How many times have you said or thought “I can’t afford that”? Or worse, you got it anyways…not taking consequences seriously. You quickly sweep it under the rug of “I’ll worry about it later”.
We humans are complicated. We tend to think one thing, but do another. I can start out with the best of intentions with a healthy breakfast, do a work out, and vow that today is a new day. By 3pm, I catch myself with my hand in a bag of potato chips (the big bag from Costco!). Our actions can really get us into trouble.
I read an article recently from an on-line newspaper (Global News) that stated “56% of Canadians say they are within $200/month of being unable to pay their bills.”
Do you know what the first thing that came to my mind was? I didn’t take it at face value, and found myself questioning it.
Now I’m not judging here…I’m more curious than anything. I’m not pretending to know how the study was conducted…in fact it was probably conducted just fine. I’m more interested in how the people came up with the answers. If you were to ask someone that question…”how much money do you have left after you have paid all of your bills?”, and the answer is “only $200”…I’d like to know if that’s fact or perception.
Say they scrutinized every transaction, cut corners all month, and their head was barely above water by $200? I absolutely empathize and would have to say that that’s quite scary.
But for everyone else, did their answer reflect how much money was spent on groceries, or how strict or frivolous they were during the month on every single transaction that went through their account? Did that area rug they bought, but possibly didn’t even need contribute to the answer of $200? Were they forced to go out for dinner 4 times that month? Did she get a second opinion on that vehicle repair? Did he buy a new pair of jeans when there were already 10 pairs in his closet? (The new ones really make his butt look spectacular, but still…)
Reading this article reminded me of an old friend of mine who used to always say to me “I really want to buy a new car, but I can’t afford the payments.” If the payments were $250 bi-weekly and that’s way too much in his mind, I proceeded to ask him a few questions and the first one was “what if you could afford it?”
I discovered that they had no idea what was being spent every month on groceries and he said his wife was always online shopping. I also found out that he had a bad habit of losing at poker. He told me that their credit card was never paid off and that was a bone of contention (causing arguments) because it was always the roller coaster of racking it up and paying it down. I challenged him by getting his attention. I said “what if you absolutely could afford your car?”
For a family of 4 to spend $1300/month on groceries, let their kids have almost anything they wanted, online shop and lose at poker as much as they do, and complain that he can’t afford the car he keeps yippin’ about…I’m sorry but his priorities are way off! I know that sounds preachy, but I don’t think I’m off-base here. And hey I’m on his side…why is he being denied something he really desires if he wants it that bad?
I told him if they were to implement and follow my budget system, put a cap on their grocery amount, limit how much to spend on the kiddies, and quit being frivolous, they could get their credit card paid off first…like for good! That would feel amazing and put a stop to arguments. Second, they could discuss what each other’s reward would be…for him, we already know it’s the car.
It’s a little bit like how it works for a child or a pet, right? Say your kid has to clean her room, and then she gets to watch her favorite show. Puppy has to shake a paw and sit first before he gets his treat. Well as adults, if you’re willing to work at paying down a credit card(s), and follow a household budget system, then that’s earning your reward.
And let’s pretend she takes it a step further and says, “Okay, no more online shopping…in fact I’m going to wear what’s in my closet and sell anything I haven’t worn in the past year”. And, he agrees to quit poker, and to help recoup his losses, he’s going to clean out the garage and sell off some valuable items that are buried out there. Maybe they could even get the kids on board where they choose a reward, and work toward getting it if that means selling off items that aren’t needed or used anymore, and do chores, etc. Keep your eye on the prize I say. For him it’s the car, for her…it’s her special thing. Maybe it’s something together…like a renovation, or a vacation. You’d be surprised what motivates you when you want something bad enough. Adults too have to do the work in order to reap the rewards, just like your kids or your pets do.
Do you see what was going on before? They weren’t even talking about finances, they had no household budget, they were just doing their own thing, and not working as a team. He justified playing poker as his outlet because his wife was online shopping too much, which was possibly her outlet. (She probably said he played poker too much.) When they started focusing on their money and priorities, they were each able to identify a reward that really mattered, and made tons of progress. It motivated them and funnily enough, in hindsight they both admitted that they didn’t get any real satisfaction from the online shopping and the poker, however they now recognize that they blew a ton of money in the process. Now not only are they doing better financially, but they are getting along way better in their relationship. There is way less arguing, less score-keeping, and they are setting a much more positive example for their kids. Nice!
Next time you say you can’t afford something, ask yourself if that’s really true, or if that’s just something you tell yourself.