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The Art of Resisting Temptation

The Art of Resisting Temptation

| June 23, 2016

We bought a house a couple years ago. At thirteen years old, it wasn't a perfect house, as my wife will surely attest. I will agree that at the time of purchase it had its "issues," but it also had "good bones." The floor plan was what we were looking for. It was on a cul de sac, close to my son's school, next door to a park, and walking distance to the grocery store, all good amenities.  The neighbors have turned out to be great, and after our 3rd move in ten years, we feel we've finally planted our roots.

As is often the case when you buy a house, there are a lot of things we want to do to make it our home. We've replace the flooring, painted the bedrooms, and put in ceiling fans. And after almost 2 years, it is starting to finally feel like it’s our own. 

But, there is always something else to do. The yard needed to be replanted. We want to widen the driveway. And my wife wants to re-do the kitchen at some point. These things require money.  If you own a home, you probably know the feeling. It is the reason why home improvement retailers like Home Depot and Lowes won't be going away anytime soon.

This is the blessing and the curse of owning a home.  There is always something we want to improve. Unfortunately that "temptation" has a tendency to unexpectedly blow up our budget. If you've ever considered a credit consolidation loan using your home's equity to consolidate debt, you probably know what I'm talking about.

Here’s an example of my recent temptation. My wife and I have been carting a patio table from house to house for 15 years. We really need to replace it. It barely stands on its own. This weekend, I saw one I really wanted to buy at a discount warehouse. It was only $100. I could have easily swiped my card and taken it home.

But I didn't. I resisted the temptation. Why? Because I recognized my urge to buy it on impulse, and I made a deliberate decision to stop. Not because I couldn't afford it, but because I wasn't going to let myself give in to bad behavior.

So how do you prevent that "temptation" from derailing your financial plans? Here are a couple of tips.

1) Avoid exposing yourself to being tempted:  Just like alcoholics need to stay away from bars and liquor stores, so do shopaholics need to stay away from the places that tempt them. If Amazon Prime is a little too convenient, remove the app from your phone and shop at Target.

2) Use a starter solution:  Before you spend a lot of money on something, spend a little bit of money on a less expensive option to determine if you really want it. If you want to buy an RV, first rent one, and see if you like the floor plan before you drop $100k.  

3) Make yourself accountable:  Develop some rules and find someone (your spouse, a friend, a blog, etc.) that will help you avoid your urges, or at least point them out to you. But don't be offended when they're honest with you.

Resisting temptation is an art, not a science. While there is lots of psychology behind how to form good habits, it still comes down to how you put them into practice in your own life. And nobody can tell you the perfect way to do that. But you can learn to identify when you are being tempted, and you can develop the skills to resist it.

My wife and I may ultimately decide to go back and get the table later this week. But it will be after we have discussed it, accounted for it in our budget, and decided together on how we want to spend our money.  And that is part of the art of building a better relationship.