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How to Stop Making Bad Money Mistakes Again and Again

Have you made a lot of money mistakes in life? I sure have. Some of mine seemed to happen over and over again. After awhile, they end up becoming bad habits of thinking and acting that impact the course of my life.

money mistakesWhen habits become ingrained we have a difficult time changing our mind and consequently the actions that follow. It’s like we become Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, living the same day over and over, making the wrong decisions again and again.

If you find yourself in this situation, take hope. Turning the corner is possible. We do not have to be bound and determined to live a mistake-prone life.

How to Stop Making Money Mistakes

Whether it’s money mistakes other issues of life, the path can be altered. When I keep making the same mistakes over and over I work through these steps.

Analyze the “Why?”

I mentioned the other day that the “Why?” step was critical when looking for a new job. It’s applicable here also, as well as in many areas of life. Determining the motivation behind the action is the first step to solving a recurring problem.

For example, one issue I had in my 20s was frivolous spending based on emotion. I’d spend if I got excited about a product. I’d spend if I got sad or upset. I’d rationalize spending money on an item that was on sale even if I didn’t really need it.

I was a spend-first and ask questions later type of guy.

Why was that?

When I really began to break it down, I was spending to make myself feel better. I’d spend either to follow through on a positive emotion (excitement) or cover up a depressing one (sadness/anger). My pattern of behavior was based in feelings, not practicality.

Ask, “Is the Payoff Worth It?”

Initially when spending money to make myself feel better I would have said, “Absolutely, the payoff is worth it!” That’s because I was riding high on the emotion of the purchase.

When I’d sit down to pay the credit card bill at the end of the month, a different, sickening feeling overcame me. I didn’t like that one. I could see the money mistakes as our monthly budget fell to pieces.

All the stuff I was accumulating didn’t seem to be all that important when compared alongside a dwindling financial picture.

In the end, what payoff are you getting for your actions? Is it leading to any other problems? Who around you is it hurting? Is the action leading you in a positive direction or a negative one?

Identify the Trigger

We all deal with triggers. The trigger moment happens before we make a decision. In the trigger moment, something happens that causes, produces or leads us to act in the way we do. Being aware of our trigger points and when they are happening can keep us from making mistakes.

Some good examples of triggers with resulting actions might be:

– Having a bad day at work – always leads you to stop at the bar on the way home.

– Picking the kids up late from school – always leads you to eat out instead cooking dinner at home.

– Staying up late at night – always leads you to watch inappropriate programming

– Feeling alone – always leads to negative thoughts about your self-image

See how that works? Something happens in the course of the day that produces an emotion, which then leads to some incorrect thinking. When I’d reached that point, some money mistakes were about to occur.

Recognizing our trigger points can help us stave off the action.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

The first three things I’ve outlined are extremely important to breaking the pattern of making repeated money mistakes. None of it will matter if you don’t take the next step.

Interrupt Your Schedule

When I became a stay at home dad one of the issues I had to deal with was being alone. As I worked at home on my writing in silence, it was very easy for me to get distracted. I found myself time and time again turning on the TV, playing video games in the basement or watching “The Top Ten Things Star Wars Ep. 4-6 Did Wrong” type of videos on YouTube.

I could never concentrate for three hours in a row. My trigger (distractions at home) was leading me to make the same mistakes (wasting time) over and over.

So I needed to interrupt my schedule by doing something different. I needed to act.

My solution to counter the distractions at home was to get out of the home. I removed myself from the environment that was causing my issue and found a more suitable environment wherein to work…the library.

Our local library is as peaceful as my quiet home but without the distractions. Yes, my computer is here but something about sitting there makes me feel more like working instead of watching YouTube videos. Here I can power through posts in no time at all. This one has taken me less than 90 minutes to finish, all the while staring at this non-distracting view.

library bookshelf

Create Your Pathway to Change

Whether it’s money mistakes or other types of mistakes, interrupting your schedule is all about drawing a line in the sand. All the thinking about the “Why?”, the payoff and the trigger is necessary but without an interrupting ACTION on your part nothing will change. You will continue to make the same mistakes again and again unless you act on what you know to be true.

Drawing that line by acting differently really is the key. One first step of action will begin to build the foundation to new and better decisions.

Questions: How to do you overcome repeated money mistakes? What tricks or tools are you using to make the right decisions? What repeated money mistakes are you making now and what ones have you overcome?  

Next Post: This Is the Best Reason Every Blogger Needs a Reader Survey

Prior Post: Man Shall Not Live By Bread Alone

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  1. Great post! I definitely agree that we should learn what our triggers are, particularly emotional triggers. But really, it’s important to have the discipline not to act on these triggers, keeping in mind how they will make us feel in the end.

  2. Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank says

    I am guilty of picking up my kids late and ending up eating out. LOL And I also tend to get stress and stay up late at night so I end up eating a lot and gaining much weight. 🙁 Thanks Brian for the heads-up.

    • The eating out thing is so tough Jayson. We are in the middle of basketball season and we are always traveling or coming home late from practice. I really have to plan ahead for my meals so that we have something quick and ready to go when we get home. Otherwise we will be stopping for food.

  3. That is so true about triggers. When I used to have a stressful week , I rewarded myself by shopping. Now I just go for a run or try to get outside. Retail therapy is not all it’s cracked up to be!

    • Recognizing the trigger is important but then we need the mental discipline to stop ourselves from acting. That is usually the tough part for me.

  4. I used to repeat financial mistakes all of the time and I had no idea I was doing it. I tell my clients that one of the first steps to financial health and well-being is mindfulness. Once you learn to stop and ask why and become aware of the decisions you are making, change starts to happen.

  5. Great post, Brian. I think it’s so important to learn what our triggers are. I am pretty good at staying laser-focused and plowing through my to-do lists every day. Where I probably struggle the greatest is that I jam-pack too much day into my work day, so sometimes, for conveniences sake, I probably buy things that I may have been able to avoid with a little bit of planning.

    • Learning about triggers really helped me anticipate what I might do that was harmful. It allowed me to better mentally prepare to fight through it.

  6. I feel fortunate that I was able to learn from all of my money mistakes. When I was in a bad position years ago, I knew for a fact that I didn’t want to end up there again. I think a lot of that just comes with maturity. Unfortunately, many people never mature enough to learn from their mistakes.

  7. I’ve gone through the same exact thing recently with working from home – realizing I just waste too much time. I love being here and love hanging out with the kids, but it can very easily lead to lost time. Then, my wife basically kicked me out of the house a few months back and told me to start going to the library or coffee shop a few times a week. The change in the amount of work I get done is crazy! That said, it’s helped me notice triggers with my time much more. My mindset at home is that I’m at home and things pop up which take me off track, but when I’m out I sort of view it as being at work and much more focused. It’s funny how the same thing I used nearly 20 years ago in paying off my debt can be used in something else, like time, now.

    • “…sort of view it as being at work and much more focused.” I think that’s what changed about my mindset. I view being at the library as being at work. Somehow that increases my focus. I’d really like to transfer that focus though so I could stay at home. Maybe in time that will come.

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