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OVERCOMING YOUR FINANCIAL KRYPTONITE

financial kryptoniteThe personal finance blogosphere has it’s share of stars.  These superheroes of personal finance walk, or bike, among us.  They look like you and me…for the most part. 😉  They have interests that are similar to anyone else, join the same clubs, and attend the same churches.  Their kids ride the school bus with your kids.

They even shop at the same stores, although you may not spot them there very often.

Who are these champions of financial freedom?  They are parents, professionals, bloggers, entrepreneurs, and even educators. In essence, they’re not much different than you and me.

Make no mistake, they’ve accomplished some incredible things, hence the ‘superhero’ tag.

Whether it’s helping thousands of people find freedom from debt, inspiring their generation  to take control of its financial future, or demonstrating what’s possible when you take a no-limits approach to money and life, their stories are truly inspiring.

Their paths are unique, and their skill sets are varied.  However, and I can say this with absolute certainty, each one of these ‘heroes’, and others like them, at one point or another have had to confront their own financial kryptonite and find a way to overcome it.

I don’t know their stories in intimate detail, but what I do know is that everyone has weaknesses.

And this extends to how we manage our money.

PSYCHOLOGY 101

Managing finances is all about psychology and emotions. And anytime your emotions are involved in something, things are bound to get interesting.  After all, you’re not a robot.  You won’t always make the right decision, and then execute it with fine-tuned precision.

It’s true that some people are naturally better money managers than others.  But whether you were genetically pre-disposed to being extremely frugal, or it was something your parents enforced upon you until they were blue in the face, you’ve got a soft spot somewhere.

FINANCIAL KRYPTONITE EXPLAINED

Let’s say you have a lot of high interest credit card debt.  The debt isn’t necessarily your kryptonite, but the psychological factor which caused you to go into debt very well could be.

For example, if you’re always at the mall buying new clothes on credit, whether you need them or not, then there’s a good chance that impulsiveness is your kryptonite.

Not the credit card, or the resulting credit card debt.

If you can find a way to overcome your impulsivity, you can find your way out of debt.

Your financial kryptonite can be so many things.  It can be your overwhelming fear of missing out, the pride of wanting to look good to your friends, which is really just insecurity.

Or perhaps it’s envy, or jealousy.  Maybe laziness or a lack of self control, or the desire for comfort and convenience.

Any of these could become your financial kryptonite, and if left unchecked, they could keep you from a life of financial freedom.

IDENTIFYING YOUR FINANCIAL KRYPTONITE

I’ve come up with a few ways (short of therapy, haha)  to help you identify your financial kryptonite.

Take a look at what you own. 

Do you own the most expensive house in the neighbourhood, or does it fall on the more modest side of your friends and acquaintances.

Have you purchased a vehicle for every driver in the family, lest anyone have to share?  In that case, I would argue that your kryptonite is in fact your desire for convenience, rather than the cars themselves.  A life of ease at any price.

Take a look at what you owe. 

Do you have consumer debt?  Large or small, the source of your debt could lead right to your financial kryptonite.

Does your credit card statement read like a directory of every restaurant and coffee shop in town?   That might be a sign, whether or not you pay the balance in full each month.

Have you refinanced your mortgage 3 times in the last six years to accommodate yet another big ticket purchase?  If so, why?  What was the overriding emotion behind these decisions?

After all, the mortgage isn’t your kryptonite.  But maybe you keep telling yourself that a shiny new toy will somehow make things better in your unhappy marriage.  Sounds crazy, but it happens all the time.

Review your bank account statement.

This is a great activity for anyone.  Take a look at your spending history for the past three to six months.  Chances are, it’ll be a real eye opener.  Human’s are creatures of habit after all.  Do you notice any surprising trends in your spending?  What motivated your spending?  Don’t be afraid to ask yourself the tough questions?

OVERCOMING YOUR FINANCIAL KRYPTONITE

Once you’ve identified your kryptonite, you need to deal with it.  Here are some steps to take:

Accept that it exists.  

Hey, you know what they say, denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.

The first, and biggest step to overcoming any weakness is to acknowledge that it exits.

Don’t be too proud.  Get it out.  Tell someone about it.  Heck, start a blog and write about it!

There was a day when I had to verbalize the words…”My name is Mystery Money Man, and I love new cars…”.  Ok…it didn’t sound quite like that, but I am acutely aware that my heart rate increases ever so slightly whenever I walk past a nice Audi or Porsche…heck even a nice Camry or Accord does the trick.  I know…that’s pretty sad.

