Updated: May 22, 2019
Are you procrastinating when it comes to your finances? Do you let distractions get in the way of you getting your money right? Like when you tell yourself you’re going to look into your finances but instead, you decide to binge watch four seasons of your favorite show on Netflix and eat a whole tub of ice cream to avoid looking at anything numerical until two in the morning?
I feel you!
It’s a common answer when I speak to people about getting their finances in order, “I have a lot going on right now, I will focus on my finances after ____”, “I can’t pay off my debt until _____”, “Once I do _______ I can finally start saving.” The problem with this is that your life will never get less complicated, so stop procrastinating. NOW is the time to get your financial life together. If you’re always waiting to get over a certain hurdle to begin your journey into financial freedom, then you will never start. Things will always come up, unforeseen expenses or life events that will change the direction of your life, but that doesn’t give you an excuse to put off figuring out your finances. If anything, seeing how quickly life can alter its course should be even more reason to start getting your finances in order as soon as possible.
I know it doesn’t seem like it, but this is procrastination at its finest.
So What Exactly Is Procrastination?
Procrastination usually happens when you fear or have anxiety about an important task awaiting you (i.e. getting your finances in order) and to get rid of this negative feeling, you distract yourself with something that makes you feel better temporarily. This is completely irrational as you put more space between you and your goal, either intentionally or habitually. Getting your financial life together can seem like a daunting task that can be very overwhelming, but the more you put it off the further you will be from your financial goals.
Why Do We Procrastinate Financially?
According to the Washington Post, “the reasons people procrastinate are not understood that well. Some researchers have viewed procrastination largely as a failure of self-regulation — like other bad behaviors that have to do with a lack of self-control, such as overeating, a gambling problem, or overspending. Others say it's not a matter of being lazy or poor time management… it may actually be linked to how our brain works and to deeper perceptions of time and... self.” This goes for financial procrastination as well.
Some people procrastinate getting their financial lives together because they are just plain lazy, but for most the reasons are much deeper than that. Many people procrastinate financially because of the stress associated with getting your financial life in order and the potential effort involved. Some procrastinate financially because they are intimidated by the knowledge required; they simply feel like they don’t know how. And some people put it off because they are scared to make mistakes. I get it! Going through your expenses with a fine-toothed comb and realizing your money mistakes to correct them can be a cause of serious anxiety for some, but the trick is to look at the bigger picture. Budgeting and saving might seem as enjoyable as a trip to the dentist, but it is necessary if you want to reach financial freedom. It might hurt now, but in the long run, it will make your financial health a lot better overall. When is comes to money, time is of the essence so never put off for tomorrow what you could do today. Just put on your big-girl panties and get started now!
So How Do You Stop Financial Procrastination?
There are several things you can do to pull yourself out of financial procrastination:
Start on step one: Simply begin step one to financial freedom, create a budget, then complete the other steps in order, one by one. Just by starting the first step, you have brought yourself closer to financial freedom.
Break down your tasks into small steps that can actually be accomplished: You already know the six steps to financial freedom, but you can break those steps down into even smaller steps if you would like. For example, when focusing on budgeting the idea can seem daunting, but when you break it down into smaller tasks it seems a lot more manageable. Step one: Write down your income. Step 2: Write down your expenses. Step 3: Cut out expenses that are not necessary. Step 4: Cut back on all other expenses where possible. Step 5: Stick to your budget. Smaller goals that lead up to a larger goal seem less intimidating and, therefore, become easier to tackle.
Set money goals: We all know that we want more money, but realistically what are your money goals? When you make actual money goals that you need to meet in a certain time frame you are more likely to reach that goal than some far fetched idea of being rich. For example, instead of saying “I want to buy a home someday” say “I want to buy a $200,000 home within the next two years, so I need to save up $40,000 for a down payment. By creating a real goal, you give yourself something tangible to work towards.
Make Your Money Work For You: A famous quote attributed to Albert Einstein says “compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe.” Those who don’t understand it pay it. Those who understand it earn it, according to the quote. Don’t use a lack of money knowledge as an excuse to neglect your money. Learn what you need to put your money to work for you. That’s the best route to avoid financial procrastination and become a serious money boss.
Celebrate yourself for your money wins: Do you ever accomplish something and then immediately move on to the next thing? So do I! It’s very common to feel so overwhelmed by your endless to-do list that we don’t ever stop to say, “Go me! I did that!.” Especially when it comes to money, it’s so important to celebrate ourselves for even the tiniest of wins, because every win is a step closer to financial freedom. Celebrating ourselves gives our inner money boss a reason to keep making money moves and winning.
Have frequent money meetings with yourself: It’s so easy to get complacent when you seem to be doing well with money. But complacency can land you back at square one. That is why it is so important to have frequent money meetings with yourself to make sure that you are still on track. Sit down once a week at your computer, or at least once a month, and check all of your accounts. Make sure that you are sticking to your budget by earning what you hypothesized you would earn and by spending only the money you allotted for that expense in your budget. Make sure you regularly check your retirement and other investment accounts as well. It’s easy to forget about the money you have invested because it can seem far away and untouchable. However, it can be very motivating to watch the money you invested grow.
Stay Motivated: Remind yourself of your goals and ask yourself if you’re really OK with settling for anything less. Remember when you fail to meet the goals you set for yourself, the only person you are letting down is yourself. So learn from your mistakes and do better in the future. It is ok to lose step, so long as you course correct afterward. Remember that you are doing this for a reason, whatever your personal reasons for wanting to be financially free, and once you reach financial freedom it will all be worth it.
So basically, financial procrastination is a very real thing that many people do, and most do not even realize they are doing it. People put off getting their financial lives together because they’re lazy, because the potential effort involved stresses them out, because they are intimidated by the knowledge required, or because they are scared to make mistakes. Regardless of the reasons people intentionally or habitually procrastinate on getting their finances in order, the act of delaying this process only puts more space between you and your goals.
So stop putting it off… money will keep flowing in and out of your life, it’s up to you to make sure that it’s working for you and not against you. The sooner you start getting your financial life together the sooner you will reach financial freedom!