance claim that caused a horrific cascade of events and I wish I’d never made that claim. I started a business with a large loan that was an awful mistake. I’ve made mistakes and I recognize this. I forgive myself and I move forward with the knowledge that I’ve learned a valuable lesson.
It’s just this once.
Whether you’re buying something frivolous on your credit card, going out to dinner because you don’t feel like cooking, or take some other shortcut, it’s really never “just this once.”
Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m okay with all of these things given the right circumstances. These are the right circumstances:
- You can pay your credit card bill in full before it comes due and you have to pay interest.
- You’ve budgeted for dinner out that week
- Your expenditure falls within your allotted amount of spending money
If these things are true, then go ahead and do whatever it is you’re trying to justify with “just this once.” But remember, once you do that thing “just this once” it seems a whole lot easier to do it again…and again…and again. It’s very rarely “just this once.
My children shouldn’t know we are having money problems
I talked about this in detail in this article last week. But let’s discuss it a little bit more here.
Why is it that you don’t want your kids to know? Is it because you think they’ll be worried and stressed out? Or is it because you’ll feel like a failure or bad example?
If it’s because of how them knowing makes you feel, then you need to consider that living in a glowing perfect world where every bill payment is met with ease and budgets don’t seem to exist – things just magically work out – that’s a fairy tale. And if they grow up believing in that fairy tale, you are setting them up for a life of difficulty.
Your kids need to know to an age-appropriate degree what is going on, if for no other reason than for them to understand why you keep saying no to that Slurpee they want to get every time you’re at the gas station.
Paying off debt is always the most important thing.
Most of the standard advice for people with financial problems is that once you pay off all your debt, the world is your oyster. People tell themselves this is the case and work diligently toward paying off their credit cards, their mortgages, and their car payments to the detriment of other things. They tell themselves that paying off debt is the most important thing.
That’s not always true.
I’m not saying that debt repayment isn’t important – I strive to remain debt-free or debt-free aside from one payment at all times. However, if you are in a bad situation financially, there are lots of things you should be paying before you exceed the minimum payment on your debts.
Paying off your debt is not always the best use of your money, and it’s really difficult for most people to believe that. I always recommend this order: essential bills, food, savings, and then debt repayment. Having an emergency fund and a full pantry are insurance policies that will protect you during difficult times, and should, therefore, be a priority.
You have to have a credit card to get by in this world.
People believe that everyone must have a credit card to manage in the world. Admittedly, it does make life a bit easier. However, it’s far from a necessity, especially if you have a debit card with the Mastercard or Visa logo on it.
I went almost 50 years before getting my first general credit card. I had some store cards because of the discounts they offered by just didn’t feel that a general card was necessary. I have rented cars and hotel rooms, booked plane tickets and excursions, and managed to live my life perfectly well without using a credit card. I finally got one for business expenses when traveling and pay the whole thing off each month.
The thing to know about life without a credit card is that some places will put a hold on money in your bank account if you use your debit card in lieu of a credit card. This is especially true of car rentals and hotel bookings. So be sure you have an extra few hundred dollars in your account so that you aren’t on vacation without access to the money you planned to use for spending.
I deserve a treat.
This is one of the most dangerous financial lies out there. If you believe that budget be d*mned, you have had a bad day and you deserve that treat regardless, you’re treading into dangerous territory.
I believe in treats. That is the entire premise of this website: Live large on a tiny budget.
But these treats must be a part of your budget. If you just go and buy yourself an unscheduled treat every time you have a good day, every time you have a bad day, every time your kid does something special, every time the weather changes, every time there’s a holiday…well you get the idea. That’s a lot of treats, and depending on the level of your treat, that can really add up.
You don’t “deserve” a treat if it’s going to mean you can’t pay for an essential later. You don’t “deserve” a treat if it means you’re going to struggle to put gas in the car. If you are constantly worried about these kinds of basic expenses, you need to look at how you’re doling out the treats.
Also, take a hint from the dieting world. People in the weight loss business suggest that you make your treats non-food. Maybe make your treats non-monetary. Go for a walk, get a book you’ve been wanting to read from the library, or watch a movie online that nobody in your family wants to see, popcorn included.
Money doesn’t buy happiness.
I disagree with this to a large extent. I can tell you for a fact that I am a much happier person now that I have enough money than I was when I had to dig through a dumpster to find food that was suitable to feed my daughter. I’m far happier now than I was when I had to choose between buying groceries or paying the electric bill. I’m positively ecstatic in comparison to when I lost my home to foreclosure and my car to repossession.
So while having money doesn’t guarantee your life will be filled with angels singing “Hallelujah” and that nothing terrible will ever happen to you again, it does make things so much less stressful. And less stress, for me, is a huge component of my happiness levels.
Sure, there are rich folks who are miserable. We see reports of celebrities taking drug overdoses and committing suicide all the time. We hear about wealthy people getting divorced and becoming embroiled in heated custody battles. Expensive cars are involved in horrific accidents that cause injuries or death just like clunkers are. People in well-to-do families die just like they do in poverty-stricken families.
But I guaran-dang-tee you that being concerned about your electricity flickering off during the visitation of that lost loved one would make your situation a whole lot worse.
Money makes your life easier, more comfortable, and less stressful. And while that isn’t a recipe for joy, it sure does help make room in your life for seeking those things that make you truly happy.
What are some other financial lies people tell themselves?
Do you have anything I should add to this list? Do you agree that these are lies or do you think I’m wrong? Let’s talk about it in the comments section.