Do You Really Want to Improve Your Finances? Stop Doing This.

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Oh my God, you guys. I can’t take it anymore.

Over the past few months, I’ve desperately tried to limit my time on Facebook. I peruse photos of friends and family, I read humorous memes, and I occasionally interact with some of you on our website’s Facebook pages. You know, the positive stuff. I’ve done a pretty good job of sticking to the plan and have to admit that my mood has improved immensely.

Unfortunately, I fell off the wagon.

During our lunch break a few days ago, Holly alerted me to a ridiculous Facebook conversation involving several mutual friends. I won’t get into the nitty gritty, but essentially the discussion came down to blaming “rich people” for the bad financial decisions of others. One comment even suggested that paying bills on time and living within one’s means reeked of privilege. They said this allowed “rich” people to “game the system.”

WTF?!? Could this seemingly intelligent person actually be serious? I nearly lost my mind.

I immediately jumped on my smartphone, primed to engage in a linguistic fight to the death. Recognizing the arguments in front of me as nonsense, I furiously began typing out a rebuttal. Luckily, before I could hit send, I took a deep breath and regained my composure.

I quickly deleted what I’d typed, let others do the talking, and removed myself from the fight…

…but, that doesn’t mean I should stay silent here.

Whose Fault is It?

For me, the entire episode speaks to a larger problem – the inability to take responsibility and/or exert self-control. To be clear, there are plenty of situations in which wealthy people (or corporations) take advantage of the less fortunate. Overspending and not paying your bills ain’t one of them.

Rationalizing our financial failures is easy to do. Heck, we all do it from time to time. It’s a coping mechanism that makes us feel better (if only for a few minutes), protecting us from some harsh realities that can really mess with our psyches. But does holding on to these falsehoods actually help us improve our financial lot?

No. Of course it doesn’t.

Ignoring the root causes of our failures can be disastrous. We’re not just refusing to confront the reality of our situation; we’re making it worse by refusing to do anything about it. It’s a vicious cycle leading to more failure, more rationalizing, and more problems.

Sound familiar? Do you want to do something about it? Here are a few things you can do to dump the “excuses mindset” and get back on track.

5 Ways to Reassert Control Over Your Money

Don’t Search for Excuses – It’s important to understand what went wrong so you can make adjustments. With that said, be careful not to use your findings as a justification for excuses. Friends, family members, and money coaches should also take care not to validate attempts at rationalization. When a legitimate wrong is being done to others, by all means, speak up. If not, stop promoting and endorsing these false justifications. Excuses don’t help anybody improve their situation. They only reinforce a harmful tendency toward avoiding responsibility for our own decisions.

Make the Best of Things – One of my favorite quotes is from legendary basketball coach John Wooden. He said, “Things work out best for those who make the best of how things work out.” He’s right. We’ve all got issues and problems to deal with, and sometimes we’re dealt a downright shitty hand. If you’re one of those people, I’m truly sorry for the situation you’re in right now. You can do this, but it won’t happen by feeling bad about what has already been. Take whatever situation you’re in, and start doing what you can to move toward the best possible outcome. I promise, you’ll be far better off than if you hadn’t.

Seize Control – If I can teach my daughters one thing, it would be this: You are in control of your destiny. Once you realize that you have the power to control your situation, you’re focus shifts. You’ll stop wondering how you can get more from others (like your boss or the government) and start focusing on making the best decisions with the options in front of you.

Stop Torturing Yourself – If you’re struggling with money mistakes, stop beating yourself up over it. Nothing good happens from wallowing in your sorrow. On the other hand, if you’re doing well financially, stop beating yourself up over it. You don’t have to feel guilty about making good decisions or for creating success. Guilt tends to promote excuses, and it stunts the next step – taking action.

Take Action – This may be the scariest tip of all: The only way to improve your financial situation is to take action. Excuses won’t help. Rationalizing won’t help. Only action can improve your situation. Discover what you’re doing wrong, create a monthly financial plan, and act on it. By taking action, any positive action at all, you’ll be far better off than you were by avoiding the problem.

