Monday, September 6, 2010

9 Excuses For Overspending

We often rationalize our less than ideal behavior; the financial realm is no exception. Many times people use faulty lines of reasoning to justify their over or unwise spending (myself included). These are some of the most common excuses I've seen used. Have you ever justified overspending with any of these?

9 Excuses For Overspending

1. "You can't teach an old dog new tricks."
This excuse comes in many shapes and sizes, like "I won't ever be able to change" or "How can I possibly do a complete turnaround from how I've been living my life for the past however many number of years?"
To be honest, I completely get this excuse and it's very valid. Changing your spending habits (or any habits, really) is very difficult; it can take a whole lifetime even to overcome bad habits.
Please don't let this get you down. You can teach an old dog new tricks. Slowly, slowly you can become more conscious of your spending and spend deliberately, not by rote. You can start off with small things; once these small changes become ingrained, you little by little can take on bigger and bigger things and make more drastic changes. My "tips for a recovering spendthrift" may help you if you're in this camp. Don't give up and think you're a lost cause- there are definitely plenty of people out there who did a complete 180 and now are frugal queens when they used to have such terrible spending habits, such as Sara from My Frugal Fun Life.

2. "But there's no point in being money-smart. My financial situation is so bad that nothing I do will make a difference anyhow."
Sometimes people's financial situations spiral so completely out of control that it feels like you're stuck in the bottom of a deep pit with such steep sides that there is no way out. I can definitely understand feeling that no action can possibly make a dent in your outrageous debt, so why not at least live comfortably while being in debt? The problem with such thinking is that it is giving up before you even try.
Yes, there is a light at the end of the darkest tunnel of debt, and there is even a way to get out of it! People have paid off so many thousands of dollars in debt; you can too! Financial advisors like Dave Ramsey give concrete advice as to how to do it.
Whatever you do, don't give up hope. Hope is what will improve your situation. Believe in yourself that your situation is improvable and you'll have a very decent shot of being able to get your finances under control once again.

3. "But it's only a few dollars."
Its easy to justify our overspending by claiming that a few bucks here and there make no difference. If you think about it, one dollar doesn't buy a whole lot of anything.
However, once you do the math and see that your daily bought lunch is costing you 60 dollars a month, and then you add to that your 50 dollars on vending machine drinks and your few 30 dollar "dollar store" shops and you'll see that those dollars add up extremely quickly. Even if something seems like a small expense, once you add it all up you'll be able to clearly see that it is no small expense and it is definitely worthwhile to save.

4. "But I already overspent today/this week/this month."
The excuse of the dieter- "I already cheated on my diet today; I'll start again on my diet tomorrow/this weekend". Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. I know all about it!
Once you fall off the bandwagon, its quite hard to get back on. It always seems easiest to just push off starting  afresh than to pick up where you left off. The problem with that, though, is that the exactly moment you'll start over gets pushed off ad infinitum.
There is no magical start time for anything. Even if you overspent this month, this week, or even this morning, there is no reason that you have to continue overspending now. The time to start spending wisely is here, no matter how recklessly you've spent money until this very moment. Don't push off smart spending habits because the perfect time will never come.

5. "But my husband/wife wastes money- why can't I also?"
In many marriages one spouse spends more money than the other. This can cause some tension and quite possibly feelings of unfairness as well. When your spouse is recklessly spending, you may feel, rightfully or not, that you deserve to get extras and luxuries just as much as your husband. You may be saying "If he wastes money, why can't I?"
I'll let you think that one over, because if you contemplated on that question, I'm sure you'd know the answer.
Why can't you waste money if your husband is?
You may be in the frequently found type of marriage where the spouse is a big spender. One person overspending can really ruin you both financially if your accounts and assets are jointly owned. When two people are making stupid money moves, you'll manage to do twice the damage to your finances.
If your husband (or wife) wastes 100 dollars, for example, if you do nothing different, you'll be 100 dollars poorer. If you also spend 100 dollars on nonsense, you'll be set back $200 dollars as a couple.
If, on the other hand, you decide to use your money wisely and try to save however much money your husband is wasting, you'll at least be able to keep your financial situation from getting worse.
So why can't you also waste money if your spouse is?
Well, you can, but in order to get out of a bad financial situation, especially if you have a spendthrift spouse, at least one of you is going to have to do the tough thing and cut back so that you can have some hope of improving your situation.

