Six Ways to Fight Back When You Lose Financial Focus

Once every couple months, I go through a period for about a week or so where I really wonder why I’m keeping my financial house in such tight order. I look around at what my friends and family are doing and I see them enjoying a lot of things with their money – and a big part of me wants to do that, too. I’d love to be able to go out and just go on a whirlwind shopping spree and not really worry about the consequences, and knowing that I have enough money in the bank now to make such a thing easily possible sometimes pushes me very hard to go down that route.

This past weekend was one of those times. I saw an old friend of mine buying an XBox 360 and about seven games for it, then shortly after that, one of my wife’s old friends showed off her engagement ring that was piled with diamonds (including one very large one). With the XBox, I felt longing – with the diamond ring, I felt guilt because I wanted to give something so nice to my wife (when we were engaged, we were both dirt poor, so her engagement ring was very simple).

What did I do to get back on the right track? Here are six little things that I did to leave me feeling much better by Monday.

I looked at a motivational aid. I keep a picture in my wallet of a house that my wife and I once saw. It was out in the country, well off the road with a long driveway. It had woods directly behind it, a large garden off to the side, and an enormous lawn with children playing whiffle ball in it. The house was large but not enormous and had an apple tree and a cherry tree within fifteen steps of the front door. In other words, it was almost everything we ever wanted. That picture inspires me – if I keep my eye on the ball, someday we can have that.

I talked to my wife. We had a conversation about things and just by bouncing ideas and thought off of each other, we both wound up feeling much better about things than before. She is my primary source of levity in life.

I held my children. What would an XBox 360 or a big diamond ring do to help the lives of these children? It might make a superficial joy in my life and in my wife’s life, but in their lives? Nothing at all.

I reviewed my account statements. I also spent some time online checking my account balances, just so I could see that I am making progress towards my goals, but I’m still a long way from the success that I want. For me, one of the best motivators is seeing that I am advancing towards a goal, but that I have a long way to go to get there.

I let the Thanksgiving holiday and family interactions cheer me up. Just interacting with people in a fun way does quite a bit in restoring a sense of balance in one’s life. It’s much easier to feel like everything makes sense and that I don’t need a lot of consumer junk when I’m out in the driveway at my parents’ house shooting baskets with my nephews.

I made some really wholesome “soul food” with my own hands. I actually learned how to make a complex Norwegian food from scratch from my in-laws. The process of watching this food being made from basic ingredients, smelling it as it cooked, and watching people enjoy it made me reflect quite a bit on what I really value in life – and it’s not material things.

I find that whenever I’m in a mood where I want to give up and go on a rampant spending spree, if I touch upon these things I will almost always put that mood aside and still feel quite good about myself.

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