How to Leave Your Emotions Behind When Making Financial Decisions

by Jessica Sommerfield · 0 comments

My husband and I are moving from Michigan to Washington in one week. The journey that has led us to this point has been a whirlwind of interviews, decisions, and dealing with the upheaval of hauling ourselves and our stuff across the country in the most fiscally responsible way.

It’s been three weeks since we decided to start a new chapter in our lives, and in that time I’ve been dealing with these choices in a very personal way.

One of the things I’ve learned very quickly is that on paper, the concept of moving seems so simple: based on the amount of possessions you have and how far you’re moving, you choose the best option. That may mean hiring movers, renting a u-haul, filling a storage unit, or stuffing everything you can in the back of your vehicle.

It’s a purely financial choice based numbers. What I didn’t count on was the wild card of my emotions. 

When Plans and Budget Needs Don’t Meet

Since we knew we’d be compensated a certain amount for our moving expenses, initially we weren’t too concerned with paying for a haul-behind trailer. When we realized our vehicle couldn’t handle the haul, we smartly decided to switch to a U-box — three times the expense, but still within the moving allowance.

I am a proud minimalist and plan to give away most of our old furniture to family members and friends, saving only our couch, dresser sets, a cube shelf, and desk. This plan was moving along before my husband sat me down one day after work and explained the hard, cold numbers to me.

It would cost us more to ship a U-box with our possessions to Washington, than to sell our big items, ship what we could in flat-rate boxes, and cram everything into our Rav4.

This resulted in a mini meltdown. Even though I’d given up so many things already — something that’s never bothered me — I couldn’t bring myself to face losing that much. And yet, I wasn’t really losing in a financial sense. We would end up spending less money to move and get to buy new furniture when we arrive. But the numbers weren’t the problem: my emotions were. 

Don’t Let Your Emotions Make Decisions

The process of reconciling what you know to be true in your head, with irrational feelings, is not an easy one in any aspect, and that includes your finances. For me, the example has showed itself with this major move. But for you it might be the consolidation of a deceased loved one’s estate, or letting go of your tendency to hoard items simply because of the emotional security they bring you.

While emotions should not be ignored, and you should not deprive yourself of being guided by them to an extent, there are times when the numbers and your emotions will not match up.

Ask yourself this question:

Are your emotional attachments leading you to waste money on possessions you can’t bear to let go, or do you see everything for its monetary value alone?

Let Go of Your Attachment to Things

If your emotional attachment to possessions has hindered you from making wise financial decisions, what do you do about it? I’m not an expert by any means, but rather someone in the thick of the struggle myself.

What I’m beginning to see is that if you make yourself look objectively at what you’re feeling and why, you’ll discover that your real problems aren’t tied to any one of your possessions. Feelings of vulnerability, loss, and fear of the future cause us to project them into other aspects of our lives.

You may find that what you’re really upset about is losing your loved one, missing your childhood home or friends, or feeling otherwise insecure in your relationships. The task of separating these isn’t easy, but in the end, you’ll learn a lot more about yourself, and save yourself many bad financial decisions.

I encourage you to take a look at your emotional attachments to things, and make the effort to move past them.

What do you do when your emotions don’t line up with your budget? How do you balance what your head needs versus what your heart wants?

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