I’ve been reading a lot these days, and I’ve read the great piece by Caroline Leon from Life is Limitless, “Six Causes of Procrastination And How to Overcome Them” and I couldn’t stop thinking how her sayings can be applied to our money world.
Let’s think a bit: what’s the most important money-related thing you’ve been procrastinating to do? A budget? Saving for your emergency fund? Saving for the vacation travel you want to take this year? Even if it’s something as small as changing banks to pay less fees, the truth is we always have an excuse to NOT do so.
Caroline lists six main causes people use to postpone things. The first one is feeling overwhelmed.
We start doing a lot of things, setting several goals and dreaming so big! We get so excited about everything we can accomplish and do that when we get a really good look at it, it’s just too much!
Of course, getting the hang of your finances is a noble and necessary cause, and a lot of people really wake up one morning saying to themselves “Today I’ll do it!”. Then they start planning a budget, looking at personal finance apps, reading blogs, buying books and when the day ends, there is just too much on their plates. Tracking every single penny in this new app that you barely know, or on the just-downloaded 5-tabs-Excel-spreadsheet seems a Herculean task, right?
You are right, it IS! But you don’t have to do it that way! You can start slow and go “heating up the water” one degree at a time. I am averse to the idea that you should change from water to wine in one day, or one week. Do it gradually, one step at a time, and then it will become part of you. It will take longer, but you will build a habit of it for the years to come.
Fear of Failing
I am not good with numbers and my memory used to be terrible. Can you imagine how many times I had to start a budget until I got to one that I could really use? A lot! And several of those times I just almost-started and gave up because I was afraid of failing again. “Oh, I am not organized enough to do this”, “I know I’ll get lost with all the options”, “I’ll never get to save this amount of money”, and so on.
And because of this fear of failing, I didn’t even try! If I could have started saving for retirement when I was 25, even if it was $10/month, today I’d be a lot less stressed about that. I did not, because I thought “Saving $10 a month will lead me nowhere, and when I retire I’ll be poor anyway”. Fear of failing.
Is it better to have absolutely nothing or at least have $15,220.77? (Can you guess where this number came from?)
Fear of success
What is success for you? Saving enough money to travel the world? Having a big house and new cars? Whatever it is, you may believe that these symbols of success can harm you, even if you don’t know. You may be afraid that by having money you will have to lend it to your lazy cousin (or say no and ruin the Christmas party), or that people will think you are cocky, or that to get there you will have to step on other people heads.
The way I think about this is that if I can be successful, I will have more and more ways to help other people to do the same.
Lack of clarity
You want to buy a new car, but you have to start saving for that. How much money do you need, exactly, to make a down payment towards that new car? If you don’t know exactly where you do want to go, you can never start the journey. It’s way easier to start knowing that you will need to save $150 per month during one year and a half than just wanting to “save for a new car”.
“I’ve saved $750 so far, only $1500 to go” is a better and clearer image than “I’ve saved $750 so far, one day I’ll get enough to buy that new car”. Can you see the difference?
Living someone else’s dream
I said this the other day. You have to change your mindset. If you are doing anything just because you read somewhere that it would be good for you, or because your wife/husband/mother/imaginary friend wants you to do so, you will surely procrastinate and even sabotage yourself.
You want to buy new clothes and go to restaurants, but your father says you must be saving for university. If you don’t get the idea of saving from deep inside yourself, it will never happen: you will always find more interesting stuff to do or buy with your money.
Lack of structure
It may be that you do not identify yourself with nothing I said here, and even though you are procrastinating and procrastinating and procrastinating. Why so? It may be because you don’t have discipline and structure.
Struggling to save? Set up an automated savings account in your bank. Make it so it takes $10, $50, $500, whatever from your bank account and put it directly and automatically to your savings account (or RRSP, TFSA, you name it). Or give 12 checks to a friend with specific instructions to deposit them one per month into your savings account, no matter what may happen, even if an evil you comes from the future and tell him to not do so. This way you create accountability, and you have somebody to report to. Accountability can be a very, very strong motivator: you will not want to fail your friend, will you?
It’s up to you
The truth is: you cannot really blame anyone for your own procrastination, but you can get help to overcome it. But even to do so, this need, this feeling must come from within you! Are you ready to stop procrastinating and getting your personal finances in shape?
* Photo courtesy by Joel Bedford