“Morale is when your hands and feet keep on working when your head says it can’t be done.”
– Benjamin Morrell

Hello, Collin County Parents!

I love the fall! The weather is finally not so beastly hot and there are a ton of festivals around town. (Not to mention hockey season is right around the corner!)  Last week we had the Plano Balloon Festival, which is always a blast. The kids always love the funnel cakes and turkey legs (now if I can only get Kaity to eat more than 5 bites before she is “full” and wants to dig into that funnel cake!) Next weekend we’ve got Murphy’s Maize Days on Saturday and Sunday at Murphy’s Municipal Complex. Murphy has really started doing a lot of fun activities in the last few years and I think it is promoting a real sense of community.

Well, with the fall starting, we certainly have been having some crazy weather! I hope you haven’t been flooded out! (And if it rains much longer, I’m going to have to start looking for gopher wood to build an ark!) I had a strange experience this week – during the electrical storms, I saw an exploding street light. Oddly enough, that was not my first. Three weeks ago my family and I saw another that exploded very shortly after we drove passed it. (I know we have electric personalities and all, but sheesh!) If you are curious, the light makes a weird blue glow and then shoots sparks on the ground – kinda like you would see in a movie. It was too wild!

Now before I get started on this week’s “Straight Talk” Personal Strategy, I want to introduce and welcome Paula Woolley to the Miller Law Firm. Paula is the firm’s Client Services Director. She will help answer quick questions, as well as schedule appointments with me. She’ll also be helping out with a lot of other projects that have been getting pushed off for far too long. So please help me welcome Paula!

Well, this week, I’m going to put on my “personal coach” hat this week, and get a bit blunt about some personal financial habits which could be killing you. I’m taking a bit of a risk, as a lawyer, but I hope this is helpful. I know that these ideas help me.  I would love to hear your thoughts…

Aaron Miller’s
“Straight Talk” Personal Strategy
How Not To Lie To Yourself About Finances

Working with people over the years has given me a bit of a crash course in human behavior. Often, I’m floored by the generosity I see displayed by many people — even those without significant means.

Other times…well, I think that we all could use the reminder that our human flaws show up very clearly in our family’s finances. The fact is that we ALL lie to ourselves, from time to time, about what’s really happening in our wallets.

This habit of lying to ourselves threatens our financial stability. Instead of spending $5, we spend $20. Instead of recognizing that we *want* that new shirt, car, or fine dinner at a restaurant, we lie to ourselves until we are convinced that, for one reason or another, we *need* that new shirt, car, or fine dinner. The current credit crunch can partly be blamed on a nation full of people who convinced themselves that a $800,000 home was necessary–even though a $350,000 home was sufficient. We must learn to live within our income … and this means, we must stop lying!

So, I’ve compiled a short list of ideas on how to stop lying to ourselves and face the truth when making purchase decisions.

1. Have (and stick to) a budget. Is this purchase in my budget? For example, your family budgets a certain amount each month to spend on clothing. You’ve agreed that this amount is sufficient to meet your needs. So you set this amount before facing a purchase decision. If during the month you want to exceed the budget because Kohl’s is having a fantastic sale (or Fry’s if you’re me), then you are now lying to yourself. You aren’t saving money by exceeding your budget during a sale. In fact, now you have to dip into savings to pay for your overspending.

2. Set a per-purchase spending limit. A wise man said, “The four most caring words for those we love are ‘We can’t afford it.'” Take some time with your spouse to set what I call “What I can spend without having to ask my wife if it’s ok” spending limit. Some spouses have decided that neither one of them is allowed to spend more than $100 at any given time without calling and asking the other one if it’s okay (this does not apply to groceries). Let me tell you right now, these limits have stopped many from making a lot of unnecessary purchases.

3. Replace bad habits with enjoyable, inexpensive activities. Shopping or overspending is a habit that we have likely formed over years. Since our brains are programmed to react in a certain way in specific situations, any change is met by resistance. The existing habit is simply more comfortable and natural. To help change your behavior, replace the bad habit with another activity.

For example, instead of going to the mall to pass time, go to a local park with a soccer ball and spend some time with family or friends. Start or re-start a hobby. Your new hobby might even be a low cost home business where you make money!

4. Make sure that the reason you tell yourself you are making the purchase and the *actual* reason you are making the purchase are the same. Ask yourself, “Why am I really making this purchase?” Am I buying this dress for my wife because I love her and want to show my appreciation, or am I trying to prove to her and the world that I am a good provider? We lie to ourselves to cover our true motives. If the real reason you are making a purchase isn’t in-line with your principles and budget, then don’t buy it.

5. Take stock of and enjoy everything that you already have! Develop gratitude for what you already have in your life. Purchasing new things is often a sign of ingratitude for what life has already afforded us … or a sign that we feel deficient in some area.

Overcoming bad habits and addictions is a process that requires concerted effort. Face each day one at a time and stop lying to yourself! Don’t believe the story you’ve created in your mind that justifies unnecessary and financially harmful purchases.

To your family’s wealth, health, and happiness!

Aaron Miller

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