Do you remember your first love? I don’t mean that boy or girl you kissed in kindergarten. I mean that first true love…the person with whom you were destined to spend the rest of your life.
However, it didn’t last. We broke up after a few years, the reasons for which won’t be mentioned here.
But then we got back together a few months later and it was just like old times. It was like we hadn’t missed a beat. And this time things would be different. We were committed to make our relationship last.
Except it didn’t. Again we split after less than a year.
…you know what’s coming next.
Relationships sometimes die hard and this one wasn’t going down without a fight. After about a year of being apart we connected again. For sure, in this go around of dating we’d commit 100% to making it work and stay together forever. Again, this time things would be different.
Except things weren’t different that time either. We said goodbye for the final time after enduring our shortest stint of time together of the three dating periods.
Breaking up with someone you love is hard to do.
Breaking Up With Our Financial Habits
It took three painful breakups with someone I cared deeply about before I realized it just wasn’t meant to be. Thought that it would work each time. Tried my hardest to correct a flaw here or make an adjustment there to no avail.
I kept going back and back to the relationship. I couldn’t let go.
More accurately, I wouldn’t let go. At that point in my life she was all I’d known as far as true love goes.
I wouldn’t let go.
I’ve found the same principle at work in my ideas about financial habits over the years. Have you?
Wouldn’t let go of the idea that debt was the only avenue to enhance my lifestyle.
Wouldn’t let go of the idea that my family didn’t really need a budget.
Wouldn’t let go of the idea that I could make quick money using risky investment strategies.
Wouldn’t let go of the idea that I would never be able to alter my career path.
Wouldn’t let go…
Have you been there? Done that? Are there poor financial habits or ideas about money that you keep going back to time and time again? Wish you could finally break free and move on with a new way of thinking?
Breaking Up With Credit Cards
Nowhere was this concept more evident than in my use of credit cards.
For years my wife and I used credit cards for any transaction we could. We’d switch from card to card trying to find the best “deal” as far as interest rates or reward programs. We mostly used Visa and Discover, although at one point we also carried Mastercard and Amex. That was thick wallet with four cards.
We began to realize our credit cards were leading to excessive spending. Our monthly budget never worked and we routinely had to dip into our savings account to cover our credit card bill. So we decided to quit using credit cards.
Except we didn’t.
We kept our Visa and Discover and only initially cancelled our Mastercard and Amex. After all, we were building cash back points with Discover and didn’t want to forfeit those payments by canceling the card.
So on we continued to spend, same as before. And wouldn’t you know it, nothing changed.
Finally, after some more frustration and soul searching, we cancelled our Discover card and vowed never to use credit again. We even switched to a debit card and cash for transactions. Now there’s a life changing moment! If you’ve been through that switch you know what I’m talking about.
But we still kept that Visa credit card. Even though we’d committed to a debit card/cash payment lifestyle, we couldn’t let go of the credit card.
Why couldn’t we just let it go?
It had become our safety blanket…something that we were familiar with. In a pinch, we could return to it without worries. When in a desperate situation we knew it would gladly take us back. If all else failed we could depend on it to bail us out.
If I’m going to be honest about it, fear was keeping us a prisoner of the past.
That mindset robbed us of completely moving forward. We weren’t 100% committed to a new lifestyle. We were still living with one foot in the past, hanging onto those tools even though we couldn’t manage them. How bizarre is that?
So the credit card stayed in my wallet, hidden behind my driver’s license and debit card, just in case.
What we needed was something shocking to come our way, a pain-spiking moment that would make us say, “Enough is enough.”
That happened when my Visa card was charged for a subscription service I thought had been cancelled. Because I thought I wasn’t using the card, I didn’t see the bill for five months. I didn’t realize anything had happened until I received a notice in the mail of a past due payment (with mucho late fees attached).*
For someone who had begun to pride himself of staying on top of his finances that negligence infuriated me. I hate making mistakes like that.
That day the card was out of my wallet. Called the subscription service – cancelled. Called Visa – cancelled the card.
Cut it up.
No more going back.
(*You can read the whole story here: Confessing a Really Stupid Money Mistake. That was my most read new post of 2014.)
Moving Forward From Credit Cards
If there is a financial habit in your life that you want to be free from my suggestion is simple: go cold turkey. There has to be an abrupt and complete removal of that habit from your life. No hanging on. No stretching it out. Remove it, now!
Just imagine quickly ripping off a band-aid. Yes, there might be some initial pain but it will be over quick. Once it’s done, it’s done.
Then you have to commit to the idea it’s over and you’re not going back. No “Maybe I’ll do that again in an emergency.” No “If things don’t workout then perhaps…”. No “I’ll just keep the phone number in my speed dial just in case.”
It’s over. Done. Kaput. Finished.
Move on to your new way of thinking and managing your life.
I’m not suggesting this process will be easy. Those new habits will take awhile to establish. You may even find yourself dwelling on the fond memories of the way things used to be.
It’s going to take some willpower. Discipline…a plenty. Courage…a must.
There will be temptation to give in.
Friends and family may mock you.
Fear could show up knocking at your door.
But you can move forward. A new relationship with your money awaits.
Questions: What financial habit do you need to rid yourself of this year? For those who quit using credit cards, was the switch a tough one to face? What money issue are you most proud of breaking up with?
Next Post: Not So Obvious Steps If You Want a New Job