I was a late financial bloomer.  As a young man I spent my money as fast as I could make it and had no regard for the consequences of carrying debt on a credit card or skipping a payment or two so that I could go out and have a good time.  Soon the constant uncertainty and wondering if I would have enough money to buy food or afford bus fare was too much to ignore.  I knew that my debt problems were of my own making and I was smart enough to know what needed to be done, I just didn’t have the initiative to do anything about it.  Either I was too lazy or too uninterested in the future, but I just didn’t have the inclination to do anything but keep spending and having a good time.  My reality check came when all my friends started buying their own vehicles and purchasing homes while I was still struggling to make ends meet.  I knew then it was time for a change.

There are all kinds of different reasons why we can’t seem to pull ourselves out of debt and begin a more positive financial direction; the loss of a job due to illness or injury, a breakup of a relationship, or even a run of bad luck can all affect how we deal with debt.  In my experience we also make a lot of excuses about why we are financially stuck.

Since I began helping people with their budgets and guiding them to a better way of financial thinking, I have noticed some excuses that pop up more often than others.  For the most part, these excuses can be addressed and rectified easily enough with a little bit of self reflection and some determination.

  1. I bring home more money than I need so my debts will be paid off before long

Just because you see money left over in your account once all the bills are paid doesn’t mean your debts will take care of themselves.  That would be like saying, “my gas tank is almost empty, but not quite” and not planning to get it filled again.  Just because you acknowledge something doesn’t mean it’s going to fix itself.  You must have a plan for that extra money and paying down your debts should be one of the top priorities.

  1. I’d rather enjoy myself now before I’m too old

This type of thinking is a prime example of “buy now, pay later” mentality.  The time to work crazy overtime hours and grind out a comfortable position in a new job is when you’re young and can handle the late nights and weekends.  Trust me, when you are pushing 50, the last thing you’re going to want to do is put in extra overtime on a weekend.  Use all that energy you have when you’re young to carve out a better financial situation for yourself and then reap the rewards when you have achieved your goals.

  1. I’ll let my future self worry about the future

Let me tell you, “future me” hates “past me”.  As a young man I never gave a second thought about where I would be at 45 years old, but 45 year old me sure wishes he did.  I think back to all the money I wasted and cringe at what my future self could do with it.  I would be closer to being financially ready for retirement, I would have three months of expenses saved instead of just one, and I might even have my home paid off!  The possibilities are endless.

  1. My friend is going to hook me up

I spent too much time waiting for friends or family to hook me up with a better job, cheaper apartment, or an affordable vehicle.  If I had spent half as much time looking for these things myself instead of waiting on friends I would have been much better off.  Plus the pride and satisfaction you receive from actually doing it yourself goes a long way making other goals more achievable.

  1. Ah, an extra $100. Time to treat myself!

Everyone loves extra money.  There’s nothing better than finding $20 in an old winter jacket pocket or at the bottom of your sock drawer.  The problem with extra money is that we think we can blow it on something impulsive and, most times, un-needed.  You do not need to spent that extra money; you need to save it, invest it, or pay off debts with it.  You do not need a tenth pair of shoes or a new video game.  Invest in yourself and your future.  Trust me; use that extra money now to invest in yourself and it will pay off in the end.  There will be extra money again in the future for games and clothes.

  1. I’ll stay in school forever so I’ll never have to pay back my loans

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard this one.  In theory this is true, but how long can you stay in school and continue living on less than you deserve?  They’re called starving students for a reason!    Eventually you are going to want a home to yourself, a vehicle that doesn’t require constant repairs, or to start a family.  Staying in school might seem like a viable option now but I have never met anyone who didn’t want to quit eventually.  Once you quit you will have to pay back all those loans, and after 15 years of school those loans are going to be massive.

  1. Student loans are OK to have

Sure the high cost of education pretty much means most people are going to have to accumulate some type of student loan; but wouldn’t it be better to not have any after graduation?  Working while you attend college can go a long way to making your college/university life at lot easier.  If you have to land a $100K a year job right out of school to pay for all the loans you’ve accumulated you might be in for a rude awakening.  Most jobs out there don’t pay that much right off the bat and you will likely have to work at something with a much lower rate of pay to start.  Wouldn’t it be better to have less debt to worry about while in that low paying entry level job?

