Money Excuses: Go From Can’t to Can Do

Money Excuses: Go from Cannot to Can Do | www.TheHeavyPurse.comThis week, my friend, Kim, over at Eyes on the Dollar has been focusing on the money excuses we make and invited us to write about some of the excuses we regularly hear. Ironically on Monday, I already debunked a popular excuse/myth that teaching kids about money ruins their childhood. It doesn’t. If anything, it makes their childhood better. Since money excuses hold so many people back from living the life they want, I wanted to share some tips on how to go from cannot to can do on two common money excuses.

Money Excuse #1: Budgets Are Too Complicated

When I ask people why they don’t follow a budget, this is the most common response. Can I let you in on a little secret? Budgets are only as complicated as you make them. They don’t need to be difficult or require a PhD to be effective. The best budget is the one that keeps you honest (i.e. not spending more money than you have) and will follow. The truth often lurking behind this excuse is that you don’t want to live within your means because it means saying “no” to the fun stuff. Or so you think.

Living Beyond Your Means is Dangerous

Once upon a time, it was much harder to live beyond your means, but today credit cards make it very easy for us to extend our lifestyle. Even though a small part of us may recognize we shouldn’t do this, most of us don’t worry if we can’t pay off our credit card bill each month. And for a time, everything probably seems to be okay. But as that debt creeps up, so does the risk we place on our family’s financial security. You really aren’t free to live the life you want on your terms, even though you may have ironically gone into debt, believing your credit cards gave you freedom.

Your To-Do: Change Your Budget Mindset

Go from a cannot budget mindset to a cannot live beyond my means mindset.

Budgets Actually Represent Freedom

I say this all the time and it often startles people because this is not how they naturally think about budgeting. We tend to view them as being restrictive or placing a limitation on what we can do, which is true to an extent. Money is finite. However, we do have a choice on how we use the money we do have. By following a budget, I know exactly where my money goes and prioritize it appropriately. Bills and goals (this include savings and investments) come first, then I can choose guilt-free how I want to use my remaining money.

Your To-Do: Create a Can-Do Budget.

Start by figuring out how much comes in each month and how much goes out. Trim the fat, prioritize your bills and goals, pay down any consumer debt and enjoy spending any extra money on what matters most to you and your family.

Money Excuse #2: I Don’t Have Enough Money to Invest

This is another popular excuse/misperception about investing. There is a prevalent belief that you must be rich in order to invest. While the affluent most likely are investors, it doesn’t mean you have to live in the 90210 zip code to be an investor. The average person is unlikely to win the lottery, so if you want to earn the money you need for your goals and retirement, then you need to start investing. Don’t wait until the amount you set aside monthly is “big enough”. It will never seem “big enough”. Invest what you can now and increase your investment/goal savings as your income increases.

Set Goals to Give Your Money Purpose

A lot of people make the mistake of putting off investing because they don’t know what they are saving for. I realize some people believe once goals are set that they are hammered in stone. They are not. While you do want to set goals that matter right now, it’s likely your goals will evolve over time too. And that’s okay. But you need to set goals to keep you motivated and allow your money plenty of time to grow. You can adjust your goals as needed.

Your To-Do: Determine What You Want Your Money to Do for You

List everything you want to do and have—big and small—and narrow down the list to ones that matter most. These are your goals for now. If you’re married, be sure to do this together so you’re both on the same page. It’s okay to have personal goals, but make sure you have agreed upon shared goals as well.

Determine How Much Money You Need to Achieve Goals

This is the second mistake people make. They finally set goals, but then don’t figure out how much they need to save/invest in order to achieve their goal within their set timeframe. And don’t just calculate the total sum of your goals. Your goals most likely have different achievement dates from one another, so be sure to take that into consideration as well.

Your To Do: Create a Goal Timeline with Real Numbers

Now that you have your list of goals, prioritize them and set dates of when you would ideally like to achieve them by. Save/invest the appropriate amount and regularly review your progress to make sure you’re still on track and your goals haven’t changed.

