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Debt Solutions and New Years Resolutions – Part 5

Happy New Year!

It’s the start of something great – the rest of your life! Now that you have your resolutions and are working on them, we need to talk about how you are going to stay on track.

Well, studies have shown that it takes around 30 days to kick an old habit, and up to 90 days to develop a new one. I’m not so sure about those numbers, but I do know it can be a struggle. Let’s try and make it a bit easier.

If you read the other parts of this series, you know about writing things down long hand, and about keeping a resolution journal or log, the importance of your budget, etc, etc… I don’t expect you to haul that notebook around all day long, We have other ways to help you stay on track to achieve your financial goal. You can apply the ideas to any other resolution also, but we are focused on your money right now. Let’s talk a bit about impulse spending.

If paying off debt is your goal for the new year, contact ACCC.

If paying off debt is your goal for the new year, contact ACCC.

Impulse Spending
I have found that impulses are usually what gets us into trouble in the short run. A quick impulse buy of something we don’t need can be the undoing of our budgets.  A commercial on the radio triggers us into going to the drive through for a burger, maybe drinking a coffee automatically makes you reach for a cigarette – different resolutions or goals, but the same effects.

It’s the impulses that get you. Madison Avenue has legions of mad scientists in laboratories all over the world finding ways to get you to part with your money for things you don’t really need, and that have very little value. ONLY IF YOU LET THEM! (Well, maybe they are not mad, but they are most definitely scientists…)

Taking Control
How do we get control? Well, sometimes its as simple as a  2-10 second time out. You know, the old count-to-ten-to-cool-down routine? It can be used to combat impulse spending too! If you stop just long enough to consider –  I mean REALLY consider the consequences of your next action, then you can effectively short circuit the impulse, and go on your way. See, its the automatic response that marketing and advertising folks are after.  If they can get to your subconscious, and ingrain the idea that you need to buy their product – and it’s not really a product that you need, they win!

There is only one question you need to ask yourself – and answer honestly when faced with these impulses to spend frivolously, or to grab an unneeded unhealthy snack, of whatever your resolution entails.

That question is:

“Will taking this action (purchase) bring me closer to, or further away from my goal?”

Just taking long enough to recognize the behavior you are trying to change, and asking this all important question can mean the difference between success and failure. How does this impending action impact the achievement of your goal? If you’re trying to achieve financial goals such as completing a debt management program, you must look at your spending habits closely.

If you are able to stop that long, and truly are committed to your resolution or goal, just asking honestly and answering can be the help you need to get the new behavior to take hold, over time.  When you get to the point that you no longer need to ask yourself the question – you just subconsciously KNOW – you will have made great progress in basically reprogramming your mind with the discipline to do what is necessary to get to your goal.

If you need more than that – there are more ways. Let’s stick with impulsive spending. I do it. You probably do it. Most everybody does it. Impulse buys of silly little items that are “cute” at the cash register, or some unnecessary junk food that looks so good, or that muffin that you don’t really need but would go great with your coffee. (Yes, I know that’s a badly constructed sentence fragment … I think you get it.)

I always had a problem with pocket money. If I had “extra” cash in my wallet (small bills) it was easy to just buy whatever impulse item came along. To me – a voracious reader – magazines were like glossy printed crack cocaine. Mere seconds after I bought the latest issue of “Useless Articles Monthly” I’d stop myself and say, “What the heck did I buy that for?” Just minutes later after reading the darn thing, I still had no good answer!

Even worse, if I did not have pocket money I’d just whip out the old credit card. Now I don’t carry the credit card at all unless I am destined for a major purchase that requires it.  I did until recently however carry a debit card – DANGER!

Tune in to Part 6 for Impulse Spending and the Danger of the Debit Card! I hope this helps you stay on track with your Debt Resolution for 2011.

If you’re struggling to pay off debt, ACCC can help. Schedule a free credit counseling session with us today. 


Andi is a Marketing Assistant at ACCC. He is passionate about supporting financial literacy efforts and helping to educate people on the Talking Cents blog!

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