What is your excuse?

by Suba

Tool Box & Levels

A shoddy workman blames his tools.  We’re all familiar with some form of this proverb.  Sometimes however, recognizing that we are the “workman” in certain recurring, undesirable life situations may not come naturally to us.  For various reasons, a victim mentality permeates our thinking with respect to the bad situation in question.  This attitude may not be pervasive in our thinking, but certain situations just cause us to throw up our hands and say that no matter what we try, nothing changes and give up easily.

I have a problem with my weight.  I have had it for a few years now.  Every so often I decide that I’m fed up of being overweight and start exercising and watching my diet.  But somehow within a few days, there is an office party, a get together at a friend’s house or a real stressful day at work and all my resolutions to not give in to comfort food goes out the window.  Next thing I know, the couple of pounds I lost through hard exercise are back with a vengeance and I feel sorry for myself, wonder what the point of all the work is and just go back to my old eating habits.

Below I highlight some of the financial situations that many of us commonly struggle with in a similar fashion to my struggle with my weight.  Now I’m not saying that there are no external factors to blame.  Of course there are, but that doesn’t mean the problem can’t be overcome in spite of them.  Hopefully, you see the areas that you struggle with and this helps you focus on what you need to fix on your end, to finally overcome the problem despite external extenuating circumstances.

1. High credit card debt

Who we blame:  The evil credit card companies.
What we complain:  How is it possible to pay off the debt when the interest rates are so high?
Potential solutions:  Take responsibility for your debt.  If it means cutting out fun activities for a year or two, bite the bullet.  Until expenditure is less than income, you are not going to be able to knock down the debt.

2. Not saving for retirement

What we blame:  I’m too young to think of that right now.
What we complain:  I’m only young once.  Unless I enjoy life to the limit right now, I’m going to regret it for the rest of my life.
Potential solution:  As with all things there is a balance.  You can enjoy life, but do that after setting aside some money for the golden years.  Remember compound interest, according (supposedly) to Einstein is the strongest force in the universe, and it favors the young.  So even if you set aside a meagre amount, time will help grow it into something of significance.

3. High mortgage on a McMansion.

Who we blame:  Those Shylocks (lenders)
What we complain:  The lender tricked me into getting a mortgage whose terms are ruining me in this economy.
Potential solutions:

  • Call your lender and try to re-negotiate the terms of your agreement.  A lot of lenders are still trying to keep foreclosures down and will be willing, within reason, to help you out.
  • Get a roommate to help with the mortgage.
  • Get a part time job to bring in more dough.

4.  Living paycheck to paycheck

Who we blame:  Our employer for measly raises and payscales, the economy and the government for not fixing it.
What we complain:  I’m underpaid and no matter how hard I work and how well the company does I don’t get a good raise.
Potential solutions:  Take charge of your career.  Are there classes you can attend in the evening, which when completed allow you to go to a higher pay grade?  Talk to your manager about taking more responsibility at work.  That will lead to more recognition and higher pay.  If none of these work, its time to look for another job.

5.  Spending more than you earn.

Who we blame:  Everyone else.
What we complain:  There is just so much to buy for the people in my life or I work hard, therefore I deserve X even though its well out of my affordability scale.
Potential solutions:  Take responsibility for your spending habits.  If it means saying no to going out with friends frequently, so be it.  If it means not getting the latest iPod, then that’s what you have to do.  It will be hard at first but keep at it.  he financial benefits you see will be your reward and motivation to go further.

6.  Not bargain shopping or using coupons.

What we blame: Lack of time.
What we complain:  The time is too valuable to be spent bargain shopping or looking for coupons.
Potential solution:  The complaint above works only if you spent that time earning money.  Using the extra few hours to throw angry birds at caged pigs is worth $0.

7.  Not putting money in a 401k.

Who we blame:  Confusing investment vehicles.
What we complain:  I don’t know how to invest and with so many choices and companies offering so many options, I just don’t know what to do.
Potential solution:  You are never too old to learn.  There are a number of online tutorials and videos explaining the basics of the stock and bond markets.  There are also a number of places where you can find example portfolios.  Pick one and try the mock portfolio builders available from places like Google Finance or Yahoo Finance .  This will allow you to get a feel for investments as well as teach you about you risk tolerance levels allowing you to then take on the real thing with more confidence.