  1. You have to spend money to make money

What matters here is context.  Where are you spending this money?  If you are investing in yourself by paying down debt or building a savings account then you are moving in the right direction.  If you’re taking some people out to dinner in the hopes that they will remember you down the line and throw you a bone, you are moving backwards.  You want to spend money to make money?  Invest in your future and yourself first.  Once you become successful you can treat people to dinner and drinks.

  1. My friends and family deserve the best gifts

Maybe they do, or maybe they would rather see you succeed and not dig yourself deeper into debt just to make them happy for one day a year.  I’m willing to bet your mom would rather have you call her once a week all year than have a fancy new bauble as a gift for the holidays.  Having a frank discussion with your loved ones about why you’re not going to spend a small fortune over the holidays might just be what they need to hear and can be a good character builder for everyone involved.

  1. Everyone has debt. It’s unavoidable!

Yes, and everyone in debt is miserable.  Why do you want to be part of a group that is miserable all the time?  All people in debt can think about is getting out of debt.  Talk to anyone who has no debt other than a mortgage and ask if they’re upset that they are not in debt.  I’m willing to bet you already know the answer however.

  1. As long as I make my minimum payment I’ll be OK

Making only minimum payments is like taking a walk around the block for 20 minutes and thinking you’ve exercised enough to eat a medium pizza.  Of course, making minimum payments might be a reality for you now but don’t fool yourself into thinking that it will always be that way.  If you can make more than the minimum, do it!  Double the minimum if you can.  You’ll be thanking yourself when that debt is paid off.

  1. I get cash back if I use this credit card

Sure you might be getting 1% cash back on certain purchases, but is that even coming close to the 28% interest the card is charging you for carrying that balance month to month?  It’s OK to use the incentive programs some cards offer but if you’re carrying a balance month to month you would be better off to not use the card at all.

  1. I really wanted that new car

What you really want is that new car for free, but since that is never going to happen why not opt for getting out of debt faster?  Everyone has to learn to identify the difference between NEED and WANT.  We need shelter, clothing, and food.  We don’t need a brand new car, a trip to Mexico, or a gym membership that we never use.  Life is full of choices and some are harder than others.  Once you learn the difference between NEED and WANT, life’s choices will become a lot easier to make.

  1. I can’t give up my daily trip to the coffee shop

Yes.  Yes you can.  There are all kinds of alternative ways to get your caffeine fix that don’t cost a hundred dollars a month.  Brew coffee at home and take it to go.  This is just another example of a WANT.  You don’t NEED Tim Horton’s coffee, you WANT it.

  1. YOLO (You Only Live Once)

I can’t count how many times I’ve heard this saying used by a 20 something year old.  It’s been turned into a meme and internet slogan and people use it as the ultimate reason why they do anything.  The problem with this saying is that it gives the feeling that you are not going to live long, so why does it matter anyway.  You are likely going to live a lot longer than you think.  Don’t be that guy who goes to a party with no plan to get home.  No one likes that guy.

  1. It’ll all work out in the end

Yes, it probably will.  The issue is will it work out the way you want it to?  People who just wing it for as long as they can usually end up in a heap of trouble and find themselves wishing they had done something about it sooner.  Don’t just leave it to fate.  Take action now and work for a better financial future.

Having a plan will go a long way to making life easier for you and giving you peace of mind knowing there is an endgame.  Debt can be crippling to anyone and we all reach a point where we just can’t handle it any longer.  There are reasons why we are in debt and there are excuses.  It’s time to get rid of the excuses and focus on the solutions.  If any of these excuses have ever crossed your mind, you might want to seek the advice of a professional credit counselor to get your train back on track.  They can help you with setting financial goals and building a budget that will succeed.  Make sure you look for an accredited, non-profit credit counselling agency when seeking advice.  The last thing you need is to pay good money for advice when there are Agencies out there that will do it for free.  Call us to set up an appointment for a free, unbiased opinion on you financial situation.  There are solutions out there, and we can help you find one that will work.