I have a standing Wednesday evening appointment with a coaching client. Initially, I deduced that Ms. Words simply need an automated system for everything. She made it very clear that she wasn’t interested in actively working with her finances on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis. She simply wanted it to take care of itself.
Given that Ms. Words is a single income, single bank account, and single person household (well, except for her two feline children and the large extended family that visits frequently), setting up an automated financial system for her should not be too difficult. After I formulated my plan for getting her finances moving in the direction of meeting her financial goals, Ms. Words threw me a curve ball.
She became actively involved in her finances! One of her Action Items was to set up a Mint.com account for her bank account and credit card. When I arrived for our meeting the following week, not only had she set up the account, but she’d categorized all of her expenses for 45 days, suggested places in her spending that she could go on a “diet” and seemed to take a certain amount of enjoyment from having accomplished these things on her own. To say I was ecstatic would be an understatement.
Last week, in an effort to keep moving in the right direction, I loaned her the copy of The Wealthy Barber by David Chilton. Since it’s a simple book with a common sense approach and enough basic information to provide a foundation to build from, I just knew she’d be able to make good use of it. The look of horror that crossed her face upon seeing the title was definitely unexpected. She pointed out, no less than three times, that the book’s cover said Financial and implied Self Help and just looking at it was painful.
Suddenly, I had an idea that was nothing short of pure genius *coughLUCKcough*. I took a half sheet of blank printer paper and some tape, and covered the front of the book. When I grabbed the pen, she caught on and said “It should really read ‘How to have enough money to buy more yarn’.” So, I wrote that on the top half of the page. Then, at the bottom, I wrote “OR If You Don’t Read This Book Angels … Kitties … HELLO KITTIES Will Die.” She laughed but then said “You know, that actually helps!”
This exchange kind of sat in the back of my head and simmered for a while, until I saw Too Smart’s post this morning. He writes “…I like to think that as rational, intelligent beings, we all should be able to make rational choices without resorting to trickery.”
This made me really think about all of the tricks we have in place to convince ourselves to do what we know we should, but our emotional relationship with finances won’t allow us to do. In the case of Ms. Words, she is an incredibly intelligent, professional woman. Do I REALLY think she’s tricked herself into reading a book because she wants unlimited knitting yarn or thinks that a cartoon character will get the axe if she doesn’t? Of course not! But changing the cover of that book has removed the mental obstacle and made opening that first page more palatable.
For more on the tricks we play on ourselves to make better financial decisions, try reading some of these:
JD at Get Rich Slowly says:
“Money is more about mind than it is about math.
When we overspend, we’re making mental mistakes, not math mistakes. We all understand the math. Fortunately, we can do things to trick ourselves into making the right choices, and eventually those choices will become second nature. Further reading: Why smart people make big money mistakes (and how to correct them).”
In another entry, JD shares:
“Ralph sent me e-mail last week describing a clever budget trick he picked up from a friend: Go see what it is!!”
My Daily Dollars says:
“Set Serious Consequences
To track your money carefully, you need to have consequences. I never watched what I spent on the credit card because it wasn’t that painful if I went over the limit. Somehow, in my brain, an overlimit fee isn’t too bad, but running out of money in my checking account is scary. Here’s where I trick myself. By transferring all extra money out of that account, what’s left is the bare amount for the month (I do give myself a $10 buffer).Knowing that if I don’t track something, I’ll screw up my checking account helps me stay focused!”
Can I Get Rich on A Salary says:
“How We Try To Control Our Expenses Without Much Of A Budget
We do, however, practice the art of self-deception in our personal finance. That means we trick ourselves into thinking that we make and have less money than we do.”
Uncommon Cents shares:
“Spending: it’s Behavior and Emotion
If you’re going to make a significant change to your behavior, you need a plan and the discipline to follow it, and every little trick or hack that can help you get your spending better managed is worth investigating.”
Zen Habits posted:
20 Money Hacks: Tips and Tricks to Improve Your Finances
What about you? What mental tricks or games do you use on yourself to get around your emotional or mental barriers with your money?