Changing behaviour is never easy.  When it involves areas of chronic trouble it is all the more hard.  This time when I decided to lose the extra weight, I got rid of all the temptations around the house.  When I have to attend an event with a lot of junk food I make sure I eat before I go there.  Having sated my hunger, I am a lot less likely to succumb to the temptation of stuffing myself.

I might not succeed this time either but the important thing is that I keep getting back up that horse to try again.  I might feel sorry for myself when I fail but I make sure the feeling doesn’t last more than a few days.  It take effort and patience but the rewards are well worth the effort.

Photo: Some rights reserved by shoesfullofdust

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20's Finances September 7, 2011 at 9:36 am

Great article. I love the specific examples and steps to overcome them. I think successfully managing your personal finances starts with this mentality that you can take control and improve your situation.

Suba September 9, 2011 at 5:35 pm

Corey, yes, the first step to fix the situation is accepting it.

Lisa @ Thriftability September 7, 2011 at 9:54 am

Sad, but true – we do tend to blame other issues for our lack of knowledge, understanding, or motivation. I know from personal experience: if I don’t make it happen – no one else will! Great article and advice!

Suba September 9, 2011 at 5:38 pm

Thanks Lisa. We do like to blame others first…

krantcents September 7, 2011 at 12:04 pm

Unsuccessful people always blame others and have excuses why they did not accomplish their goals. Taking responsibility for your actions and non actions is key to resolving this issue.

Suba September 9, 2011 at 5:39 pm

Personal responsibility is rare to come by these days. Either blame the Government or the evil companies for everything…

shanendoah@Baking the Budget September 7, 2011 at 8:56 pm

I think the other thing people have to let go of is the guilt and the what’s the point of it all feeling you were talking about with dieting. You have to allow yourself some wiggle room and you have to forgive yourself when you mess up. The guilt cycle only makes things worse. When you fall off the wagon, dieting or financially, accept that it happened and get back on.

Suba September 9, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Guilt and self pity. Losing weight if I don’t make good progress I tend to feel sorry for me and keep thinking what is the point… And fall off the wagon.

Financial Samurai September 8, 2011 at 12:08 am

I really have no one to blame but myself. I’ve put on about 7 pounds over the past 2.5 months because I’ve slowed down on my tennis and have been eating way too much. It’s very disappointing and annoying, so I’ve tried to exercise my. I’m still eating poorly b/c of so many client outings.

I need to focus on getting back into shape!


Suba September 9, 2011 at 5:38 pm

I hear you Sam. I have been trying to lose weight for the last 2.5 “years” 🙂

Peter September 8, 2011 at 9:17 am

It’s always easier to blame other people than to take responsibility for your own failings. Only when you start taking responsibility for your actions will you truly be on the path towards making a change and doing better.. Continuously blaming others means you’ll be in a constant state of victimhood.

Suba September 9, 2011 at 5:41 pm

We blame others for that victim mentality too 🙂

Maggie@SquarePennies September 8, 2011 at 8:42 pm

I complained to my mom once about why I couldn’t lose weight at that particular time. She said, “There’s never a good time to lose weight.” Now that’s wisdom. Note that I only complained ONCE to her about that.

Good list & we all need to watch ourselves on excuses!

Suba September 9, 2011 at 5:42 pm

Thanks Maggie. Losing weight and personal finance does have a LOT in common.

Cherleen @ The College Investor September 9, 2011 at 6:06 pm

No excuses. No pointing of accusing fingers to anybody. We are all to blame for our past, present, and future. It is our choices and decisions that should be blamed. If we make a bad decision and ruins our lives, it was our choice. Nobody is to be blamed.

Pam September 10, 2011 at 7:28 pm

Insightful post. Good examples that ring true for most of us in one area or another. It’s way too easy make excuses or blame others but you are right – we need to take responsibility for the choices we make about money and everything else, too.

Eric September 12, 2011 at 10:26 am

I love this! Everyone has excuses and I have had people get really mad at me for calling them out on it. Your choices lead to your situation. If you don’t like it, fix it. Period.

Paul @ The Frugal Toad September 12, 2011 at 9:01 pm

I agree that to be successful you need to accept responsibility for your own decisions. Once you do this the sky is the limit!

Broke Boomer January 1, 2012 at 5:14 pm

If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, how are you going to attend classes if you don’t have the money to pay for said classes?

And if you have a dead end minimum wage job, there is NO class that is going to make you more qualified at your job. Not to mention that a minimum wage job is a pretty good excuse for living paycheck to paycheck and for not saving for retirement.

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