Dear Dr. Sadaqat Ali,
My husband and I are in financial distress. We have a budget, but we constantly adjust it to meet our wants and rationalize purchases we can’t afford. For example, we bought a new car without considering whether or not we could afford it. After a few months we realize our “fun car” is a burden, the payments are too high to adjust in our budget and we rarely drive it. I also recently realize, we aren’t out of debt on credit cards because we really don’t want to pay all the money to make it happen! We have been on a debt payoff plan for more than a year but never follow through because it’s so painful to pay our bills when it seems like we are just giving money away. We’ve made all kinds of budgets and set all kinds of goals but still unable to get out of debt and also don’t have any money for rainy days. We fight about it a lot and it has become a real source of conflict for us. We both want to save money, but one bad deed keeps leading to another. How can we stick to our budget and stay motivated to our saving plans?
Dear Over spender,
What a frustrating and sad situation. Not only you are struggling financially, you’re blaming each other when you should blame your plan. One of our greatest challenges is changing the way we think about money. We must realize that spending money crowds our life rather than enhancing it. Go on “no shopping spree” and take not spending money as a reward. Keep reminding yourself that “a penny saved is a penny earned.” When you eliminate expenses, think of it as getting a raise because it means you have more money in the bank. Changing the way we think makes all the difference.
Create a new budget and identify expenses you can eliminate. You can reduce your transportation costs by considering selling your “fun car” or trading in for a less expensive car. Downsizing a car will reduce insurance, gas, repairs and save more than your car payments. Reduce monthly payments by cancelling or switching from services like digital cable TV, prepaid cell phone services, and magazine or newspaper subscriptions. Cut up or cancel credit cards.
Sometimes we enable each other’s bad habits by allowing the other person to alter the budget. Talk about your finances and spending with your husband honestly and respectfully. You can hold each other accountable if one of two spends more than Rs. 2000 without a purchase plan. Research shows that changing habits almost always involves engaging the help of at least two trusted friends. So, you can encourage your friends, siblings and colleagues for their financial fitness. This will help you to change your behavior and stick to your financial plans.
To change your behavior, reverse your thinking by focusing on the long-term rewards instead of short-term gratification. Give importance to your retirement plans over grand fun parties. You can also increase your income by considering a job or renting out a room in your house and fix that money for future needs.