As featured in The Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine, and more!
     

Tame Your Achilles’ Heel for Financial Freedom

This article was written by in Consumer. 9 comments.


This is a guest article by Ginger, owner and curator of Girls Just Wanna Have Funds. She works as a psychotherapist with clients with whom money is a frequent topic.

When people think about financial freedom, most tend to think of it as this abstract state of being since it’s something that has yet to be experienced. Often this tends to be the reason why people rarely understand what prevents them from getting to this place in their financial life.

This brings us to the question and discussion of your Achilles’ heel. What prevents you from achieving your financial goals?

Achilles' HeelI often ask friends when talking about money goals, “Do you know what stops you from getting there? Do you want it badly enough?” Sometimes we’re so mired in what makes us comfortable that we can’t see past what it would mean to be successful in this area.

Success doesn’t have to mean paying off all of your debt in one year. It can simply mean taking baby steps to reduce the amount of money you send eating out. Avoiding trips to Target. Reducing mindless shopping habits which only further the raging spending addiction preventing you from seeing into the financial promised land. Those are all my Achilles’ heels, by the way.

How to identify your Achilles’ heel

Where do you most regret the money you spend? My pastor often says a man’s heart is where he spends his money (Luke 12:34). This rings true for me. When reviewing monthly transactions, I often saw where my money was going, as painful as it was to look at plainly in front of me. I kept saying to my self, “I spent what?!” There was a time when visiting Amazon.com and Target meant spending loads of money that I had no business spending.

Other financial transgressions meant spending more than I care to share eating out for no other reason than not wanting to cook that evening or choosing to eat instead of addressing how I was really feeling about a situation that upset me. The question I’d often asking myself is, “How did this help me towards my goals?” It didn’t help, as I had nothing to show for it but an empty plate or an item that I’d soon forget about once it arrived on my doorstep.

One day it all clicked.

This has taken some time. I’ve been writing my blog about money for a few years now. I finally connected how destructive my spending habits were in relation to my stated financial goals. I was sabotaging myself without really understanding why.

This changed with a decision

The same pastor I mentioned above also speaks about how many of the changes we need to make in life start with a decision, one decision to change the behavior and continuing to make that decision to stick with it. This might not — and often doesn’t — feel good, but if we’re to get to where we need to be then yes, it’s necessary.

Divorce yourself from your emotions

The pastor then goes on to tell us about the need to divorce ourselves from our emotions. And again, this rang true for me because shopping was almost like an addiction. I wasn’t shopping for clothes but more so for little things I needed, but if you know Amazon.com, you know it racks up! If I felt the desire to go out and buy something, I did so with no real thought about the connection between the purchase and my goal. I just knew that by buying this this item, it filled some unmet need within me.

In psychology, we talk about food and substance abuse addictions in the same way. The same rings true here, when sabotaging success for a momentary feeling of pleasure or fulfillment that never lasts.

It’s taken me some time to just decide not to visit Amazon.com. That was a huge victory for me since it’s just so convenient. I work a considerable distance from my home so I don’t really have the time go into stores, plus I don’t like shopping on the ground. Amazon Prime makes this really easy for me. If I order by noon, I will usually get my purchase by the next day. The cost? $3.99, or free if I choose the two-day option. As you can see this can get out of hand if you’re not careful. Now I add things to my cart and they stay there for weeks before making the purchase. My rule is to wait at least two weeks after adding something to the cart, and if I forget about it, I don’t need it.

Target is another beast. I won’t speculate about product placement marketing tactics in the store, because whatever they do in there works! I go in, and it never fails that I come out with way more than I need. As a result, I just don’t go there unless I absolutely have to, and these days my trips there are few and far between.

Has it been hard? Yep! But am I getting closer to my goal? Yes, and that feels even better.

Taming your Achilles’ heel will take introspection and honesty while making some hard decisions about how to change your spending habits. Deciding to take this on will be difficult but the results are worth it in the end.