Thankfully I recognized this about myself several years ago, so it’s a weakness I’ve learned to control.

Lock it away in a thick lead box. 😉

In other words, if your financial kryptonite has a hold on you, run as far away from it as possible.  I’m telling you, flee from temptation.

If it means avoiding certain stores, or the mall altogether, or even taking a different route on the way home from work to break your routine, so be it.  Whatever it takes.

Maybe it’s simply being prepared to decline yet another invitation from a friend to spend money.

By the way, NOT going out doesn’t have to mean opting to re-string shoelaces or watch paint dry.  Change your mindset!  Think about all of the healthy, life-giving, (and free) activities you’re missing out on by opting for the same old, same old expensive stuff.

Determine how many hours of your life it will cost you.

Before you buy any non-essential item, calculate how many hours you will have to work to pay for it.  The hours spent are not just hours at work, earning money, but hours of your life that you won’t get back.  Time is a non-renewable resource, spend it wisely.

This is a lesson I’m teaching my son right now.  He started his first job about 8 months ago, and on a couple of occasions has experienced the remorse of spending money on a big ticket item, only to have the novelty wear off.  He’s learning.

It’s a lesson we’ve all had to learn.

Incorporate a cooling off period.

Maybe your kryptonite is an impulsive nature.  If so, I don’t have to explain to you the feeling, the rush that comes with finding the newest thing on the shelf at your favourite store.  The emotional high is palpable and you will find any way to justify making the purchase.

“It’s on sale….I mean, I can’t really afford NOT to buy it.”

“Limited time offer…if I don’t buy it now, I may be out of luck”

It’s nothing short of intoxication.

Don’t drive drunk.

Don’t buy groceries when hungry….that’s me, er…thought I’d throw that one in there. : )

Don’t spend on impulse.

I know, sounds like a stretch.  Or is it?

Instead, make a policy of waiting at least 48 hours instead of buying anything on impulse.  If it wasn’t a pre-planned purchase, it can wait.

Chances are, once you sober up from your material intoxication, you’ll make a better decision.

Chances are, you’ll overcome your financial kryptonite.

There you have it, some important tools to help you identify and overcome your financial kryptonite.  If you can figure it out, you’ll be headed for financial freedom faster than a speeding bullet, much like our personal finance superheroes.

Question:  What is your financial kryptonite?  If so, what level of control do you have over it?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic!

Comments 20

  1. Great post! Every one of us have his kryptonite, computers are mine, or at least used to. I felt the temptation of new technology every time I saw faster processors, more RAM, bigger HDD or bigger screens. Same time I was lucky. When the urge was the biggest (in my early 20s) I was broke enough not to afford a lot of stuff. Later on I got married and my lovely wife prevented me from unnecessary spending. Last thing I am a big procrastinator which is a bad thing on most areas, but has its benefits when it comes to big ticket items 🙂

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      Hey, thanks Peter! You make a great point, that sometimes not having the cash to spend may actually be a good thing. Also, I wrote a post earlier in the year about the benefits of procrastination, not always a bad thing. : )

  2. Mine is the convience of eating out and cars. I use a mix of cooling off, questioning the impact of the expenditure versus the benefit, and having good cheaper alternatives already. On the later I have a ten year old sports car at home. On the former I have a great cook at home in my wife and a pantry stuffed with good ingredients. Both keep me in control.

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      Hey FTF! I can certainly relate to this. I used to eat out a lot, thankfully I’ve reined in that habit. We went out for lunch for Mother’s Day on Sunday, and I realized that it was the first time in about 5 months we’d been to a restaurant. It makes you appreciate it more when treated as a luxury. Thanks for reading!

  3. It’s so funny because almost everyone has a financial Kryptonite. I’ve noticed in the FIRE community it tends to be classic cars for some reason. 😉 For me, it’s just impulse shopping. I used to be awful about buying crap on Amazon. I spent $1,000 in a couple of months just on Amazon. Ouch! I had to really rein it in, and generally, I’m pretty good about not spending money on most things. I’ve really tried to be mindful of my money–but I still get a $5 throw pillow here and there on a whim. Grah!

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      I’ve read about people who spend thousands on Amazon, but I guess it’s like any other form of shopping. I admit, I did feel the impulse to splurge on a new piece of gear for my recording studio this past week, but thankfully I have far more self control than I did years ago. It came and went pretty quickly. : )

  4. Great post. I especially like the part about “how many hours of your life will it will cost you?” If you remember that statement, it will change the way you look at frivolous purchases. Luckily for me, my splurge buys and big purchases happen to be buying more stocks because I find it enjoyable. So in a way, my kryptonite is actually beneficial to my financial well being. As long as I can cover my expenses first it’s fine. Thanks for sharing.

