For many, it’s not the rules of personal finance that are difficult — it’s implementing them. We know what we should do, but we make poor choices. In The Psychology of Spending Money, Deborah Fowles explores our “urge to splurge”.
Facing the factors that give you the urge to splurge can be uncomfortable, but if you don’t face them, you may never get control of your spending and your debt. If you’re always trying to pay off yesterday’s purchases, many of which have long since worn out or been forgotten, how will you acquire the things you truly want for tomorrow?
Fowles points out that when you use a credit card, it’s easy to forget that you’re using real money. People are much less likely to overspend if they use cash. (Checks are good, too.) Credit cards allow you to feel all the pleasure of purchasing something new without experiencing any of the pain. Until later.
Fowles encourages us to examine why we feel the need to spend. Though the details are different for each person, the underlying principles are often the same. Many people spend money when they’re experiencing low self-esteem.
Remind yourself daily that money or a lack of it doesn’t determine who you are. Your worth as a person has nothing to do with how much money you have. Once you truly believe this, and money is no longer connected to your sense of self-worth, you open up the psychological barriers that were keeping you from wisely handling the money you do have and limiting your ability to make more.
This may sound touchy-feely, but it’s not. It’s sound advice. You cannot learn to control your spending until you understand what money means to you. Begin to notice your thought process and attitudes as you shop. What are you thinking? Why are you buying the things you’re buying?
If you have a troubled relationship with money, you may benefit from reading Your Money or Your Life. Borrow it from your local library. I tout this book often, but it’s because it has done the most to change the way I view money. It helped me see money as a tool, and demonstrated the relationship between time and money in a way that seems very real.
Remember: the first step on the path to get rich slowly is to stop acquiring debt. You can only become wealthy if you spend less than you earn. If you’re currently spending more than you bring in, you need to either spend less or earn more. (Or, ideally, both.)
Make it a mantra: Stop acquiring new debt.