Getting Back on the Wagon

Misty overspent on Christmas and is finding it difficult to get back on the wagon. Why is it so hard to get back on track?

QUESTION: Misty from My Total Money Makeover overspent on Christmas and is finding it difficult to get back on the wagon. Why is it so hard to get back on track?

ANSWER: What’s weird is this. It is easy to get into debt; it’s hard to get out. It is easy to be lazy with money. It is hard to be disciplined with money. The only difference is where it takes you. It’s easy to not exercise and become as fat as a house. It’s easier than exercise. But is it really how you want to live?

Like the great philosopher Dean Wormer on Animal House said, “Fat, drunk, and stupid, son, is no way to go through life.” If you take the easy path, ultimately it’s not easy because we all know the way life works is you pay me now, you pay me later. Yes, I can eat seven pounds of cheesecake, three bags of cookies, and whatever else, but then I’ve got to pay the price. I don’t like that. I have to do it. Just buying a bigger shirt doesn’t work after a while. I figured out what makes you thinner than wearing black is being thinner. That’s what makes you look thinner.

The same thing’s true with money, isn’t it? Just spending more than you make and acting like you’re a freaking Congressman or something is just silly. All you end up is broke and stressed out and you have no life and no options. All your fun is taken away from you and everything else.

The Bible says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but it yields a harvest of righteousness.” The only benefit of living like no one else is that later you get to live like no one else. The benefit of exercise is—living on less than you make—is that you feel so much better. You live longer and have a better quality of life while you’re alive. We all know these things. In the short term, lazy is always easier. But it’s never easier in the long term.

The only way I know how to encourage you to get back on the wagon is to go, “Okay, where do I want to be in five years? Is this current path going to put me where I want to be in 10 years? Where do I want to be when I’m 65? Is this path the path that’s getting me there?” If it’s not, don’t whine about it. Change the path. “I’m sick and tired of being broke.” You’ve got to change the path. Twelve-steppers say if you continue to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result, that’s the definition of insanity. You have to change the path. A buddy of mine used to say, “If you bake a cake 14 times and you want chocolate cake and it keeps coming out vanilla, you probably ought to change your recipe. You’ve got the wrong ingredients to get you where you want to go.” The trick in most people’s lives is that they don’t even identify where they want to go. They don’t even know if they’re getting there. Down South, we call that ditty-bopping along—ditty-bopping through life. Not a care in the world. Someone else will take care of them. That’s called being a child. Adults devise a plan and follow it. Children do what feels good.