How To Kill Financial Temptations

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English: Furrer submachine gun
Locked and Loaded! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Financial temptations are everywhere. Don’t believe me? Just flip on your TV for more than 15 seconds. Heck, even if a commercial is not on, product placement is all over your favorite show, even if you don’t notice (though lately, it’s blaringly obvious to the point where Michelle and like look at each other, roll our eyes in disgust, and even chuckle a bit at how over the top it is. I mean, seriously, almost every episode of two of our favorite shows have at least one full on advertisement for cars, delivered by the cast, trying to act like it’s part of the original script. It really is painful to watch.). I’ll even take it one step further. Just take a look out your window at your neighbor’s houses and cars. Does one of them drive a nicer car, have better landscaping, a bigger house, whiter teeth, better behaved kids?! Advertising has ingrained our psyche so well, that I bet you can think of a commercial for every one of those circumstances that would help you one-up your neighbor. So, what are you going to do about it?


Here’s what most people will tell you to do: Avoid places that cause you start going into a nervous fit and give you an itchy credit card finger. Stay away from the mall, don’t window shop, ignore commercials. The truth is, if you do that, you would have to shut yourself in forever, throw away all possessions and live in a cave. Now, that may not be a bad idea if you are just realizing you have a shopping addiction, but it is definitely not sustainable. Plus, the goal of overcoming temptation is not to avoid it forever, but to not be tempted by it anymore. With financial temptation, how do you go from a shop-a-holic to a fully-reformed thrift master?

Why Are You Tempted?

First, let’s break down the reason WHY you are financially tempted. There could be many reasons, but here are a few; 1) you want to keep up with the “Joneses”, 2) you are depressed and need a “pick me up”, 3) you are not content with what you have, or 4) you don’t have a plan for your money, so what the hay?! Why NOT?! Now, I’m sure there are books and books written about the first three, but I want to focus on the last reason here.

I am convinced the world would be a better place if EVERYONE was on a budget. I’m talking no national debt, world peace, free Justin Bieber t-shirts for everyone and all. And though that may be a bit far-fetched (I don’t think so), I do believe that have a plan for your money can be the answer to not just avoiding financial temptations, but killing them altogether! Let me show you how this works:

First, you figure out your priorities, and then write down your income and expenses. Setup your budget and make sure to add in small savings goal throughout the year, called “savings buckets.” If at all possible, I also recommend getting a month ahead, because it will get you out of the “living paycheck to paycheck” mentality which can exacerbate the temptation of just spending the rest of your money (“because I’ll never get ahead, anyway”). You can find all these steps in detail in my Budgeting Basics Series.

Use Your Budget As A Gun

Once you have set up your budget, you can start writing down your financial goals and dreams. For example; when Michelle first got a job out of college and we did our budget together, we talked about what we wanted to do with any extra money at the end of the month. We decided that we would put as much of it toward debt as we could. We even created a “debt thermometer” on a chalkboard in our apartment which we filled in every time we made an extra payment on the student loan. This was extremely motivating for us, and kept us focused on our goal instead of being worried about what everyone else was doing.

For some smaller goals, we set up our savings buckets for Christmas, Birthdays, Vacation and Car Maintenance. We love giving, but to be honest, the most motivating category was “vacation.” We loved seeing our vacation savings grow and grow, putting us one step closer to camping, a trip to Disneyland, and eventually, Hawaii! Having clear, short-term goals helped keep our eyes on the prize and away from shiny new trinkets.

As we shopped for Christmas items, we were not tempted one bit to overspend, because we had a set amount for each person on our list. When we would see a nice car in our apartment complex, we just cocked back the budget pistol and shot that temptation right IN THE FACE! “Want some new shoes?” BAM! NO! “Don’t you NEED a new iDevice?” BLAOW! Back off fanboy! “Doesn’t this pizza look delicious?” What? Pizza. Psshhh, we use eMeals, SUCKA! BOOM! “Need some extra cash, how about taking out one of our quick loans?” HUH? I hate payday loans, back-off shark! “Here, buy this new toothbrush.” WHA?! I got 90% of my bristles still, PLAYA!

