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12 excuses for being broke

For instance: I've already cut my spending to the bone. You want me to cut HBO, too?

By MSN Money Partner Aug 4, 2011 10:56AM

This post comes from Trent Hamm at partner blog The Simple Dollar.


A few weeks ago, I put out a call on Twitter and on Facebookfor posts that people would like to see.Edward on Facebook asked, "How about a small list of justifications and excuses people make for not getting their finances in order or for buying crap they don't need?"


I came up with a fairly round number of 12. You'd be surprised how often I see these excuses in the emails of people looking for personal-finance help.


I have too many other important things to worry about in my life right now. Great, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea to ignore your personal finances. People mention this as a reason to not cut one cent of their spending, which is strange because many spending reductions often free up time.


When I stopped visiting my favorite bookstore twice a week, not only did I spend less,  but I also found myself with more time to enjoy other things in my life. If you have so many important things in your life that you can't worry about your finances, then you have a time-management problem too.


Money is too hard and I'll never understand it. Take it slow. Learn in bite-sized chunks. No one ever said you have to learn everything today. Start off with what you know. Ask one question about it that you don't know the answer to, and then learn about it. Ask questions, find answers to those questions, and ask more questions at your own pace.


The communists/Republicans/Democrats are trying to destroy the U.S. dollar. Global conspiracy theories are not a good reason to completely ignore your finances. I've actually had multiplereaders tell me they're racking up debt like there's no tomorrow because the collapse of banks is inevitable due to inflation.


Let me make this very clear: Your explanation for ignoring your current finances should not involve Woodrow Wilson. If it does, you need to turn off the radio for a while and get reconnected with the reality of what's going on in your life.


You never know what will happen tomorrow, so you need to live it up today. And then you wake up tomorrow to find that you have a child, live in a tiny apartment, and have so much debt that you can't pay your monthly bills. That's exactly what happened to me. The truth is that if you follow that philosophy, you will fill tomorrow with restricted options and misery. (Do you have too much debt? Try MSN Money's calculator.)


Don't tell me what to do with my money, you busybody! When you read personal-finance advice and feel as though your privacy is somehow being invaded, it's not. It actually means that the advice is hitting a nerve in your life. Instead of being angry and rejecting it, you should appreciate it and use it to evaluate that portion of your life.


If you've provided information to a person and are asking for advice, and they're giving you advice based on that information, they're not being a busybody, either. They're doing exactly what you asked, even though you don't like what they're saying. Post continues after video.

The advice given does not perfectly match every aspect of my life, so it must be useless. No advice is going to perfectly match every aspect of your life. Your spouse might not even be able to give you perfect advice on a situation. Thus, if you're in this boat, you must believe that all advice is useless, which makes me wonder why you would ever seek any form of advice on anything.


Frugality is boring. I need some excitement! There are plenty of exciting and interesting things to do for free or for little money. The challenge is that many people are so attuned to being consumers that not being a consumer feels boring to them.


If you feel bored when you're not spending money, you need to ask yourself whether it's the actual activities you enjoy or whether you're addicted to the act of spending and acquiring.


How am I supposed to get my money in order when all my friends spend like maniacs? Get some control over yourself. Evaluate those relationships and ask if they're really adding a net positive to your life. If you’re drowning in debt and they're pulling you even deeper, they're most likely not a net positive in your life.


The debt I'm in is just too big to think about. You're fully aware of the problem, but you choose not to think about it. The end result of this is nota magical resolution to the problem. In fact, it's just an assurance that things are going to get worse.


If you feel you can't get your hands around the problem, you need to change now. If you need help, ask for it from friends or family or in the Reader Mailbag columns at The Simple Dollar.


Oh, my spouse takes care of that.I just spend. Having someone else handling the day-to-day money management for you is not an excuse to not understand your family's financial state. In fact, if you're entrusting that day-to-day management to someone else, you absolutely should be on some sort of "allowance" so that you're not wrecking your family's finances with your spending choices.


Be informed. Have some money meetings with your spouse so you understand where your family is and where your family is headed. Talk about goals and understand how challenging they are and how your spending is affecting those goals. You don't have to understand numbers to understand these things.


