Experts Reveal the 9 Reasons We Procrastinate With Money — And How to Stop
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I’m convinced 100% of humans procrastinate.
Now, I’m no data scientist, so don’t quote me. But even I, a strong Type A, procrastinate.
All too often this bad habit rears its ugly head when it comes time to manage money, and this can lead to a quick downward spiral.
“Procrastination can wreak havoc on your financial well-being,” Leslie Tayne, the head debt-resolution attorney and managing director at Tayne Law Group, said in an email. “Whether you make late payments on your monthly bills or you continuously put off your savings goals, ignoring your fiscal responsibilities can lead to a doomed financial future.”
So why do we procrastinate on these important money matters? And more importantly, how can we stop?
Financial Experts Explain Why We’re Prone to Procrastinate
In the spirit of breaking old habits, here are nine common reasons we procrastinate and some tools to help you overcome this psychological hurdle.
Reason 1: You’re in Denial
“Someone who is procrastinating may be in financial denial,” Tayne said. “It can be hard to admit — or even notice — a money problem exists.”
The first step to overcoming denial is to address your financial situation.
For a big-picture view of your finances, take a gander at your credit score, which is like a grade, scoring your financial situation on a scale of 300 to 850.
If you’re not sure what your score is, use a free service like Credit Sesame. You’ll get to see your credit score, which will help put your situation in perspective, and you’ll access your “credit report card.” This report card outlines steps you can take to improve your score — and your overall financial health.
Reason 2: You Don’t Have Enough Time
“Planning for retirement seems like the most long-term and far-away responsibility, so it’s the most likely for procrastination,” Lou Haverty, a chartered financial analyst and founder of Financial Analyst Insider, said in an email.
He suggested enrolling in a retirement savings plan with an automatic savings schedule that pulls money directly from your paycheck.
A common solution is an employee-sponsored 401(k) retirement savings plan. Set up your account to automatically withdraw money from each paycheck. What you don’t see, you won’t miss.
If you really want to take a hands-off approach to retirement savings, use a robo-adviser like Blooom. The SEC-registered investment advisory firm will optimize and monitor your 401(k) for you, so you don’t ever have to remember to check in on stocks versus bonds, hidden investment fees — all that fun stuff.
It takes about five minutes to get your free 401(k) analysis through Blooom. And if you decide to opt in to monitoring, Penny Hoarders can get their first month free ($10 off) with code PNNYHRD.
Reason 3: You Don’t Know Where to Start
“Every good financial practice starts with having a budget and understanding your cash flow,” Kevin Michels, CFP at Medicus Wealth Planning, said in an email.
The only problem? Creating a budget can quickly become overwhelming.
“When you finally find a budgeting system that works for you, whether it be an app on your phone, Intuit or a spreadsheet, each month you do it, it becomes more familiar and easier,” said Michels.
Your budgeting options are endless, but here are a few we like:
- Use a free app like Empower. It’s like having a personal financial assistant in your smartphone, and it has this cool “find free money” feature. It’ll do things like negotiate your cell phone bill, review your insurance coverage and cancel unwanted subscriptions.
- See whether your bank offers built-in budgeting tools. Budgeting directly through your bank is simple, because it’ll automatically categorize all your connected spending for you.
- Conquer your fear of Excel, and create a simple budgeting spreadsheet to track your spending. Seriously, it’s easier than you might think.
Reason 4: You Don’t Know How
“Don’t overwhelm yourself,” Tayne says. “Instead, just go topic by topic, starting with what interests you most or what is most relevant to you.”
If that topic is investing, for example, start small — literally —with microinvesting.
Microinvesting allows you to invest small amounts of money into exchange-traded funds (ETFs). A microinvesting app like Acorns will walk you through the entire process, explaining just what an ETF is and how investing in one works. Then Acorns will take over, investing your money for you.
Once you turn on the app’s round-up mode, it’ll automatically round up each of your purchases to the nearest dollar and invest the spare change for you — like a digital piggy bank.
The app costs $1 a month, but Penny Hoarder get a $5 bonus when you sign up.
For more investing resources, check out our list of seven best investing books.
Reason 5: You’re Afraid You’ll Fail
“Once I have [clients] write out their specific goals, they tend to shy away and get a case of the ‘what ifs,’” Sha’Kreshia Lewis, the founder and CEO of the blog Humble Hustle Finance, said in an email. “What if I fail? What if my credit score is already bad? What if my debt is too high?”
Her response: “What if you succeed?”