6. "But my husband doesn't want me to be frugal."
When your spouse is a spendthrift, its hard to be the only one saving. Sometimes, if that isn't hard enough, one person specifically doesn't want the other to be frugal, because they have the mistaken notion that frugality is stinginess. This is one of the most valid excuses why to not be frugal, because a marriage is worth more than some extra money in the bank.
However, just because your husband has a bad opinion of frugality doesn't mean that you need to be a spendthrift. This is a tricky situation, but with a little bit of cunningness, I bet you can save a few bucks without him noticing, and hopefully this will counteract his lack of frugality. Even if you aren't particularly frugal, if you at least stop being wasteful when it is just about you, you might have a shot at getting your financial situation together.
Your husband may want you to pamper yourself, but I highly he's not going to be standing behind you with a gun, saying "Buy that frappuccino or I'll shoot" (and if he does, get out of that marriage quick!) so you do have the ability to not be wasteful even with little things like that.

7. "But I don't want to deprive my kids."
Ah, the worry of most moms, the ones that aren't worried that their kids will turn out to be spoiled brats. As a frugal mom, this is definitely a concern of mine, but being frugal doesn't need to mean depriving your kids. You can read more about how to be frugal and still not deprive your kids in my previous post- "Parenting and Frugality, a Balancing Act".

8. "But I deserve good things- I work hard!"
Its really difficult to work so hard day after day and to not be able to see any of that money because all that money goes towards necessities. In situations like that, I do strongly see the desire to spend on yourself, because, after all, you do work really hard and want to feel like you're getting rewarded for your effort.
Unfortunately, sometimes, no matter how hard you work, there isn't any extra money to go towards frivolity. If you spend the money that you earn on frivolities when there isn't enough to cover necessities, you'll have to work even harder to be able to cover the necessities in addition to the luxuries you've bought yourself.
Its a tough temptation, especially for people who work nonstop without getting a break. You may decide that you do want to work even more hours so you can get your luxuries in addition to the necessities, but in some cases that won't be an option. In cases like those, its important to prioritize and ask yourself "How will I feel if I have that new digital camera but don't have any money to buy groceries? Will I be fine with it or will I regret this purchase?"
Its hard, but priorities need to be made.
But that doesn't mean you can't have any nice things or luxuries- you need some nice stuff in life or you'll just get burnout. You'll just need to find a way to get luxuries that don't cost much at all. Hopefully I'll do a post on frugal luxuries sometime soon.

9. "But no one else is frugal- why should I be different?"
Dave Ramsey, the big financial guru has an appropriate quote. He says that "Live like no one else so you can live like no one else."
The trend these days is to be broke and in debt and worrying about money. Sure, if you want to be as stressed about finances as your friend/neighbor/sister/mom, you can spend exactly like they're spending. But if you want to be able to live without the stress they're carrying and be able to save up and accomplish your dreams, you must buck the trend and sacrifice a little (or a lot).
You don't have to be different. But if everyone else is jumping off the Empire State Building, would you as well? If everyone else is making big financial mistakes, don't you want to be different?

So there you have it. The list of 9 excuses that people have to rationalize their overspending. I hope this doesn't come across as a judgmental post, because it isn't meant as such. After all, I've used quite a few of these myself, some as recently as... yesterday. The point of this post is to show you that yes, these are excuses, and we need to stop our thoughts in their tracks when we start rationalizing overspending. Hopefully the counterarguments I've provided will be enough to help you stop rationalizing and start spending more wisely.

Which excuses do you use to rationalize overspending? How do you stop yourself before these rationalizations pave the way to purchases you'll regret and financial situations you'd prefer to avoid?

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