Start Investing

Yes, it is that simple. I know investing can seem scary and overwhelming, but it doesn’t need to be. If your employer offers a 401k with a company match, then that may be a good place to start. You don’t want to miss out on free money from your company! Plus, this will get your feet wet and give you time to start learning about investments. There are thousands of books and websites dedicated to helping you understand how investments work, and there are also thousands of professionals who can help create a plan with you. Please read what a financial advisor can offer you and how to find the right financial advisor before beginning your search.

Your To-Do: Get Comfortable with Investments

They are not the enemy, I promise. If you’re not already investing, make the commitment to start. To be blunt, the amount of interest you’re earning on your savings account is not going to be enough to fund most people’s dreams and goals. You are going to need to invest. Increase your investment knowledge and comfort through books, blogs and/or professional assistance, then start investing.

Don’t Let Money Excuses Prevent You from the Life You Want

We have all made excuses one time or another. Don’t let money excuses keep you from taking action and the steps you need to take to create your best life.


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June 6, 2014  •  25 Comments  •  Finance

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  1. Friday, June 6th, 2014
    Some great tips on how to get started here Shannon. I already am on the right track budget-wise, but investing is something I need to spend more time learning about so I can ensure I'm doing a good job. I do contribute to a employer-match 401K, but I just put my funds in the target retirement date fund for the moment. I've been meaning to do more research about investing since I started contributing, but haven't done it yet. I just need to make it a priority, it should be afterall its growing to be quite a sum of money!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Sunday, June 8th, 2014
      I'm glad you're on track with your budget and ready to start investing. I certainly encourage you to make investment education a priority. I think you'll find it's a lot of fun and rewarding, especially when you see accounts start to grow. :)
  2. Friday, June 6th, 2014
    So many of my friends that I've polled do not have budgets, or say they do it in their head. I think some people do not want to face what they are spending and fear that their current lifestyle will be cramped by a budget....and in some cases, let's face it, it might. Mine was, but was that inflated lifestyle worth the stress of money? Hell no! My one regret is I didn't do this sooner in life.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Sunday, June 8th, 2014
      I agree, Tonya. Lots of people try to keep track in their head, but once they start tracking on paper, they see all the things they missed. People do feel that budgets could cramp their lifestyle and it could initially, if they are living beyond their means. I find most people feel the same way you do after they start budgeting - they wish they started sooner.
  3. Friday, June 6th, 2014
    You can have your excuses or you can have money, freedom, and time- that's my philosophy.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Sunday, June 8th, 2014
      Amen, Stefanie. I agree 100%.
  4. Friday, June 6th, 2014
    "Can I let you in on a little secret? Budgets are only as complicated as you make them." I could not agree more Shannon! I know this is what held me back from starting a budget and once I did actually get started living by one I was amazed at how simple it made things and the freedom it brought. I guess it also doesn't hurt matters that I'm a planner and it comes somewhat naturally. :) Have a great weekend Shannon!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Sunday, June 8th, 2014
      I'm so glad you found budgets freeing too. I really think they overwhelm people because they try to create these outrageously complicated budgets that no one can follow. It doesn't need to be complicated to work and I truly believe once you embrace them, you'll never go back to living without one.
  5. Friday, June 6th, 2014
    Thanks for taking up the no excuse challenge! If you can get into the habit of saying I choose to instead of I can't, it makes a huge difference in motivation. I know you've posted before on how saying "I can't afford it" is not really a good way to go through life. Even if you are dead broke, saying I choose to cook all my meals at home from what's on sale sounds so much better than I can't afford to go out. I've found that on long financial journeys, mental attitude is a huge part of the battle, and if you can put your mind in a positive direction, your "luck" usually improves.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Sunday, June 8th, 2014
      No problem, Kim. Thank you for starting it! I agree, a simple language change can change how you think and approach things. Your mental attitude does make a huge difference and money is so emotional. If you're not mindful, your money mindset can quickly turn negative with the "I can'ts" but we can also choose and look for the positive in our money situations, even when they are less than ideal.
  6. Friday, June 6th, 2014
    Great post! I am hesitant to invest as yet, purely because I don't know enough about it and don't really know where to start. I need to do some more research and take the plunge - I can and I will!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Sunday, June 8th, 2014
      You're not alone, Nicola. Investing intimidates a lot of people, but like they say - knowledge is power. Do the research and soon you'll be ready to officially become an investor. :)
  7. Friday, June 6th, 2014
    These are great tips! Unfortunately, not all budgets are created equal. Just as people are encouraged to invest wisely in the market, I would encourage people to invest time and energy wisely in a budgeting method that works for them and addresses their weaknesses. Writing the budget is the easy part...tracking/maintaining the budget (holding yourself accountable) can be time consuming depending on what method you choose. I strongly suggest using a cash focused method and a weekly budget period. I have tried to many methods to count, but now how a budgeting/tracking method (see blog for details) that is truly easier than not having a budget at all!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Sunday, June 8th, 2014
      You're right - budgets are not all created equal. It's important to find the one that works for you and you may need to try a few to find one that works for you. Ultimately the work pays off once you find a budget that fits your needs and keeps you honest.
  8. Friday, June 6th, 2014
    I used to be one of those people who use the two excuses... I was also broke. But after I started a budget, I found out it is not complicated at all and it helped me save a lot of money.