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      Thanks Double D, can I call you that? 🙂 I love the concept of ascribing a dollar value to my time, I think it really helps to assess the true value of anything material, be it a product or a service. Thanks for reading!

  5. So good! This is a really interesting topic because, as much as I write and talk about money, I really had to think about this for a little while. I didn’t have an obvious answer. I had a terrible two months money-wise, and while there is no one reason, and definitely some stuff that was not in my control, a few themes do surface: convenience and laziness. Like when my train went out of service last night on the way home from work, leaving me in a bit of a transit desert. I could have walked 15 or so minutes to the nearest subway but I was just so tired. This resulted in a $30 taxi home. Lotta stuff like this. No way to fix it without being aware of this and anticipating how and why these situations arise. It is my greatest weakness.

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      I would probably chalk up your taxi ride to self care, more than anything else! 🙂 I hear you, Linda. It’s so tough to constantly be prepared for the unexpected, especially as a parent, so much comes up. What’s become too common in our house, is the kids letting us know about things they need to buy for school, the night before it’s due. As the kids get older, teachers leave that communication up to the children.

  6. I spend more on clothes than the average person. At some point I didn’t like how much I’d been spending. I find the best way to combat this stuff is to create a system where you don’t have to make an active choice all the time. Because making active choices saps the energy out of you and then you end up failing. The ‘cooling period’ and ‘removing temptation’ for me were key.
    -Unsubscribed from all retailer emails. If I don’t know about a sale, I don’t buy. This eliminated 90% of the problem.
    -Created shopping system for myself. Don’t just buy random things; have a strategy. So, put desired item on my Pinterest board called ‘wishlist’. Keep it there for a while. Never buy it immediately (cool off period). Then when I make the purchase I move the item to another board called ‘purchased’. After a while, you’re confronted with this visual board of all the things you bought. Then it’s easy to ask yourself, ‘What do I have to show for all these purchases?” and then assess how happy you were with everything you bought. If people were forced to confront all the things they bought with the total amount spent, I think they’d honestly be horrified.

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      Ok, you have clearly got this down to a science. I’m impressed. You would likely be appalled by my wardrobe planning. I replace my shoes only when the holes in the soles start taking on water on rainy days. It’s pretty bad, and really unnecessary. Thanks for reading! : )

  7. This is Rockstar worthy, MMM. Submit this today!

    My kryptonite is dining out. I realized this by tracking my expenses on a regular basis and noticed just how much money I was spending in restaurants (>$600/mo). Supporting this habit in retirement means I’ll need an additional $150,000 in my retirement accounts. That’s crazy talk!

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      $150K! When you put it like that, it’s downright scary. Been there, done that with eating out. 2017 has been a real breakthrough year for me in that regard though, and I owe it to my no-spend January, which really forced me to plan better, and get used to new routines. As far as RSF, 2 weeks straight? That would be pushing my luck, haha!

  8. I think it’s great to identify your financial kryptonite! Once you identify it, you can find ways to avoid it. I have two in particular. One is anything related to home improvement – weird I know, but I love the home improvement store and DIY projects. The other is sports cars – and trucks. Anything that has that throaty exhaust sound is something I should avoid. Unfortunately, these are both pretty expensive. Fortunately, they are both completely avoidable. 🙂 Add in the fact that I know they could interfere with long-term goals and it’s not all that difficult to control.

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      Yeah, home improvement is a good one, I’ve bought more than a few tools for the purpose of a single task, only to end up gathering dust. As for sports cars, some things are so expensive they are easy to avoid!

  9. That was a creative post. It is a good practice to identify what your financial weaknesses is. Mine is going to Bass Pro Shops or Cabelas. If I go to one of those stores, I buy $100 worth of stuff I don’t need.

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  11. I love the concept. My financial kryptonite would have been electronics/video games way back in the day – I’d buy new TVs or new computer parts even when I didn’t really need them. My wife was more focused on high-end furniture (Pottery Barn, West Elm).

    Once we got clarity on what we wanted our ideal life to look like (and recognized that none of these fit in with that picture and that we could get there a lot faster without them), we were able to put them in the lead box 🙂

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      Isn’t it amazing how those material things become so much less meaningful when you gain that sense of vision and purpose! I loved electronics as well, for me it was pro audio gear (music recording equipment).

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