Why Ignoring Money Excuses Will Cost You Later


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One of my goals recently has been to wake up early (check out a great blog post here from my friend Steve on this) to get a head start on some of my daily goals, such as running, blogging, and making some kick-ass green smoothies.

I’ve failed miserably lately. In fact, since I decided I really wanted to do this about a month ago, I’ve done it exactly 0 times. But just wait. I have a reason. I am working a lot lately and I’ve just been too tired to wake up early. So that’s my reasoning and I’m sticking to it.

“Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.” – George Washington Carver

That’s bullshit. It’s an excuse. I make excuses (let’s call them what they really are…lies) every day. So do you. In fact, this study shows that 63% of us tell up to 3 lies per day. That seems like a pretty low number when you consider that 60% of us can’t go 10 minutes without telling a lie.

Yes, you’re a liar. And I am too.

Now, you’re probably saying to yourself “wait… I don’t lie” I don’t consider myself a “liar” in any stretch of the imagination, in fact if you ask my wife, I’m a horrible liar. I’m talking about the subtle lies that we believe are truth. In other words, we are lying to ourselves.

sleep lazy

There is absolutely nothing holding me back from setting my alarm, getting up in the morning, and going for a run. Nothing. I just need to make sacrifices, such as getting to bed earlier to make it happen.

Excuses + money

So being that this is a money blog, how do excuses connect to money? Believe it or not, we make excuses about money all the time. Do any of these sound familiar to you?

“I can’t invest now, I need to save my cash for an emergency”

Seriously? You can’t afford NOT to invest your money. You’ll have emergencies and you’ll always need cash on hand – it’s a fact of life. But if you hold off on accumulating wealth because you’re too nervous for the future, you’ll end up actually losing money.

Every minute you spend not putting your money to work for you, you’re getting your ass kicked by things like inflation and shitty money market interest rates.

“When in Rome!”

I hate this. This is the same as saying “you only live once” and it’s just stupid, so stop it. This is the worst sentence someone can use when making a financial-based decision.

Let’s imagine that you drive past a cool-looking Jeep that you have to have. Hell, you just got that nice Christmas bonus, it’s snowing, and the Jeep would be great in this weather. You think to yourself, “I only live once!” and your idiot friend who isn’t financially savvy tells you it’s a great idea. Do you need it? No, but you happen to have the money, so you buy it.


Years later, you’ll read a bad-ass personal finance blog like Budgets Are Sexy and realize what dumb move that was. Hey, maybe you’ll even blog about it?

“I plan on earning way more in a few years”

Even if this is the case, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t save as much as possible now. What usually happens is our “quality of life” (I put it in quotes intentionally) increases as our pay increases. As we make more, we think we can afford more, thus we spend more. It’s a vicious cycle. By holding off on saving or making smart financial moves now because you expect to earn more later, you’ll only give your future-self the shaft.

For old time’s sake, I was reading the Millionaire Next Door the other day (we had to read it in grad school for a finance class) again and there was a story about a doctor who was living paycheck to paycheck. This guy was a specialist and raked in over $700k a year, yet he could barely pay his bills. So it doesn’t matter how much you make, it matters that you start to make smart moves financially as early as possible. This excuse is void.

You probably get the sense of where I’m going here, so I won’t go on all day with excuses, in fact I’d rather hear from you. Here are two other articles to check out if you aren’t connecting with those listed above… they may jog some thoughts for you:

How to stop the excuses

So you get it. You make excuses to yourself all the time, whether you know it or not. It’s OKAY – it’s normal human behavior. So now comes the question, how do we stop (or at least reduce) the excuses from spewing out of our mouths?

While this might take a little time, going through the exercise will help reduce excuses for you going forward, so just give it a try.

First, look at the result of what you’re trying to carry out. Let’s take my example from before… my end-state was that I haven’t woken up early [insert excuse].

Next, you’ll need to trace it back to the reasons why that result wasn’t reached. One of my favorite ways to do this is by using the 5 Whys. The 5 Whys is a process that’s universally known and used as a Six Sigma technique to get to the root cause of problems. In fact, it’s a process regularly used at Toyota.

5 whys

Essentially, the 5 Whys is a process where you’ll ask “why” to each response until you reach the root cause of the issue. It might be 2 Whys, it might be 46. Don’t get too literal with the number 5. Buffer does an excellent job at describing the 5 Why’s here.

Using my example… let’s toy with this a bit. I am going to try the 5 Whys method by asking myself these questions. This will help me get to the root cause of the issue:

  1. Why did I not meet my goal? Because I didn’t wake up early.
  2. Why did I not wake up early? Because I was way too tired.
  3. Why was I way too tired? Because I stayed up late.
  4. Why did I stay up late? Because I worked late and wanted to have some down-time.
  5. Why did I work late? To finish a project and get caught up.

Alright… so I could probably keep going here, but I think you get the gist of where I am going. If I stopped here, using the answer to finish a project and get caught up, I might think the root cause is time management. Maybe I need to get more organized at work so I don’t have to work late, thus I wouldn’t have to make up any “down-time” at home, which would allow me to get to bed earlier, and I could ultimately make my goal of waking up early. Phew!

So it might seem silly to do this for just a normal goal you’re failing, but give it a try and get practice digging into the root cause of an issue. It’s easier to correct a root cause then to immediately solve the surface problem.

Time to commit to yourself

Hopefully by now you’ve come to the realization that you make excuses (lie) to at least yourself. I mean, maybe you are ready to admit you’re lying to others – and that’s awesome.

The goal here, though, is to admit you’re making excuses about your money and fix them. If you don’t, these money excuses will cost you big time later in life. So it begs the question…

What excuses are you making with money and (if you’re brave enough to answer) what will you do to fix them?

10 thoughts on “Why Ignoring Money Excuses Will Cost You Later”

  1. My favorite money excuse: “I work really hard, and I deserve this.” Whatever THIS is, either a nice vacation, Starbucks coffee, or new shoes. But usually, THIS is not in the budget.

  2. My main excuse is time. I don’t have a lot of time for my blog, or to pre-make/pack my lunches for work. I don’t have time for a side hustle. After my 9-5 (which takes up a lot more time than that) and going to the gym (my other passion besides personal finance) it leaves very little time for other things such as cooking, reading, the blog, etc. But currently my day job is my fastest path to FI so i bear with it and make excuses for the other things.

    1. I can connect with almost all of that, except I’m starting to run outside instead of hittin’ the gym. Work drains you, but you’re right, for most it’s the fastest path to FI. My main excuse is time as well, and I am constantly trying to find ways to challenge myself.

    2. I think I also make excuses for time more than money. However, the old excuse we used to use for money was ‘Well, we can go ahead and put it on the card because we’ll have a bonus in a couple of months…’. Luckily, I learned my lesson on that one.

  3. Hey Chris,

    Excellent topic, and one that I wholeheartedly agree with. People have a heck of a lot more control over their lives than they [want to] think they do, and ultimately it is OUR CHOICES that directly effect how successful we are at life in general, how many of our goals we reach, how happy we are and, of course, how early in life that we can retire.

    It is definitely more difficult for some people than others. But hey, that’s life. I wasn’t born into a super rich family, so I didn’t just get to fall backwards into a bunch of money and live life without a responsibility in the world to think about. Neither did you. Most of us didn’t.

    We are all working towards designing the lives that we either implicitly or explicitly want for ourselves. The choices that we make along the way shape how well we do at this endeavor.

    I think my biggest pet peeve excuse is “I don’t have the time”. In truth, it’s not that we don’t have time. Instead, we prioritized something else. Sure, there will be days where things just pile up and leave us almost entirely consumed for that day. But for most of us, we have time. We simply chose to do something else.

    I always seem to find the time to do the things that I truly want to do, like going to the gym, maintaining the blog, getting out with my camera and, of course, saving a butt-load of money so my wife and I can exit this rat race as soon as humanly possible. 🙂

    1. I totally agree, Steve. Time is a big excuse many of us use – it’s easy and it’s common, so nobody seems to ever challenge us on it because they’re probably using the same excuse. To your point, though, being able to identify and call yourself out on making those excuses is what will separate you from the pack. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  4. I can really relate to the your post. It’s great to have that “self discussion” to realize how we can often derail our own lives. I “whys” made me realize that I over commit my time to others. Sometimes we need to be selfish. Great article!

    1. Hi Ed! Thanks for stopping by to read. The 5 Whys is a technique I teach with my job, but it definitely applies to all walks of life. Root cause analysis is something that few folks can do really well. If you’re able to practice and get good at it though, you might be able to root-cause your way to early retirement! Super glad you gave it a shot, and I hope you continue to use it for other circumstances! Thanks again Ed.

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