Succeed Through Self-Undermining!

Our post on freezing your credit cards in a block of ice got me thinking. Anything that slows, stops, or impedes making transactions can be used as a technique for limiting your spending. Whatever it may be, cutting up your credit cards, locking up most of your money in an account it takes 3 days to transfer from, giving yourself an allowance, it will be a variation on a single principle: It’s easier to put a hard limit on the future then to make the right decision in the impulsive moment. Installing some kind of an automatic hiccup can help break you out of your desire-driven action and give you the breathing room to step back and make the right choice. So if you have trouble with overspending (or overeating or any kind of bad habit) and your sheer willpower is sometimes lacking, aka, you’re human, try brainstorming ways you can trip yourself up. The world is full of obstacles, it shouldn’t be too hard to find one.


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  1. SkokieGuy says:

    Rubberband a $100.00 bill around your credit cards. If you have to slow down to remove ‘real money’, it does give you that brief moment to pause and think if you really need the purchase.

    Similarly, a sticky note on each credit card with the interest rate and current balance will cause you to pause before making a purchase and increasing that balance.

    I always pay off my credit card in full comments in 3..2..1

  2. Gopher bond says:

    Savings Bonds. They’re a bitch to redeem en masse nowadays. Many banks won’t do more than a couple at a time. I used to get $100 every paycheck put into a savings bond when I was learning to save. A few years later I had multiple bonds to cash in. I couldn’t find a bank that would cash them so I had to fill out a form, get it stamped at a bank, then mail it to a Federal Reserve Bank for processing where they direct deposit it into my account.

  3. That-Dude says:

    “I always pay off my credit card in full “

    — That-Dude

  4. Shai says:

    This isn’t really a money spending issue, but I have problems with a condition i call “Lazy Bastarditis”. I don’t like to interact with people and I don’t like to put any more effort into anything than necessary. However, I am good at keeping commitments. Thus, I make commitments freely (to others) so that I’m forced to do things that I need to do.

  5. Teapotfox says:

    I know a gal–a starving college student type–who carefully breaks her most of her budget up into gift cards… she puts her gas budget on a card for the gas station near her campus, her food budget on a grocery gift card, etc… This keeps her from spending necessary money on unnecessary things, and it seems to work well for her.

  6. bohemian says:

    Putting extra money in a home safe helps if it is a total pain to unlock.

  7. QuiteSpunky says:

    In a related move, I deleted the wireless driver in my laptop so that I could concentrate on my writing. It sounds stupid, but it’s really worked, and not having the choice about whether to work on my book or post comments on Consumerist has really upped my productivity. Of course, there’s still the internet at the office…

  8. Ben Popken says:

    @Teapotfox: This is like the envelope system of budgeting. I just hope that they’re with a bank rather than a credit card company (gift cards issued by credit card companies usually have all sorts of onerous hidden fees)

  9. mike says:

    Overall, anything that teaches discipline and patience is a great thing.

    That’s how I learned: by putting hard limits on myself and ask if its something I needed.

  10. pinkyracer says:

    so true. To stop my shopping habit I:

    Read “How to get out of debt, stay out of debt, and live prosperously” by Jerrold Mundis. Awesome book. I did what he suggested, and have been able to live fairly close to within my budget. I’m no longer debting, at least.

    Cancelled all my credit cards, so no more “free money.”

    Stay OUT of stores. By avoiding the places I’m likely to impulse buy, the temptation is avoided. I even avoid fashion magazines for the most part, as they’re a major trigger.

    I’ve been doing this for years, and now find it a little easier to think before I buy, but still occasionally slip.

  11. wonderama says:

    In order to focus on my writing, I created a separate login in OS X called writer that is limited to word processing programs. Oops! I should be using that login right now. Bye!

  12. pinkyracer says:

    Oh, and to echo Linus, I ask “Do I want this more than X…” X being whatever big-ticket item I’m saving for, or something else I enjoy spending money on. Right now it’s “Do I want this more than my next home?”

  13. Jon Karak says:

    My personal recipe for Self-Undermining:
    1) wrap the “forbidden object” in a plastic shopping bag.
    2) wrap the bag with packing tape.
    3) slather the bundle with honey, molasses, maple syrup, or some other sticky substance
    4) repeat steps 1-3
    5) put the bundle in a zip-lock bag
    6) put the bag in a dry and inaccessible place, like the attic in a house.

    I think this is better than just freezing credit card(s) in a block of ice because the recovery is much more tedious.

  14. AMetamorphosis says:

    If we really want to impede something, hell, ANYTHING, just let our government get involved … that oughta do it :-)

  15. Kitteridge says:

    I learned long ago that when it comes to money, in my case, the further away I put it from myself the better. So I leave it by the side of the road.

    Not exactly. But I haven’t used an ATM since college, and I use a passbook savings account (I do have a checking account). I have three credit cards, winnowing that down to two very shortly. One of the cards I’m keeping is AmEx, a charge (not credit) card.

    The banks want to make it as easy as possible for us to get our money, so that we spend more of it (and possibly incur more fees, while simultaneously guaranteeing they don’t have to pay us interest). It’s a pain to largely work in cash, and to have to stand in line to get my money when I want it, but it keeps me from not knowing where a couple hundred dollars went at the end of each month.