    I also thought investing was complicated or that I didn't have enough money to invest, but that quickly changed after reading a few books.

    In reality I was just uninformed and/or uneducated about the subject.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Sunday, June 8th, 2014
      I'm so glad that you stopped making excuses and took charge. And obviously you are reaping the rewards now and that's what matters. :)
  9. Friday, June 6th, 2014
    I don't think this can be stressed too much "Determine How Much Money You Need to Achieve Goals." Nothing has been more annoying to me since being out of college (and maybe a bit during college) than hearing people who want to do all sorts of things, but spending zero time actually calculating how much it would cost LET ALONE how they will get the money needed. Great post, Shannon!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Sunday, June 8th, 2014
      I'm with you, DC! It's such an important skip and one that too many, unfortunately, skip. Knowing what you want is a good start, but it alone is not enough. As much as I like dreaming about achieving my goals, I like achieving them more and I can't do it without knowing how much money I need to save.
  10. Saturday, June 7th, 2014
    I need to sit down and really start looking into my investments. I have been putting it off, but it is time to really take a look into where my money is going. Thanks for the great post!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Sunday, June 8th, 2014
      You're welcome, Michelle! I'm glad you're going to take the time review your investments. It's important to make sure you're on target!
  11. Monday, June 9th, 2014
    Well put, Shannon. I used to use the excuse that I didn't want to track against a budget because I did excel worksheets all day and didn't want to do it on my time off as well. So then we lived beyond our means and didn't really know how bad it was because we didn't track spending against a budget. IT is SO DANGEROUS!! So I'm totally on board when you say BUDGETING = FREEDOM.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, June 9th, 2014
      Thanks, Deb. Budgeting absolutely equals freedom in my book. I am in control of how many money is used, rather than being at the mercy of my emotion or the credit card company. People think budgets are a lot of work, but once you find the one that works for you, it becomes second-nature.
  12. Thursday, July 10th, 2014
    I am working on just saving money for our emergency fund after we had to use more funds then I would have liked to in order to pay off a revolving debt.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Friday, July 11th, 2014
      I'm glad you're building up your emergency fund - they really do make a difference.
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    "As a Certified Financial Planner, it is my passion to help individuals and families build a healthy relationship with money. I look forward to helping you raise financially confident kids.” - Shannon Ryan