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?
I 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.
- 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.