Procrastination is key to credit card debt, financial disaster
If you live like there's no tomorrow, you'll arrive there anyway -- broke
If "don't do today what you can put off until tomorrow" sounds
like your personal money mantra, it's time to readjust your thinking before it's
If you fall into the
trap where you think, "I'll fix my credit tomorrow," "I'll establish a budget
next week" or "I'll pay off my credit cards
next month," suddenly the little things you've put off
can turn into one big financial mess.
"Living like there's no credit tomorrow and burying your
head in the sand almost always hurts your credit score today -- and for many 'tomorrows'
too," says certified financial planner and "The Emotion Behind Money" author
Julie Murphy Casserly.
Luckily, you can live in the financial present and break the
habit of procrastinating when it comes to your finances.
Why do you stall?
you stall on financial matters, you're not alone. Manhattan psychologist Joseph
Cilona says more than 20 percent of the adult clients he sees in his practice
identify themselves as chronic procrastinators.
though there's a little procrastinator in all of us, there's a difference
between putting off doing the laundry or washing the car and not paying your
bills on time.
procrastination usually stems
from fear of failure or lagging self-confidence and abilities. It may also be related to a fear of financial
responsibilities, which is why some people may be prone to
procrastination when it comes to money and not in other areas of their life," Cilona
Then there's the lack of the "fun factor." "People put off
experiences that they don't like or that make them uncomfortable," says Matt
Wallaert, a behavioral psychologist in New York. "If balancing your
checkbook is boring, tedious or gives you a headache, you're probably going to
do something -- anything -- instead of sitting down with your register," Wallaert
Snap out of it!
No matter what drives you to drag your financial feet,
Wallaert says the key to facing your finances head on -- instead of meandering
around them -- is good vibes. "You'll ease fears and boost confidence if you
make facing your finances a positive emotional experience instead of a negative
These "bad habit" breakers will send
small. To avoid being intimidated by paying off credit card debt, wading
through a huge stack of bills or reviewing a 20-page credit report, break down large
financial tasks into small parts. For example, if upping your credit score
is on your financial bucket list, tackle one negative entry or delinquent
payment at a time. "It's better to take small, consistent bites than to procrastinate
and do nothing at all," says Susan Howe, member of the American Institute of
Certified Public Accountants' National CPA Financial Literacy Commission
Retrain your thinking. Instead of
working on a financial plan to save for a "rainy day," Howe says to put a positive
spin on financial plans. "Approach budgeting and 'emergency accounts' as though
they're cushions, not lifelines," she says. Don't think you're "paying off a credit card," instead know you're getting one step closer to having more
disposable income every month.
public commitment. For motivation, commit to your finances with a tweet that
you're going to balance your checkbook, or write a Facebook status update or blog entry that says you're
going to establish a budget. Not into social networking? Wallaert says tell
your significant other or best friend -- whatever you need to do to find a way to
commit to dealing with a financial issue. "You'd be surprised how much simply
saying, 'I'm going to call my credit card company today,' makes you more likely
to do it," says Wallaert
Think task not time. Take a
task-oriented approach, not a time-oriented approach. Instead of thinking "paying bills
will take 30 minutes," make a plan to pay five bills -- no matter how long it
takes -- today. "That way, you won't feel weighed down by the task and want to
run screaming away from it," says Howe.
Set a specific reward for a job well done.
Give yourself a pat on the back when you've tackled a financial task head on
instead of letting it slip by the wayside. "There shouldn't be any wiggle room
on this," says Cilona, the Manhattan psychologist. Whether it's indulging in a piece of cake you've
been saving until you schedule your bill payments or buying a few new songs on
iTunes after you balance your checkbook, make sure there's a reward awaiting
for you to celebrate a financial success.
And be patient. Casserly says it generally takes two to
three times of screwing up again before a new financial habit develops. "So
don't be surprised if you lapse back into a state of procrastinative thinking once
or twice on the road to living like there's no credit tomorrow."
See related: Your first budget in 3 easy steps, A generic budget: Guidelines for spending categories, 4 simple ways to cope with debt-related stress, Even barely late payments can impact your credit score
Published: November 30, 2010