You might remember a particularly fuzzy story in The Huffington Post that came out last year around Christmas, called “The Real Reason You're Single.”
Although much of the advice in the column was controversial or at least unpleasant to read, the thesis came down to this: You can’t blame everything on the world, your circumstances or other people.
In a similar but different vein, this article is dedicated to all the excuses we’ve ever made for why our finances aren’t everything we’ve dreamed:
Our jobs just don’t pay enough
Our friends are bad spending influences
We’re too deep in debt to ever get out
In response to those, we bring you nine reasons you’re broke … when you shouldn’t be.
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You Put Your Entire Paycheck in Your Checking Account
Of course, you should have a checking account, but depositing all your income straight to checking sets you up to overspend and sideline your savings goals. After all, the money is right there, ripe for the spending, and socking cash away for the future requires transferring it separately to your savings account.
A better solution? Set up automatic deposits straight from your paycheck into your various savings accounts. It’s called paying yourself first, and it's much harder to miss money you’ve never seen in the first place.
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You Spend on Stupid Stuff
Although we’re a financial website, we actually think you should spend money … on the things that will actually make a difference in your life. Spending on a meaningful vacation or a clothing item that will revolutionize your wardrobe? Totally worthwhile. Spending extra on things like your electricity bill or your medicine cabinet? Totally stupid.
Prioritize what matters most to you, then cut out the rest of the filler in your budget. For extra help on cutting costs around your house and throughout your life, check out LearnVest’s free, newly revamped Cut Your Costs Bootcamp.
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You’re Reliving Your Childhood
Whether you admire your parents or swear you’ll never turn out like them, you might be more like them than you think. We get a ton of our beliefs about money from those who raised us. But don’t let your family get in your head—or impact your bank balance.
Are you a compulsive saver like your dad? Do you avoid dealing with your finances like, well, your whole family? Do you feel like your life would be solved if only you were rich? The first step to overcoming your money baggage is to identify what's behind it. Take this quiz to learn your money beliefs … and what to do about them.
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You Don’t Have Any Goals
You’re much likelier to save if you have something to save for, especially if it’s something important to you. Get some emotions on the line by thinking of specific reasons you’re working so hard at your finances. Are you trying to save up for a house someday? A family? A new car? A much-needed vacation?
Put everything in perspective, and give yourself something to work for, by creating a vision board, which you can fill with images and words to illustrate your ideal life. This will help you realize what’s most important to you; you might even be surprised at the images that appeal to you! Here’s how to make your vision board.
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Okay, that’s a little harsh: It’s not all on you. Stores employ a ton of tricks to try to seduce us into buying more than we intended. So if you’re not savvy to their ploys, there’s a good chance you’ve fallen into at least a few of their traps.
From the way stores play with light to make “trick mirrors” to the music they play in the background, learn the pitfalls to avoid getting suckered in. Here are the top nine tricks stores use, straight from Martin Lindstrom, author of the book “Brandwashed.”
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You’re Scared of Your Own Power
Your power to grow your money, that is. Investing may sound like an intimidating thing meant only for financial gurus, but you’re missing out if you’re too chicken to jump in. If you invested, 40 years could turn $1,000 into almost $22,000. (We calculated that here.) Meanwhile, that same $1,000 would leave you with only a little over $2,000 after 40 years if you put it in a savings account with 2% interest! (Calculated here.)
That’s not to say you should start picking random stocks—we recommend starting out with mutual funds or exchange-traded funds to make sure you have the most balanced portfolio to fit your goals. Don’t know what those words mean? No worries. Just read this.
Ready to learn more about what’s happening in the economy, so you can be a better investor? Check out The Market, LearnVest’s weekly cheat sheet to investing and the market.
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You’re Paying Your Debts Wrong
Even if you’re responsibly paying off your debts, you could be keeping yourself down if you’re paying them in the wrong order.
Don’t divide your payments equally among all debts, like credit card debt or your student loans. Those with the highest interest rates grow fastest, so focus on the most toxic debts first. How do you know which those are? We created a whole model for you to spell it out. Check it out here.
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You Don’t Value Yourself Enough
We’ve all heard a lot about the pay gap between men and women (on average, women still make 70% of what men make). But forget averages and think about yourself: Many experts attribute that gap, at least in part, to the fact that women tend to ask for less and negotiate less than their male counterparts.
This hiring manager told us, “Women simply accept, while the men negotiate. I would have essentially the same candidate, the only difference being gender, and I was paying her $20,000 less.”
We know how it goes: It starts with a small spending gaffe. But then you figure you’re off the wagon, anyway, so you let yourself keep buying more, and, before you know it, you’re in the depths of a bad spending spiral.
This is a common way of thinking. Once you’ve screwed up your budget, it’s easy to feel helpless because it’s hard to imagine how you’ll get yourself back on track. But that thought pattern is one of the easiest ways to blow through a budget and just keep blowing on past all your financial goals.