It was pretty easy to walk away from any “sale” or awesome deal because we had some sweet goals in mind. So, let’s try a quick exercise. Close your eyes. Closed? Good (liars! You’re still reading!). Now imaging you just woke up to the sound of waves crashing to the shore, and you step out of your beach condo to your home for the next two weeks. Sound good to you? Great. Now, imagine NEVER GETTING THERE EVER BECAUSE YOU SUCCUMBED TO EVERY WHIM AND FINANCIAL TEMPTATION YOU CAME ACROSS! Sucks, huh?

Just Try It

If you find yourself just NEEDING a new shiny trinket, whatever it is, give this exercise a shot. Use your budget as a weapon to defend against the financial temptations that you encounter during the day so you can remain victorious in your quest for financial freedom.  I bet you’ll feel a whole lot better about your decisions knowing you put some thought into them.

Comments: How has budgeting helped you avoid financial temptations? Do you find it easier to walk away from a “killer deal” now that you are on a budget? For those who do not have a budget, how does impulse spending affect your bottom line? Do you find it easy to walk away from financial temptations without any set goals? Also, does anyone else think that Romney has a savings bucket for his #bindersfullofwomen?

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Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade has been a nationally-recognized personal finance expert for the past decade. He has written professionally for The Balance, The Spruce, LendingTree, Investing Answers, and other widely-followed sites. 
He’s also been a featured expert on CBS News, MSN Money, Forbes, Nasdaq, Yahoo! Finance, Go Banking Rates, and AOL Finance.

In 2018, Jacob quit his job and his family decided to sell everything (including their home) to take off on an adventure. They traveled the country in an RV for nearly 3 years, visiting over 38 states, 20+ national parks and eventually settling in the sunshine state!

48 thoughts on “How To Kill Financial Temptations”

  1. Good post! I am not really tempted to buy anything right now because I literally have no time to shop. I work 9-5 then the evenings are spent with my little kids. They go to bed at 8 so we never get to go anywhere during the week. On the weekends, the last thing in the world I want to do is shop!!!!!

    But yes, we use a zero sum budget and we intentionally spend our entire month’s income on the first of the month when we get paid….so there is nothing left. Anything that we want that is outside of the budget would be a pain to work in….or we would just have to add it into next month’s budget.

  2. Great post! I love your analogy of using your budget as a gun. We have a very similar mindset and put aside money for different things like vacation, Christmas, etc. When I am tempted, I just ask myself if I can live without it and that works the majority of the time. Another thing we do is shop with cash. If we don’t have it, then it’s an easy decision to make.

    • have you ever written down your priorities? Just wondering, as I know when we wrote them down, it really helped solidify them and put them in a good working order, the basis for which we make our financial decisions.

  3. When I first started not buying things, I wouldn’t bring money into the stores. This way I could see that it wasn’t bad to look but walk away from it. Then I started to bring small amounts of my personal money to the store: and most times, I walked away without anything if it wasn’t on my list. I enjoy looking at my goals and when we go shopping, I enjoy staying in the budget or coming under. It’s a game I play now-how much money can I NOT spend. I keep my wedding in mind-if I can save anything extra towards it, it’s less stress I have to worry about. Same for debt.

    • Giving into financial temptations feels good for a little while, and are easy to justify in the moment, but setting long-term goal is like putting up a brick wall between you and temptation. And then putting in your budget is loading the proverbial gun, ready to shoot any intruders 😉

  4. I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t on some sort of budget, so I can’t say how it’s changed anything. But my husband has ADD, which makes him feel compelled toward instant gratification. So my latest idea (which is an impending blog post) is to go visual. It really does help.

    We just settled on an item for him to save for. As we avoid spending, we’ll throw most of it into that account. (A little goes to our regular savings account, so that some of this actually benefits our financial status.) He’ll be able to see savings add up from his actions.

