Do you ever look at your past mistakes and get frustrated about how you are the source of most of your problems? As I’ve become more financially aware of what is going on in my life, I realize most of the pain has been from my poor financial habits. Maybe you are not like me and have made pretty good financial decisions most of your life. But I know there are people out there who can relate to being a financial idiot. This post is meant to give you hope to overcome your weaknesses and turn your financial life around because that is what I’m trying to do.

Face Reality

It’s easy to find ways of blaming others or situations for our financial troubles. Even though there might be some truth, these things contributed to the problems somehow, and I don’t think we are honest about our role in what happened.

That is especially true when we rack up debt buying things we don’t need.

We all experience negative outside forces that can drain our budget. But were we adequately preparing for the unexpected? Can we honestly say that we used our money 100% perfectly?

To me, this is where we can strengthen our financial perspective. Looking for weaknesses in spending, saving, and looking at money can help us plug holes in managing our money.

The drug addict could blame his friends for giving him his first drug. The gambler could use the excuse that their spouse shouldn’t have picked going to Las Vegas for a vacation. There might be a sliver of truth in these claims, but who chose to use the drugs? Who decided to take out money and gamble with it? I’ve made many stupid decisions that caused pain and grief in my own life, and I’m sick of it. I have no one else to blame but myself.

No one sets out to make bad financial choices. At least in my case, I knew what I was doing but could justify going into student loan debt for things I didn’t need. Maybe it was overextending ourselves on a car that we couldn’t afford. Or explaining spending excessive amounts of money on vacation would bring the family closer together.

Be Transparent With Yourself

I’ve tried to be brutally honest with myself. That has helped me in a few ways:

  • I confront my issues
  • It requires me to analyze the “why” behind my behavior
  • Sticking my neck out there creates a level of accountability
  • It helps me think about how I’m going to overcome my weaknesses and tendencies

Ignoring our problems is not going to magically lead us to a place where they “go away” in most cases. Unless we change things actively, our future will look exactly like our past. In my case, that was being in student loan debt and being bound to my negative net worth.

It’s not that I ignore the struggles I’ve gone through that were not my fault. I can acknowledge the past and how that influences my thoughts. But that still doesn’t justify my bad financial decisions.

Creating an accurate financial picture of where you are right now can begin recovering from your mistakes. But you can’t do that unless you acknowledge the problem.

Dig Yourself Out

I’m learning that many forces in my mind and life are working against me. But I need to strengthen the voice in my head that knows how our financial future can look if we start making more intelligent decisions.

I have self-destructive tendencies. These focus on fleeting pleasures. Buying a new luxury car, purchasing every new piece of technology, living in a luxurious house. All of these purchases will make me feel good for a short time. But none of them gives me what I truly want: time.

The amount of time I have to do whatever I want right now is limited. I’m bound by my PTO time and running a business. I’ve been asking myself: are my choices today putting me on a path where I will have more freedom to use my time the way I want?

It’s so easy to look up and realize how much of a hole we’ve dug. The light might be faint, but it is there. But what we forget is that once we get out of the debt hole, how much open space and light will flood into our lives and make us experience the exact opposite feeling: freedom. Before you know it, you are flying like a bird and looking down at the pit of despair you’ve worked so hard to get out of.

I’ve found it helpful in the past that it is best not to think about the hole you are in and how deep it is. Instead, focus on the possibilities that will open up once you conquer your financial issues. One way I love doing this is by repeating money affirmations over and over again. 

Don’t Forget the Pain

I can’t tell you how often I’ve looked at my spending and felt despair. How the hell did I spend all my salary this month? And how the hell do I have $25,000+ of student loan debt? 

These are questions that would consistently come up. It caused stress, arguments, frustrations, and mental pain.

The second I forget about this pain, I am vulnerable to repeating the past. I know this because I’ve seen it happen multiple times in our lives. We pay off our debt or start saving a part of our salary. But then something comes up. We justify why we need to go into debt to do this activity or get this new shiny object. And then the process goes on repeat. Our net worth goes down, and we are back to trying to pay off our debt.

Make Yourself Stronger

Being honest about where you can help, it’s not making your situation better. It is just stating facts. The real question becomes: what are you going to do about it?

Here is how I prevent the past from going on repeat:

  • Continuously question and challenge how I am using money
  • Increasing communication about our finances with my partner
  • Setting up systems to make it challenging to buy things we don’t need. This system can include automatic deposits and paying off my debt automatically every month.
  • Be hyper-aware of our budget to avoid overspending. There are plenty of things to do without spending any money, so I always try to focus on that when I am about to overspend.
  • Remember that I can’t say no to everything. For example, going out to eat, taking vacations, and enjoying life are just as important as increasing our net worth. It becomes about balancing priorities.
  • Train my mind to get more excited about our net worth increasing, over buying material possessions we don’t need. 

So many bad habits and thoughts are ingrained in my psyche that I have to manipulate myself somehow. Will I always have to do this? I hope not. Maybe with enough time, I can learn to overcome my internal struggles.

There is no doubt that I will mess up in some capacity, but I will continue to strive to learn from my mistakes. By focusing on making it harder to make bad financial decisions, I hope to increase the chances of changing my bad habits over the long term.

Get Rid of Negative Influencers

Getting rid of cable tv in our house was a smart move. The commercials alone would tempt us to buy things we didn’t need.

I’ve discussed how browsing the grocery store without a plan is dangerous for me, and the same concept applies here. There are so many things I could magically determine that I need that avoiding these temptations is the smartest move. Most of these things will not add to my life.

This idea can also apply to the people we hang around. Are they always buying new things and showing off their latest purchase? Does this tempt you to want what they have? Or maybe you struggle with thoughts in making someone look up to you based on what you own.

All of these things will be fighting for your wallet. And ultimately, you will be spending your future time on these things. In my case, most of these types of purchases will offer temporary relief, but nothing that I will be proud of on my deathbed.

Work Towards Freeing Your Time

I want to free my time in the future. That is my goal. I don’t want to be told when I need to get up or where I need to live. Bending over backwards for client requests constantly can be draining.

I love the analogy of flying like a bird. Birds are not limited in where they can go. One day they could decide to perch on the tallest tree in the valley, and the next day, they head towards the mountains. That, my friends, is freedom. Not being bound to generate income unless you want to, or building a money-making machine with investments, allows us to fly through life like a bird.

If you could live like a bird, what would you do?