As I write this, I’m a victim on my own procrastination. Since early Fall, I’ve put off getting my annual flu shot even though I know I have a house full of grubby children that bring home every germ known to mankind and we get free shots through our health insurance. Today? I am writing this from my sickbed, a glass of some sort of foul tasting vitamin C drink on one side and a box of tissues at the other. Lesson learned.
While procrastination doesn’t always literally make you sick, it can seriously affect our ability to reach our financial goals. We’ve all seen the charts that demonstrate the startling difference between starting retirement savings in our early 20s as opposed to our early 40s. Similarly, putting off paying bills can cost us in late fees, service interruptions and other serious consequences. When it comes to our money, it generally doesn’t pay to put off until tomorrow what we could be doing today.
Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good
Often, when we procrastinate it’s because we’re waiting for circumstances to be ideal before we take the plunge. For example, it’s common for people to put off savings because they can’t save very much right now and there’s always the hope that next year will bring a big raise or a reduction in expenses that will allow for a more significant savings.
What important financial steps are you putting off? What would you risk by getting started today? What are you risking by putting it off until tomorrow? Here are some questions to get you started:
- Have I made sure that I have the right insurance for my situation (health, home, auto, life) and that I’m paying the best price for the coverage I need?
- Am I taking full advantage of retirement savings vehicles that I am eligible to participate in?
- Do I have an emergency savings fund?
- What are my goals for the near future (down payment for a house, college, dream vacation, etc) and am I taking steps to actively save for them or just vaguely hoping it will all fall into place?
- If I would like to make more money, am I taking steps to make that possible?
Our lives will always be complicated and we’ll always have more demands on our income than we prefer. Waiting until things are perfect is a good way to guarantee we’ll never get started at all.
Make it Easy on Yourself to Act
Being organized is a good start to mitigating the effects of procrastination on our financial lives. It’s easier to focus on what needs to be done if we simply and eliminate much of the clutter in our lives. If you have your financial documents in order, it’s much less intimidating to rework a budget or automate our savings.
It can be helpful to set a weekly, biweekly or monthly financial meeting with yourself to form action plans and give yourself a firm date on when you’ll have it done. Open-ended words like “someday”, “soon” or “later” make it far too easy for us to weasel out of our goals.
Most of us are visual creatures, so consider making yourself the grown up equivalent of a sticker chart to keep track of your progress and keep yourself motivated to keep working. For example, you could make a graph of how that $10 a paycheck you’ve been putting away adds up or make a big checklist of items that you can cross off with a big, dramatic flourish as you achieve each one.
It’s important not to let your inner critic talk yourself out of feeling proud of these little victories. You are making progress and there’s nothing silly about feeling pride in that.
It Gets Easier
Have you ever heard the phrase “If you want something done, give it to a busy person to do?” Or perhaps you’ve noticed that it’s easier to do 12 things on a packed day than just that one thing on a day with nothing else planned. The more you get into the habit of action, the easier it will be to just do things as they come up, rather than put them off.
How do you overcome procrastination? Has procrastination ever played a negative role in your finances?
Photo Credit: denn