  16. cjones27 says:

    @Jon Karak: You forgot 7) Call exterminator to destroy the ant infestation.

  17. battra92 says:

    @That-Dude: Ditto. I admit it was never an issue for me since I grew up knowing about what money was worth and all that.

    I still spend more than I should, I suppose. I spent $4 during lunch today at the dollar store on stuff I didn’t necessarily need (an extension cord I do need but the duct tape to make a wallet and a Rabbit Ear antenna probably wasn’t worth it.)

  18. JayDeEm says:

    We made the mistake of signing up for a couple of department store cards a couple of years back and used the block of ice technique to remove the temptation and ability to use them on a whim. All of those cards were paid off within a few months.

  19. pmg1704 says:

    Well jeez, isn’t that the point of credit limits? Oh, wait a second…

  20. jscott73 says:

    I recently took a second job at night waiting tables to help pay off some student loans my wife and I have as well as some travel related credit card debt. Having two small kids this was a tough choice but a much better alternative then my wife getting a paid job and having to send our kids to daycare. Now that I “suffer” more for our debt by being physically away for our kids a few night a week my desire to buy things is all but gone. The less I spend the more money I will be able to put towards paying off our debt, then I can quit my night job and start spending more time with the family again.

  21. jaxun says:

    @Jon Karak: That sounds alarmingly like the technique I used to ration my weed… back before I admitted I had a problem and finally recognized the insanity of such measures as symptoms of my disease.

    But yeah, that would work.

    Speaking of espousing the virtues of self-control, where’s Deprong Mori these days?

  22. jaxun says:

    @jscott73: That’s a hard lesson to learn, but kudos to you for discovering what you really value. You’re way ahead of many, many people. And your kids are lucky to have you as their dad.

  23. katyjack says:

    I’m always worried that the first of the month will come up and I won’t have enough money to pay my mortgage, so I have a savings account at my bank and each payday I automatically transfer half the amount (plus a little cushion) over to the savings account. Then, the first of every month, I transfer back the mortgage amount and pay my mortgage. It’s a little convoluted, but since I get paid every two weeks, at the end of the year, I’ve also saved an extra house payment. Those more responsible than I could use this as a way to get the benefits of a bi-weekly mortgage without having to pay the bank for the privelege, but I’m going to use the extra money for Christmas.

  24. MervinGleasner says:

    I should preface by saying I am a 25 year old heterosexual Caucasian male. I recently got a new debit card, and decided on the bright pink “hello kitty” card design. It was the only thing that stood out in the catalog over the American flags and bald eagles. I got it primarily because it was pretty, but I have also noticed that it will almost always draw a comment (or beady-eyed stare) from a clerk or passerby, and is a wonderful conversation starter, whether that was my intention or not. I admit I am less apt to produce it in certain situations, primarily because I don’t want to explain myself, or in particularly masculine circles of friends. It comes down to my own homophobic insecurities, which I am attempting to cash in on, as they have otherwise proven useless, and as I am reluctant to expose the pretty pink kitten in my wallet.

  25. @Teapotfox:
    I love that idea

  26. Teapotfox says:

    @Ben Popken: My mother uses an envelope system. She breaks her paychecks into assigned envelopes in what she calls her “stash” at home–Dad’s paycheck pays the bills, hers is more for family fun money and funding things like vacations and such. When I was in college and/or struggling on my own, one envelope was for me, as a reserve fund for when I needed help… she stills keeps envelopes for my college student sisters.

    Just last Christmas she gave me a piggy bank that she designated solely for pleasure travel expenses (I love to travel but am bad at saving money for it), and she included a $100 bill as seed money so long as I promised to put $20/week from my own paycheck in it. She knows I’ve never been disciplined at the envelope method, so it’s a piggy bank that’s vexing to open and empty without breaking. It’s been a pretty good deterrent, the combination of that and guilt at potentially breaking a promise to my mum… :)

  27. onesix18 says:

    I firmly believe in this attitude. Make spending money as painful as possible, and don’t automate anything except savings.

  28. BigBadRAM says:

    What has worked for me is wrapping my card in four of those clear plastic card protectors. It has become a hassle to get the package out the wallet, the card out of the protectors, and then the whole thing in reverse.

    This works for all sorts of things. I keep dishes out of reach so it’ll be easier to wash the dirty ones, I use very small trash cans to empty them more often, and I’ve dug a moat around the fridge.

  29. thebluepill says:

    All of these ideas are great, but are simply new ways of having an old fashion piggy bank.

    In the olden days, the bank wouldn’t have the rubber stopper on the bottom to easily empty it.. You actually had to break it to get the money out.

    Made you think twice before dipping in to it.

  30. VenomousKate says:

    I refuse to let online shopping sites keep my credit card info on file. Yes, I have a card and, yes, I use it to do online shopping if that’s going to save me money. But I found myself wasting all sorts of money when checkout was as easy as a few mouse clicks.

    Now I actually have to get up from my desk, go upstairs to find my credit card in my wallet, get back downstairs and type the dang number in and then do the clicky thing. It doesn’t sound like much but I’m lazy, so most of the time I just decide the purchase isn’t worth the trip up and down 24 stairs.