  5. I’m not exactly sure if having a budget has helped us avoid financial temptations because no matter what I think those temptations will be there. I think having a budget and knowing mostly where our money is going does help with actually not giving into those temptations. What we like to do (depending on the price) is take a little time to think about those temptations. I really really want a surround sound system for our tv and we were in Best Buy the other day and I do know that we could afford to buy one we decided to hold off and look at our budget. We ultimately ended up not getting one and that helped us pay off our camper last week which was a huge goal for us. Still going to get that surround sound system eventually though haha.

    • I like how your evaluation of your budget helped you make the best decision. Sure, you can get the surround sound system, but your priority was getting out of debt, so you made the choice based on your priorities.

  6. Temptations are everywhere, man.. There is no doubt. You can try to hide in a cave.. but they will find you. All of my co-workers are constantly going on and on about their newest gadgets..

    Commercials really don’t effect me… But the influential power of your friends is undeniable..

  7. It’s funny how the answers are different here than I think they are in “real life.” People I met with in my office weren’t naturally goal setters. They needed the budget and the eye-on-the-prize to stop the march of consumerism.

    Dude, it isn’t only on TV…watched a movie lately? We talk about movies on our podcast, Two Guys and Your Money during the last segment. Anyway, those movies are getting just as bad. Product placement is just getting ugly. Pretty soon it’ll even be a part of blog comments. Some day.

  8. Ha! I love the Use your Budget as a GUN! That’s so smart and in reality Mrs.CBB and I both do when we talk about purchases and whether we can afford them in the budget. We avoid the mall as it can be a weak spot for us both as I like to shop for clothes just like Mrs.CBB. Great post. MR.CBB..

  9. I don’t mean to sound like I’m so wonderfully disciplined and have my life fully under control as I’m not. I have my errors and getting into debts in the first place proves that. But in all honesty, I have little trouble these days in applying self restraint on my spending.

    My secret is to be a real old misery that doesn’t go out much and not be led by what others do. I don’t think I’ve ever really been led and have a very cynical view of what others want from life, and all this twisted thinking of mine is a major bonus when it comes to clearing my debt.

    I simply realized there has to be more to life than working to buy the same goods we produce. Just seemed so futile but in reality, that’s what a consumer does. I took stock of everything and decided want and need are 2 totally separate things.

    I see others that have to have everything and a month later they are bored with it and get something else. Consequently my hard nosed outlook is helping me clear off debt fast and I don’t even want for things as I have pretty much all I need. Sounds simple I know but really it is.

  10. I think it’s hard for people to realize that the Joneses don’t matter, not in the long run. If it was easy, there would be no proverbial Joneses! And really, spending on shiny trinkets – that’s all it is, no matter which way you cut the pie. However, there are certainly some ways to battle that and budgets can definitely work. Savings goals can work too! The only thing that I’m dying to buy right now is a house.

  11. I love that you included savings buckets. For me, this is huge! I’ve found in the past the reason I went over budget is that I didn’t have these to meet my real needs. Now that I have savings buckets and “want” an item, I can fall back on this and say.. “well, my bucket isn’t full enough yet”. It helps me stay on budget.

    • Yup, it really does help limit spending to know that you have a set amount. I love using them, because it puts a cap on categories that can easliy get out of control, especially with all the marketing these days for Christmas and other gifts!

  12. I’m not dying to buy much right now, as I’m fairly happy with what I have.
    One thing I do try to practice is going shopping with others, male or female. I find sometimes others influence what we buy or not. When I shop my self, I’m much more selective and most of the time walk out empty handed.

    • But why not do both? Earning more money so you can give into financial temptations seems like a never-ending cycle. Frugality and earning more are not opposite ends of the spectrum, and I believe they should go hand-in-hand.

      Just read a good post about this on MSN Money

  13. LMAO! This post is hilarious. I love the idea of using your budget as a gun. I think I’m going to need a bazooka, now that I just bought a house. I used to use putting on horse blinders to help myself focus on the necessary things I need to get when I’m at the grocery store or mall, but the gun is way better and more fun!

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  16. Since I’ve always been frugal I am not tempted by much. Using the budget as a gun could still help me reach my goals faster though, since there is always room for improvement.

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