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Make it, Spend it: Is There a Better Way?

10/28/2014 11:20am ET | Updated December 27, 2014
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Would you believe that, despite all the protests, all the negative media attention and all that, it really isn't the economy's fault, stupid? Guess what? It's not the size of the paycheck either. Yes, it is so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that if you just had a bigger paycheck all your money problems would go away. Uh, no. Not so much.

You see the real issue is not your job, it's not the paycheck no matter how big or small it may be. The real challenge is control. Controlling yourself-more specifically what goes on between your ears. Believe it or not some people you would look at and just assume they have no financial problems at all are just as out of control as the majority of people.

What's Going on Here?
The real problem is a habit that gets locked in. This is the habit of spending most if not all of what you make. Then along comes the annual raise or the year end bonus. Where does it go? Out the door like the rest of your pay. As you have probably figured out by now once you let a habit get set in place, it takes extraordinary effort to break it.

But it Feels so Good!
Yes, it does. That is exactly correct. Interestingly, researchers have already pinpointed the reason why. Did you ever wonder why shopping (or in this case spending in general) is so popular here in America? The surprising answer is that your brain (despite your best intentions to the contrary) will most likely treat spending as a pleasurable activity. Naturally, a pleasurable activity acts as positive reinforcement that almost compels you to do it again.

All of this happens behind the scenes, that is, outside of your conscious awareness. Deep inside the tissues of your brain, a pleasurable activity such as spending will trigger the release of endorphins and dopamines. Once released, you can't help but feel good about the purchase. On another note, this also explains why it feels good in the moment to buy, but sometimes later when you get home at night you want to kick yourself for whacking another $379.95 on your Mastercard.

Is There a Problem?
Only you can answer that question. However, there are a few warning signs you can be on the lookout for that will give you a clue. Ask yourself these two questions:

1. How often do you use credit cards to "finance" a purchase?

2. Do you have a clue where your money goes? Look, the sad reality of modern society is that far too many people get to the end of the money long before the end of the month shows up.

Who's in Charge?
Look, it's your wallet, it's your hard earned money. If you don't do something to get your spending under control, the consequences will put you in a place you don't want to be: think high debt or bankruptcy.

Based on your answers to the questions above, now it's up to you to get off the couch and do something about it. One very smart first step is to look at what those with the money do differently than you (think the millionaire crowd). Then simply adjust those habits to fit your personal situation. Be careful here. It is just as easy to dismiss millionaire habits as not relevant. After all, you may not have a million dollars in some Swiss bank account.

Fine. How about this little discussed fact about millionaires that doesn't really get much attention nowadays. Most of the millionaires that exist today did NOT inherit the money. In other words, they got to be millionaires the hard way; they earned it.

As easy as it is to blame the economy, the size of your paycheck, the weather, etc. the reality is that it's none of those things at all. As quaint as it may seem in modern times it really is all about taking control of your own personal finances.

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