Financial Trouble Starts in your Mind

By: Steve Gillman

Blaming financial trouble on outside factors is the norm, but is it the truth? Sometimes. Unexpected things do happen, after all. On the other hand, some people manage to handle the unexpected without any real financial difficulty, right? What are they doing differently?

To begin with, some people - even some with a low income - set aside money for the inevitable car repair or visit to the doctor. A car repair, a visit to the doctor, a washing machine breaking down - these are all unexpected at the time they happen. But on the other hand, it is totally predictable that they will happen at some point in your life, right? If you think or pretend that they won't - and so don't have money set aside for them - there is something wrong with how you're thinking.

Fortunately you can change how you think. You can choose to reflect on your past, for example, and note that every year you have had several "surprises" that cost hundreds of dollars. You can remember the financial trouble these caused, and the stress, and decide to be ready next time. Then you can set aside a little bit of money each week in expectation of these "unexpected" events. This doesn't mean you worry about these things - just the opposite. You plan so you don't have to worry.

Poor Thinking Habits Equal Financial Trouble

There are other ways in which poor thinking habits affect financial matters. For example, you probably know how much easier it is to buy things when you have a credit card. The research confirms this, by the way. It even shows that people will pay more when paying with credit. In one study, those who were allowed to use credit cards at an auction for Boston Celtics tickets bid twice as high as those who were required to pay cash (even though the latter were allowed two days to pay).

Obviously this tendency to be freer with credit can get you into trouble. A solution? Train yourself to think of all money as cash. Every time you are faced with a possible purchase using a check or credit card, ask yourself if you would do it if it was cash in your hands. If this is too difficult, get cash from your bank account before you go shopping, and leave the credit cards home.

Your mind (all minds) works in a certain habitual patterns and ways. The idea here, then, is that rather than let it mislead you, you use these habits in your favor. Another way to do this is to procrastinate in making purchasing decisions. When we procrastinate about something, we often just don't get it done. The same is true when procrastinating about buying something. If it is important enough, you'll still buy it later, but many things will be left unbought. Putting off buying decisions can radically reduce your expenditures.

Here's another habit to program into your thinking: Think of prices in terms of hours worked. Suppose you see a new television you like, and it costs $1,800. Now, let's assume you make about $12 per hour after all taxes. When looking at that television, do the math. It takes 150 hours of your labor to pay for it. Imagine going to work for an extra day each week for 19 weeks (8 hours per day) to pay for the television. Is that price too high now?

Include the costs of interest if you are buying on credit. You might pay $2,400 for that television before you are done. In that case the price is 200 hours of work (working Saturdays for half of the year, for example). In fact, consider the total cost with interest for all purchases and you might change your mind on many of them.

To review: Procrastinate when thinking about spending money, think of it all as cash, or better yet, think of it all as hours worked. See the total cost with interest if you are financing something. Expect the unexpected and plan for it. Think differently. Financial troubles start in your mind, and that is where you need to fix them.

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