Self-sabotage is the act of continually doing something that undermines your own goals.
You've likely heard the expression “you are your own worst enemy." If that statement rings true to you, it has the potential to become a major roadblock on your path to financial freedom.
Here are a few sneaky ways your brain can trap you in a pattern of financial misfortune.
Is there a specific company, brand or line of products you feel deeply attached to?
As a consumer, it’s normal to develop a preference for certain products. However, when merchandise starts to become a reflection of your personal identity, that undying loyalty can lead you financially astray.
Some telltale signs that it's time to reevaluate your relationship with a brand are:
- Ignoring company missteps.
- Unwarranted criticism of competitor products.
- Defending the brand's unreasonable asking price.
The reason this is self-sabotaging behavior is because once you go all in on a brand, you stop making financial decisions for yourself and start making them for the manufacturer.
Popular brands know how passionate customers are about their products — and their prices often reflect it. In the mid-2000s, tech writers cheekily named this pricing strategy "Apple tax," implying that Apple used its popularity to sell products at a higher market price, and that consumers naively paid more just because they were Apple products.
The truth is, even if a brand consistently releases great products, unless it's a brand-new technology, you can usually find a similar product for significantly less money.
Here's a comparison of legacy vs. alternative brands that are similar in quality but not price.
|GoPro HERO9||$449.98||CamPark X30||$99.99|
|YETI Tundra 35||$249.99||Rtic 45 QT Hard Cooler oz||$199.99|
|Lululemon Align Pant 28"||$118.00||Colorfulkoala High Waisted Yoga Pants||$22.99|
How to fix it.
The first step to breaking the shackles of brand loyalty is to acknowledge that your favorite brand may not be putting out products that fit your budget or lifestyle. From there, start comparing deals online, reading product reviews and asking your friends about their experience with different products.
Shopping around can save you a ton of cash, since most companies offer unbeatable discounts to new customers.
Avoiding your money (or lack thereof)
Do you dread the thought of checking your account balance for fear of it being low or depleted? If so, you are doing yourself a huge disservice. Keeping your financial statements out of sight and out of mind is an avoidance tactic that can cause long-term damage to your credit score.
Have you ever seen a horse wearing little leather patches next to its eyes? They're called blinders — and their sole purpose is to limit the horse's visual awareness so it can't identify potential threats looming in the horizon. As a result, the horse remains unaware and calm.
When it comes to finances, avoiding your bank account is like putting on blinders. While it may help to soothe your financial anxiety, it also prevents you from spotting problems that have potential to grow even larger.
Blissful ignorance toward your financial situation is a luxury that will keep you poor.
Turning a blind eye to your bank account balance to avoid financial anxiety is a denial behavior that could make things a lot worse down the road.
How to fix it.
Growing your financial knowledge can help improve your understanding of your money situation and the role you play in it. Do online research, enroll in a course or attend a seminar held by your local bank or credit union. If you prefer tailored advice, meeting with a financial counselor can also help to improve your money management skills and behaviors.
As you climb the ranks in your career, you may feel the temptation to spend more money simply because you earn more money. This phenomenon is called lifestyle creep, and it's a big reason why so many middle-class people stay in the middle-class.
Your paycheck can only stretch as far as you allow. If you're spending like a rockstar but earning like a plant worker, a pay raise isn't going to make your bank account look or feel any different. Remember, even a CEO can feel like they don't make enough money when they overextend their finances.
How to fix it.
The next time you get a raise, put a percentage of your increased wage toward your 401k contribution, investment options or a high-dividend savings account. Living within your means and proactively stretching your additional earnings is a great way to grow wealth over time.
Letting others influence your spending
Do you ever look at your friend's spending habits and feel the pressure to keep up?
Chronic comparison is a surefire way to derail your financial growth and warp your idea of success. Never enter a financial competition with the people around you, because at some point you'll start spending money you don't have.
Competitive spending, also known as "keeping up with the Joneses", is a mindset that wreaks havoc on your wallet, your happiness and your personal relationships.
How to fix it.
Get a notebook and write down a list of things that are most important to you, tangible and intangible. Next, ask yourself: Do my spending habits align with these values and priorities? Sometimes having an honest conversation with yourself can lead to a positive turning point in your life.
Instead of focusing on what other people are buying, focus your energy on improving your own financial situation. Check out our trending article Fighting the urge to keep up with your rich friends to explore this topic further.
Accounting for future income
If you feel like you're on a path that leads to financial success, make sure to hold on to your money until you reach the destination. One surprisingly common way people sabotage themselves when they're on the up-and-up is by spending lavishly before they reach their anticipated payday. They convince themselves that it's OK to live large now, because money won't be an issue in the future.
If you're banking on tomorrow's salary increase to fund today's boujee lifestyle, you may as well bring that money to the casino, because you're taking a gamble.
What if that pay day never comes?
Counting on future income to justify poor financial decision-making in the present is reckless and delusional. Even if you do end up making the big bucks, going into debt now will make your eventual pay increase feel less like a victory and more like a necessity.
How to fix it.
Let the present moment drive your financial decisions, not your ideal future. Automate your good habits by setting up recurring savings transfers each month to avoid the temptation of overspending.
If you budget around your current income and live within your means, that pay increase will feel even sweeter when it arrives.
Through acknowledgment, education and a willingness to change, you can avoid stepping on your own toes and start making real progress on your journey to financial freedom.
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