I don't know where it all goes. I just look and my bank account is empty. It's not my fault! Ignorance  is not an excuse for having no control over your money. You have bank statements, credit card statements, PayPal statements, and other sources to tell you exactly where every single dime of your spending goes.


Often, this means that you don't want to know where your money goes -- if you don't know, you don't have to take responsibility for it. Buying into that mindset guarantees a never-ending financial disaster, and the longer you stick with it, the longer it'll take to dig out of your hole if you ever do decide to face it. The sooner you get in control, the sooner you'll be out of the danger zone.


I've already cut my spending to the bone. You want me to cut HBO and my gym membership and my unlimited data plan, too? Often, people cut one minor thing in their life and convince themselves that they've cut an extraordinary amount. They reduce their Netflix account and it's the end of the world and evidence that cutting spending is impossible.


Nonsense. People trim and eliminate bills all the time. Go without cable. Go without a cellphone. Downsize your home. It's not the end of the world to make a change. People do it all the time. I certainly have.


More on The Simple Dollar and MSN Money:

Sep 7, 2011 9:29PM
This list is right on! Excuses are common, and they are attempted camoflage. Broke people make excuses for not managing their money, lazy people make excuses for not making their intentions become reality, fat people make excuses for not balancing their food intake with exercise, and addicted people make excuses for not regulating their big bad habit. And it does strike a nerve when someone calls them on it.

The root issue here is acknowledging that each of us is responsible for our own choices. Not for being born into poverty, but for not bootstrapping our way out of it. Not for being fed junk food as a baby, but for not noticing that thin people eat differently. Not for lacking a good example during formative years, but for not changing things when we decide we aren't happy with the status quo.

Bad habits cost people health, end relationships, and disqualify us from promotions. Some people who lost their jobs are blameless ~ it really was that they got swept up in the economic downturn. But of those, some are moaning and groaning, and others are optimistically determined to write the next chapter of their lives, instead of having it written for them. They are moonlighting, starting small businesses, selling off belongings that they realize they can live without, and giving up luxuries in order to stay afloat.

For those of you (us) who are struggling with the content of the article above, maybe it's time to ask yourself "what do I want most, and what do I want right now? If they are not the same things, what am I willing to change to get what I want most?" And if you don't know what you want most, then go for a long walk until you get a little more clarity.

The fat cats don't have a personal vendetta against you. They just want to have plenty of cash, for the power and/or options it brings them. Having plenty of cash is fun, enjoyable, and helps them sleep well. Does that make them different? Chances are (and I'll bet my next paycheck on this) that you would also find it fun, enjoyable, and sleep-enhancing to have plenty of cash. So if you're not on that path, re-evaluate. Pattern your behavior after someone who has ethically gotten to the point of having plenty of cash. Doesn't mean you need a medical degree, or a book advance, or even a CEO's office.

You need to figure out what you can do really well (or learn to do better) that the market values. Then offer your product/service to the market at a competitive price. If it's babysitting, or petsitting, or woodworking, or cooking, or just making beds at the motel. Do it consistently while thinking about how to get ahead. Take advantage of every opportunity for free education or training that furthers your goal. Meet people and impress them with how easy you are to talk to, and how interested you are in their life. Do a favor for them, so they're inclined to do one for you when you figure out how they can benefit your quest for financial fitness.

Bottom line: you have to want to change before change is possible. And you have to recognize there's a problem before you will want to change. So here's the first step ~ a guide list to recognizing the reasons for the problem of poverty in your life. And it was free. Take it & run.

Aug 5, 2011 7:35PM
Someone (clevus)

You fall into one of the categories listed above.  Please actually read the article and figure that part out for yourself.

Look folks - during these times, all middle class families are having to cut back to made ends meet.  It can be done and should be attempted if you truly care about you and your family's future.  Simply blaming others for your problems and not accepting the fact that you need to change the course of your life will cause you to further your financial ruin.
Oct 19, 2011 2:34PM
Wait, WTF? Spending reductions free up time??? So if I stop paying to have my lawn mowed, and stop hiring a babysitter on weeknights, then I get more time?? You're full of crap!
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