Money-management isn’t just about tactics, says Carrie Rocha. It’s not about finding the cheapest groceries, negotiating the lowest mortgage rate, or buying a well-priced car.
Good money management goes beyond tactics, she says. At the end of the day, money management is about attitude.
Rocha’s book, Pocket Your Dollars, is about the “five attitude changes that will help you pay down debt, avoid financial stress and keep more of what you make.” The operative word is “attitude.” Rocha wants to help her readers cultivate the right mentality so that they can have a healthier relationship with money.
The first section describes five unhealthy attitudes that you must get rid of in order to better manage your money:
Attitude 1: “If Only I Had More ...”
Thinking that if only you had more money, you could buy or do more things. If you’ve ever said to yourself, “next month we get paid three times. We’ll get on track with that third paycheck,” you may be experiencing this mentality.
You may be falling victim to this “if only I had more ... everything would be okay” mentality if:
- You dream of winning the lottery or getting a huge salary increase.
- You purposely set your tax withholding so you get a huge refund every April.
- You believe that your current personal finance situation is not your fault.
Money alone is not enough to resolve your personal finance issues, she says. The gym alone is not enough to resolve your weight issues; the gym is simply a tool that can help. But resolving your weight issues has to, first and foremost, come from within. The same is true when it comes to money.
Attitude 2: “I Deserve a Treat...”
Have you ever said to yourself, "I’ve worked hard for this. I deserve a treat"? If so, you’ve fallen victim to this unhealthy money mentality.
Rocha says that tiny little "treats" became huge leaks in her family budget. She and her husband believed that their treats, such as a hazelnut coffee from a popular coffee shop, or an iced tea and a sandwich from a gas station cooler, weren’t really impacting their family finances.
“I mean, no one pays the mortgage with a three-dollar coffee, right?,” she says in the book, describing her previous mentality. Her personal finance situation improved when she realized that those three-dollar coffees add up.
Now, instead of thinking, “I deserve a treat,” she thinks, “I worked hard for this money. I don’t want to waste it.” That shift in thinking has made huge difference in her life.
You may be falling victim to the “treat” mentality if you think:
- That when you’re having a hard day, a small treat feels more justified.
- That you pay attention to big expenses so that you don’t really need to worry about smaller purchases.
- That you feel hopeless about your current financial situation, so you may as well enjoy small things.
Attitude 3: “It Won’t Happen to Me ...”
When everything is going great, it's tempting to think that financial upsets won't happen to you.
- If your car is running fine, it’s easy to forget that one day, your engine may break down or your timing belt may need to be replaced.
- If your appliances are running smoothly, it’s tempting to think that your dishwasher, washing machine, refrigerator, and stove will never break or need repair.
- If you and your family are in strong health, it’s tempting to believe that you will never need to pay a large deductible or co-pay for healthcare or dental work.
But guess what? These unexpected expenses happen to everyone. The best thing to do is plan for them. If your budget doesn’t include these inevitable but unpredictable expenses, then your budget, frankly, is insufficient. It’s time to start putting money aside for those random bills ...
Attitude 4: “I’ll Fake It ‘Til I Make It ...”
When Rocha and her husband needed to buy a car, they planned on buying a Camry. But then they reasoned that the Avalon was just one step up.
“It cost just a few thousand dollars more, but we were going to spend it for the luxury we’d gain,” Rocha said.
But wait! The Lexus, which is also built by Toyota, is just a few thousand dollars above the Avalon. They bought a grey Lexus ES 300 for $21,500, financing one hundred percent of it.
"We could have gotten a $15,000 Toyota Camry, but after seeing better cars in the Avalon and Lexus, we were no longer content with the idea of having a Camry,” Rocha said.
They had fallen into the trap of buying things as a result of the social status and display of wealth that they perceive the item conveys.
When you have the “I’ll fake it ‘til I make it” attitude, you buy items because they hold a certain perceived status. This increases your sense of personal accomplishment, the author says. But that status is just an illusion. In reality, you’ve set yourself back by digging yourself deeper into debt, or by failing to save for retirement or otherwise invest that money.
Attitude 5: “I Can’t Afford It ...”
You may fall into the habit of believing that you can't afford things, even if you legitimately can. The “I can’t afford it” attitude brings you feelings of guilt or shame when you spend money. Healthy self-control turns into unhealthy deprivation.
You may be experiencing this mindset if you:
- Believe that your income won’t ever let you have certain nice things.
- Have a hard time giving gifts to others or making charitable donations, even when you are financially prepared to do so.
- Feel guilty about spending money on yourself, even after you’ve carefully planned and saved for it.
- Pride yourself on hard-nosed frugality.
Why Read This Book?
Rocha’s book describes, in-depth, these five attitudes that prevent us from having a healthy relationship with money. She tells personal stories from her own life, as well as anecdotes from people she knows.
The stories she tells describe an ordinary American family, of ordinary means, with every day, normal money issues. In other words, most people will be able to relate to her experiences. And that means that most people will recognize how to apply her financial lessons to their own lives.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.