To get over this fear of failure, give yourself a pep talk — then set small goals and reward yourself along the way.
You can automate this process (even better for us procrastinators) with MoneyLion. It’s a free app for managing your personal finances that will reward you for things like paying your bills and monitoring your credit — even just setting up an account in the app.
If you want to take it a step further and work on paying down debts, for example, MoneyLion can help with a loan to consolidate your debt and potentially reduce your interest rates. And it’ll reward you for that, too!
Exchange your hard-earned rewards for gift cards to retailers like Amazon, Apple and Walmart.
Reason 6: You Suck at Hitting Deadlines
“Some people are naturally comfortable organizing their daily routines around a list of tasks and systematically checking items off their list,” Haverty said. “Other people feel confined by routines and aren’t interested in following a set schedule.”
Yep. When it comes down to it, procrastination can simply be a result of your god-given personality. If you fall into this category, you’ll need to call in reinforcements to help you automate your financial processes.
One area that can get real slippery if you miss deadlines? Credit cards. Credit card interest rates are high these days. To avoid getting stuck in that pit, automate your payments with Debitize.
Whenever you swipe your credit card, Debitize pulls the same amount of cash from your bank account. It stores the cash for you until it’s time to pay your credit card bill. Then it pays that bill for you a week before the due date.
Now you don’t even have to remember when your payment is due.
Reason 7: You Feel Alone and Ashamed
“Everyone struggles with money at some point,” Tayne said. “Everyone has debt. It’s essential to face your debt head-on instead of denying it or letting it control you.”
Many of us have our own set of financial issues, so don’t feel like you’re the only one. We’re just not very good at talking about it.
“Openly talking about debt without being embarrassed or ashamed will make confronting it easier,” Tayne said.
You can put your finances into perspective with Status Money, which allows you to anonymously compare your financial situation with your peers.
Tapping into its database, you’ll realize you're not alone. Heck, you might realize you’re paying higher interest rates than anyone else and that refinancing will help you save a few thousand dollars — and get rid of your debt faster.
You can also join an online community, like The Penny Hoarder’s Facebook community group. Its nearly 30,000 members pose questions and offer advice and support for each other’s financial goals.
Reason 8: You’re Setting Unrealistic Goals
“Being hard on yourself with a strict deadline makes you want to give up even more, when it's already hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Lewis said.
Setting a goal and a deadline is a great way to overcome procrastination, especially when it comes to a large, daunting task like paying off debt. But instead of making that the do-or-die goal, give yourself some wiggle room.
“Things will happen; it's all a part of life,” Lewis said.
If you’re trying to pay off debt but aren’t sure how to set a realistic deadline, use a tool like Trim. When you sign up with your email or Facebook account, you’ll gain access to a number of powerful features, including its debt payoff calculator.
No need to remember passwords or connect each debt-carrying account. Simply type in your remaining balances, interest rates and minimum payments. As you play with monthly payment numbers, you’ll notice your debt-free date and total interest will change.
Once you land on a monthly payment you can handle (remember that wiggle room!), mark your debt-free date on your calendar.
Reason 9: You Can’t Afford It
“Starting off small can be good, but I think it’s more important to not start off too large,” Haverty said. “If you start too large, your mind is more likely to begin offering rationalizations about why you should not save as much because the impact on your paycheck is too noticeable.”
Even if you’re living paycheck to paycheck, it’s possible to take small steps to get your finances on track.
Haverty suggested setting up an automated savings account that pulls out small amounts of money.
Try downloading the Digit app to help you out. The neat thing about Digit is once you connect your checking account, it’ll analyze your income and spending to determine exactly how much you can afford to save. It’ll stick that amount away into its separate, FDIC-insured savings account.
Using this set-it-and-forget-it strategy, one Penny Hoarder saved $4,300 without noticing — read his Digit review.
Bonus: Penny Hoarders will get an extra $5 when they sign up. Additionally, savers will receive a 1% bonus every three months. Digit is free to use for the first 30 days, then it’s $2.99 per month.
Still Find Yourself Procrastinating?
“Sometimes significant problems require bigger steps,” Tayne says.
If you continue to put your financial duties off, you might need a strategy that’s less DIY. Consider reaching out to a financial adviser, a debt attorney or a nonprofit financial counseling organization.
OK, what are you still doing here?! You’re procrastinating. Go on and tackle your financial goals now!
Carson Kohler ([email protected]) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. In college, she received an A+ in procrastination.