Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Money Rehab Spa

Wouldn't it be great? You'd sign up for a stay at the money rehab spa, and trainers would teach you how to deal with your money. All aspects. You'd get lessons on making your paycheck last. Lessons on not letting your cash drain away on frivolous daily extras. Lessons on how to properly use ATMs so you still have the rent money by the end of the month.

They'd bring in experts to explain exactly how behavioral psychologists play on your feelings to get you to buy bigger houses, cars, and wardrobes than you need. Fashion professionals would let you in on the secrets behind making your clothes look "so last year." Electronics nerds would teach you how not to get suckered into constantly upgrading your equipment.

And then you'd role play so you'd gain the confidence to go shopping for the things you need without getting ambushed by tempting marketing tricks. You'd also practice telling relatives that you won’t attend their ruinously expensive destination weddings, as well as turning down other social occasions designed to part you from a huge chunk of your money, like rent parties or showers where you pay for everything. You'd get tips on how to politely say no to your best friend's network marketing sales pitch or wonderful stock market tip--without wrecking the friendship. As a bonus, you'd be coached to negotiate buying a car and getting a fair price.

After a long day of learning all the dos and don'ts about your money, you'd relax in the evening secure in the knowledge that no bill collectors would call, no shifty friends or relatives would press you to loan them money, and you would be totally safe from any retail marketing ploys. Heaven!

The next day, you'd get up and do more of the same, until it becomes second nature to save your money, spend it wisely, and resist pressures by others to part with it foolishly. It all sounds so wonderful.

And nonexistent, alas. We don’t have money rehab spas. But we should. If you would like to be in control of your finances instead of feeling confused, helpless, or under attack, you can create your own personal version of a money rehab spa. Start by determining a time frame between one week and one month. Experts say it takes a few weeks to learn a new habit. Internet challenges often run for a month, and you might want to find some online buddies to whom you can report your successes and insights during your home rehab spa stay. Or get them to join you. Or you could start a journal or blog. You probably won’t have the luxury of getting away from your usual work or family responsibilities, but you can decide that all of your slender spare time for two weeks or even a month will go to your money rehab.

Next, outline your rehab program and gather your supporting materials. Because I am a reader and a writer, naturally I am going to suggest that you borrow a stack of books on personal finance from your local library or your friends. Then there are the television and radio programs that address personal finance issues. Record a batch. If you are lucky enough to have some regular programming on this topic, consider writing it into your rehab plan: “Saturday night, watch Suze Orman,” for instance, or “Monday night, watch Hoarders.” If crashing the Internet looking for frugal websites and money tips sounds more appealing, then put that on the agenda instead. Not every resource you collect for your money rehab will speak to you. Some will be disappointing, or concentrate on people whose circumstances are too different. That’s why it’s best to stockpile more than you can get through in the time you have set aside. If a resource annoys you, you can drop it and go on to the next.

Then you begin. Even if you only have one hour in a day to spare for your money rehab, put that hour to studying personal finance in whatever medium works best for you. Vary them. Read a chapter of a book in the morning, grab a few minutes of a television show late in the evening, and snatch some Internet time at lunch. If you can catch a few more minutes to listen or read during the day, so much the better.

Advice is not one-size-fits-all (the late great Erma Bombeck said that was the biggest lie ever invented). As you review the many excellent attempts to teach you about personal finance, slowly but surely you will gain a sense of what changes might fit your specific circumstances. There is no one right way to run your own personal economy. But there is a general direction in which you want to head, and that direction is financial control. This does not mean that you will never have any money worries; life happens. But you will have gained valuable knowledge and tools to help you chart your own course through the often confusing mishmash that is the American financial system.

Sadly, your self-made money rehab spa won’t have mud baths and massages. Even so, you will emerge from your self-made spa experience invigorated, better able to cope, and with luck, on the road to shaking your addiction to random spending. And that’s what rehab is all about, isn’t it? Breaking addictions and showing people a better way to live.

Spa time, anyone?


EilisFlynn said...

I'd go, but I fall asleep at those seminars! said...

Maybe it isn't that important, but the spa should also help you relearn old good habits that you dropped in picking up bad ones. I think it would be easier to relearn you own old good habits then picking up new different good habits.