Final Thoughts

No more excuses. No more laying the blame somewhere else. If you really want to improve your finances, you've got to stop doing this.Look, maybe you’re not there yet… and I get it. Whether it is or it isn’t, saying “It’s not my fault” is often our go-to defense against hard feelings that we don’t want to face. But, in the end, laying blame doesn’t help your situation one bit. Getting stuck in the blame game only stops you from moving forward.

Unfortunately, many people never move past it. Don’t be one of them. Stop making excuses, stop blaming others, and start taking control.

Once you understand that improving your financial situation is almost entirely under your control, you’ll never look at money the same way again. Sure, everybody’s results will vary and success means different things to different people. But the only way to improve where you’re at is to drop the excuses and start making progress. When you do that, you’ll always end up in a better position than you were before.

You can do this. Good luck.

What do you think? Let me hear it in the comments below!

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  1. I’m glad you said “almost always under your control”. Even though things may be going badly, it’s no excuse to curl up in a ball and do nothing. Sometimes it feels like you’re bailing the Titanic with a tablespoon. It’s always better to do what you can, even though it doesn’t feel like much. Even if everyone else thinks you must be pretty stupid to be in the situation you’re in, at least you know you’ve done your best all along.

    1. There are certainly things you can’t plan for and that are totally out of your control. Regardless of what’s happened, the only way to improve your situation is to take action.

  2. I’ve seen a shift over the last 30-50 years (yes, I’m that old) from individual responsibility among our citizens to blaming everyone else for all the problems someone has. Never mind that poor financial decisions are made on a daily basis, it is always some one else holding one back. They blame anyone who has a dollar more than they do for being greedy and taking more than their fair share or not paying their fair share of taxes. Having worked for the IRS for more than 2 decades, believe me, I’ve seen the tax returns of rich people and they absolutely pay a huge amount of taxes. Paying bills on time is evidence of privilege? Jeez. How many times have you see a person with a tattoo, smoking a cigarette standing in front of a vehicle with new spinner hubcaps complaining about how they can’t save any money? I’ve seen it on more than one occasion and it ain’t pretty.

    1. There is certainly a place to expose legitimate wrongs being done. With that said, in the vast majority of cases, the only real way to make a difference in your situation is to take control of it for yourself.

  3. Hooray for personal responsibility! In the end, you’re the one who’s going to be responsible for how you play the hand life dealt you.

    Hooray, also, for those who continue to point out that we all fight different disadvantages, too. Nothing wrong with acknowledging the fact that I have a ton of advantages (born in America, born a male, half-white and white-sounding without an accent, born into a middle-class household) that undeniably make my financial wins a lot more attainable that they’d be otherwise.

    So long as we’re not espousing the idea of a perfect meritocracy, sure, focusing on personal responsibility and the things within our control is fantastic advice.

    1. There is certainly no perfect system and there never will be. There’s also no denying that every person has certain advantages and disadvantages. I’ve found that the most successful (and generally the happiest) people are those who focus on what they can control and take action on it.

  4. THIS. As much as I would LOVE to put the blame on someone else for my student loans and debt, the fact of the matter is that I did it myself. So instead of complaining, I made changes to my lifestyle and said no to a lot of other things to be able to knock out this debt as quickly as possible. I dug this hole myself, so I’m digging myself out. I wish other people see it the way we do!

    1. I love how you’re going after it Chonce! There is no way out of it except through it. Keep it up 😀

  5. I very much agree with Olivia, ‘almost always’ is the correct term (unfortunately though). Some financial matters, you can and should always keep under control. Overspending, getting into debt, going out to eat although you know you should probably cook at home tonight! Other situations though, don’t always depend on your actions. Losing your job, for instance can affect your financial situation in ways you’re not able to control right away. But yeah, not doing anything about it is not the answer!

    1. Oh, for sure. There are definitely some things that are out of your hands. You mention losing a job. That is (often) not in your control. However, having a fully funded emergency fund to get you through it certainly is. It’s also in your power to immediately begin a job search, stick to a budget, etc. Every successful person has overcome challenges of some sort. The more focus placed on the important stuff we can control, the greater our opportunities for success in anything we do.

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