To recap:

  • Identify your “heart,” where you spend most of your money.
  • Decide to change your heart from reckless spending to whatever financial goal you have in mind.
  • Engage in serious introspection about why you spend the way you do. Are there other psychological needs that spending temporarily meets?
  • Divorce yourself from the emotions which enable you to rationalize and accept destructive spending habits.

What is your Achilles’ heel, and how do you plan to tame it? Or have you tamed it?

Published or updated December 6, 2011. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

Email Email Print Print
avatar
Points: ♦120
Rank: Cent
About the author

Ginger is the curator and owner of the blog, Girls Just Wanna Have Funds, empowering and educating women women about personal finance issues. She is a psychotherapist working with clients for whom money is a frequent topic. You can find Ginger on Business Insider as a contributor with other features on MSNBC, Essence, Wall Street Journal, Good Morning America and MSN. Follow Ginger on Facebook or Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Briana @ Prairie EcoThrifter

My Achilles heel is food unfortunately, which has caused problems not only with my money, but with my health as well. I plan on getting a hold on this issue now so I can be better equipped in 2012.

Reply to this comment

avatar wylerassociate ♦906 (Dime)

My achilles heel is overspending on food & electronics. I now use mint.com to manage my finance (fantastic website) and use a monthly budget to track all my expenses.

Reply to this comment

avatar shellye ♦107 (Cent)

Mine is food, entertainment (movies, mostly) and stuff for my kids. I hope to get a better grip on expenditures for all three categories in 2012.

Reply to this comment

avatar Luke Landes ♦127,386 (Platinum)

Right now, my Achilles’ heel is dining out. I’ve always preferred not to cook myself. I just haven’t been inspired to spend the time to make great meals, when I’m living by myself. I’ve cut back on dining out quite a bit, and when I do go to restaurants I’ve generally increased the (perceived) quality (ie. increased price), but it’s not a great way to hold onto cash.

For a while, I was spending a lot of money on one particular hobby (photography), but the last few months I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had a chance to enjoy this… thus, I’ve spent less money. Both good and bad.

Reply to this comment

avatar lynn ♦155 (Cent)

I can’t think of an Achilles’ heel. I am great with money and shopping. I don’t care for shopping, so I’m good there. Food I use to shut my stomach up. I really do eat to survive. I’m flexible about entertainment, I read a lot. So maybe books are my problem. Do I have to have a problem? Does everyone have one? Hmmm. I’ll have to think about this one.

Reply to this comment

avatar Michael

I am not sure if I have one heel or several smaller ones but I like the idea of looking for patterns and changing behavior accordingly. Clearly, we could all stand self improvement and this seems like something you could assess every so often to keep in check. Great post.

Reply to this comment

avatar qixx ♦1,825 (Half-Dollar)

If someone else were to look at my finances they would say my Achilles’ Heel would be concerts (I’ve spent more on concerts in the last 10 years than i made last year). But i don’t regret having spent that much on shows so i’d say it does not qualify. I’d list my heel as spending on DVD’s and CD’s. Luckily i’ve made great strides on that in the recent past.

Reply to this comment

avatar Forest Parks

I live pretty minimally these days but used to buy far too many DVDs and CDs… I recently sold them all actually, felt liberating!

Anyway, I am finding I am getting more and more detached from consumerism and if I am not careful I may go too far the other way! I recently met a guy who lives in an old school bus in the woods and lives off the forest and playing his fiddle downtown for change. I don’t think i’ll reach that far but it certainly interested me.

Reply to this comment

avatar Mike, Personal Finance Beat

Nice post. Echoing some of the comments above, mine is spending money on “going out” things like restaurants and bars. I know those are things I need to cut back on, but living in NYC doesn’t make it very easy!

Reply to this comment

Leave a Comment

Connect with Facebook

Note: Use your name or a unique handle, not the name of a website or business. No deep links or business URLs are allowed. Spam, including promotional linking to a company website, will be deleted. By submitting your comment you are agreeing to these terms and conditions.

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

Previous post:

Next post: