Are perfectionism & procrastination screwing up your finances?

#1

Originally published at: https://www.ohmydollar.com/2019/06/05/perfectionism/

You “should” do this [unpleasant money thing.] Sound familiar? I know many of you admit to financial procrastination, but often perfectionism is a the root of procrastination. I do it. Sometimes it’s things like overgeneralizing, all-or-nothing thinking, mental filter (harder on yourself than others), should statements. We talk about how starting out with money is like starting out with a wooden sword in a video game.

All-or-nothing thinking usually comes with a “should” statement and strong feelings of self-blame. You convince yourself that things should be different – more perfect – and then you blame yourself for the situation, and often give up before you’ve gotten stated.

Here’s some examples of perfectionism thinking:

– “I overspent on postmates last week, my budget is shot, I might as well throw it away entirely” (the “I ate one cookie so I might as well eat the whole package”)
– “Why bother saving an emergency fund, because you don’t get any good interest on a savings account, so it’s not worth it anyway”
– “The stock market went down yesterday, so I should never invest because it always goes down”
– “I can’t buy this item, because I have to find the perfect version of this item, even if it means spending way more time than the item brings me value”
– “I’m never going to have enough to retire, so I shouldn’t bother saving. I’ll be living on cat food”
– “I should optimize my food spending”

Remember that money is a process, not just a thing you win once and put on your shelf. You can do things incrementally with money. It’s okay to not be perfect. It’s okay to have an off budget week or month or even year. It’s okay to backslide on your debt payoff or savings goals because you had a breakup, got sick, or just stopped focusing on it for a little bit. It’s more important to sit, reassess, and come up with a new plan.

Inspired by this episode about Perfectionism on the Hannahlyze This podcast.


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We absolutely love our Purrsonal Finance Society Members, the folks that generously support Oh My Dollar with $1 or more a month on Patreon – and have made is so we have free, full transcripts for every show on ohmydollar.com

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Will Romey:
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Lillian Karabaic:
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Lillian Karabaic:
Dealing with money to be scary and stressful. Here we give practical, friendly advice about money that helps you tackle the financial overwhelm. I’m your host Lillian Karabaic.

Will Romey:
I’m your other host, Will.

Lillian Karabaic:
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Will Romey:
Woohoo!

Lillian Karabaic:
You can back the project and see our budget-friendly planner and year-at-a-glance wall calendar and see the video at ohmydollar.com/cats.

Will Romey:
The wall calendar is very cool looking.

Lillian Karabaic:
I’m excited about. It’s actually just like a thing I wanted so I made it. that’s by like I think the best way to describe it. I just was like upset I couldn’t find it, in English, so I made it.

Will Romey:
Perfect.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah well.

Will Romey:
Speaking of perfect Yeah.

Lillian Karabaic:
Perfect – perfect transition, Will!

Will Romey:
Perfect segway.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah well, I so, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about perfectionism.

Lillian Karabaic:
And this is probably because I have like ten different projects right now that are on hold until I can personally get a handle on my perfectionism around them. So you know, of course, the best way to do this is to procrastinate by trying to work on my perfectionism instead of working on the projects – obviously!

Will Romey:
So here we are.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah. So here we are.

Lillian Karabaic:
But I actually think look as as I’ve been doing some work on this, I’ve been realizing for a lot of people, how the statements that I hear them say about money – because I casually like. Obviously I talked to all my listeners all the time on the forums, and we get emails, but also just like I’m on an airplane and I tell people I teach personal finance, and I end up getting these kind of statements out of people, right?

Lillian Karabaic:
At bars or whatever.

Will Romey:
The reactions to that must be interesting.

Lillian Karabaic:
yeah. And for a lot of people, I see kind of these statements, that are linked to perfectionism and all or nothing thinking – really turn up in the way that they approach money.

Lillian Karabaic:
And I kind of – I guess, I guess, I think it’s useful to talk about it. Like, I am not a therapist, but we talk about all the time about how money is truly more emotional than it is about the numbers.

Lillian Karabaic:
And I think it’s really important to kind of explore, when you might be getting held back by kind of all or nothing thinking or shoulds or you’re being like overly critical of yourself around your money. Because I think it’s an area where it’s very easy to feel like there is some sort of thing as a “perfect ideal” But there is not. It’s a progress and process – it’s not a perfect end goal.

Will Romey:
Okay. So look what’s what’s an example of that?

Lillian Karabaic:
Well, so one hallmark of perfectionism getting in the way is an all or nothing attitude toward something so all or nothing thinking.

Lillian Karabaic:
It usually comes with some sort of should statement and then like it’s usually accompanied by strong feelings of self blame right?

Will Romey:
Something.

Lillian Karabaic:
Are you hearing anything that we hear a lot with personal finance?

Will Romey:
So something you should do or you feel like you should do and feeling bad when you don’t do this thing. That you think you should do, or society tells you you should do.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah. So and you convince yourself that things should be different. Unlike more “perfect” quote unquote. And then you blame yourself for the situation and then you often give up before you even gotten started. Right. So like here are some examples of things I’ve heard that to me represent all or nothing thinking in money.

Lillian Karabaic:
So like “I overspent on postmates last week so my budget is shot, so I might as well throw it away entirely.”

Will Romey:
Right.

Lillian Karabaic:
Right. It’s kind of the I eat one cookie so I might as well eat the whole package.

Will Romey:
Yup

Will Romey:
Over budgeted and so just give up.

Lillian Karabaic:
And like the a lot of this kind of manifests in wanting to make the perfect decision right? “So why bother saving an emergency fund because you don’t get any good interest on a savings account right now, So it’s not worth it anyway” right?

Lillian Karabaic:
So you’ve, you’ve already thought so many steps ahead in the process that you’re disappointed that the money that you save for an emergency fund isn’t getting you a good return, so you shouldn’t do it at all.

Will Romey:
Yeah it’s not perfect, So you don’t want it.

Lillian Karabaic:
You don’t want it at all.

Lillian Karabaic:
Or you know like all or nothing thinking usually like when it comes to perfectionism is focused on yourself. But sometimes it’ll be, it’ll be you’ll look at these – You will overgeneralize about. Like. Like societal things.

Lillian Karabaic:
So the stock market went down yesterday, and that means it’s always going to go down and say you shouldn’t invest at all.

Will Romey:
Yeah.

Lillian Karabaic:
Because you lose all of your money.

Will Romey:
Everything’s always bad.

Lillian Karabaic:
Because you heard that Apple stock went down yesterday or whatever. Or I have so many student loans, I will never be able to stop living paycheck to paycheck, So it’s not even worth trying.

Will Romey:
Right. Yea seeing an obstacle is insurmountable or insurmountable.

Lillian Karabaic:
Because you can’t do it in the perfect way. And I this often I think occurs, I think it’s worse in sort of the Instagram and Pinterest perfect lifestyle.

Lillian Karabaic:
And if you’re someone who you know maybe listen to a personal finance show, maybe you follow like personal finance people on the Internet, and I have to follow personal finance people in the Internet – and I feel like I have things pretty dialed in.

Lillian Karabaic:
Like I feel pretty confident about my money – enough that I have a weekly show.

Will Romey:
Give suggestions on how to do it.

Lillian Karabaic:
But but I often find myself in this kind of all or nothing thinking, where I’ll be like “oh my gosh that person was able to save this percentage of their income” or “that person was able to buy a house in cash.”.

Will Romey:
I’m like “I should just stop trying because it’s like I’m not gonna be able to do that”.

Will Romey:
Can’t approach this ideal.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah or you know I hear this a lot around student debt. So like “I should be able to pay off my student loans in five years, But I also want to spend money on X Y Z things, so I can’t, so I might as well not tried at all.”.

Lillian Karabaic:
You know like getting caught up in these perfect scenarios in calculators or you you see other people who manage to do it, like, who managed to pay off their student loans at a really accelerated timeline – and you just know that it’s not possible on your income level, or with your health care expenses, or just because you also want to spend money on certain other things and you can accelerate your timeline that way.

Lillian Karabaic:
And so you just give up, if you’re not putting all of your money towards that financial goal, then you shouldn’t put any, and then it’s just over!

Will Romey:
Right over and that’s a good example of that perfection is when you’re talking about if you can’t do it perfectly – Kind of worrying about doing it at all.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah exactly.

Lillian Karabaic:
And then this manifests like perfectionism. I think we’ve had we’ve had episodes on financial procrastination before and perfectionism. I mean the more reason that I’m working on it right now, is I procrastinate because I am a perfectionist and I tend to do it on creative projects.

Lillian Karabaic:
I am attuned to the fact that like, routine tasks that a lot of other people procrastinate on like accounting, or signing up for health care, or whatever – is something to me that doesn’t stress me out, in the same way that putting a creative work out in the world does.

Lillian Karabaic:
And I’m much more of a perfectionist about that kind of thing. But I see a lot of people that like they carry around such stress and so many “shoulds” around their money.

Lillian Karabaic:
And a lot of like anger at their past self. You see that a lot with debt right?

Lillian Karabaic:
Like it’s your past self that got you and.

Will Romey:
You shouldn’t have done that.

Lillian Karabaic:
Shouldn’t have done that. Therefore you don’t want to handle it right now, or oh you should have everything on auto payment. And because you don’t, you’re a failure, like this sort of like overgeneralizing and then you go to the worst possible scenario. And just because you failed at a task then you are a failure, which is just not true.

Will Romey:
And that’s important to keep in mind.

Lillian Karabaic:
But so I see this it manifests a lot in procrastination and there’s there’s like I don’t want you to think that if you, that you maybe like, maybe you aren’t a perfectionist at all!

Lillian Karabaic:
And that’s awesome but there’s a bunch of different ways in which things like thought patterns can occur where they’re just they’re sneakily perfectionism and maybe you don’t think so like – overgeneralizing is a big one, like like you know a common example is like “I was late once, so I’m always late and I’m a failure and I’m gonna get fired.”

Will Romey:
Of those self-fulfilling prophecies can be destructive.

Lillian Karabaic:
Right right. So catastrophizing is one of the big ones.

Will Romey:
Also the mental filter where you kind of you assume what other people think about you based on something, so a mental filter is like someone compliments you on the fact that you’re a “you know it seems like you’ve got your money more handled handled now”, or something like that and all you hear is “you were terrible with money before” right?

Lillian Karabaic:
It’s that filtering where you are only hearing the negative sort of things. Anytime you’re using should statements. Right.

Will Romey:
That’s true. I never thought of it with the word should.

Lillian Karabaic:
Should – shoulding all over the place.

Will Romey:
Gross.

Lillian Karabaic:
I mean that’s one of the big things so like, or like I have to be in complete control of my budget, otherwise I’m just out of control right?

Lillian Karabaic:
Or making generalizations about yourself as a person based on one behavior.

Will Romey:
Or maybe maybe not just focusing on the positive aspects, like what you’re saying with 100 is maybe people are missing, the 75 percent of the time they’re doing something well.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah totally. And I think that a lot of people will use one, One misstep with our money, as a way of making themself feel like it’s not worth doing at all.

Lillian Karabaic:
And this could be targeted at yourself. I think what is perfectionism, it tends to be targeted at yourself. But this also can be true if you just, you know, you hear a healthcare episodes, or you’re following the news and you get really frustrated at the system in general.

Lillian Karabaic:
And so you feel like there’s no way to win as like a working person in America right now and therefore just completely give up.

Will Romey:
Yeah right.

Lillian Karabaic:
Like oh the system is rigged against me so I shouldn’t even try.

Will Romey:
The hopelessness.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah totally a big one. So we talk about purchases a lot on this, and like trying to optimize purchases. But this is a big one, where kind of decision analysis and like over analysis of decisions, can really manifest in ways that the ways that can like hurt you.

Lillian Karabaic:
So like I can’t buy this item because I have to find the perfect version of this item, even if it spends means spending way more time researching the purchase than the item brings me value.

Lillian Karabaic:
Or like I have to get the best possible deal done on oranges. So I go to the farthest grocery store, where I know they’re 10 cents less a pound. Even when you actually do the math you realize-

Will Romey:
Spending more on in gas money to get there or something.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah exactly. Or like I have so many student loans I’ll never be able to stop living paycheck to paycheck, so like it’s not even worth getting I’m trying to pay them pff.

Will Romey:
I know I sound it’s tough because it’s often student loans can be such uncomprehendable numbers.

Lillian Karabaic:
Right. There is so large that like student loans and mortgages those are the kind of things where the numbers are so large for a lot of people.

Lillian Karabaic:
I hope that you’re not in that camp! But for a lot of people the numbers are so large and it can be really frustrating if you’re on something like income based repayment and you’re only paying interest.

Lillian Karabaic:
You are busting your butt trying to pay back our student loans every month and only seeing the total go up, and that can be really challenging and can get you trapped in a cycle where you just feel like oh this is never going to work, so I shouldn’t work on it at all. Right.

Will Romey:
Yeah.

Lillian Karabaic:
And unlike real estate this is one of the big ones like a lot of millennials are now living in cities where they just simply cannot afford to buy a home, because housing prices are so high.

Will Romey:
Correct. *sad laugh*

Lillian Karabaic:
And so like I know a lot of people who like rent believe that renting is throwing away your money and I can’t afford to save for my dream home, because my city is too expensive, so I shouldn’t save for anything at all.

Will Romey:
Yeah.

Lillian Karabaic:
Right. You know like like the “oh I can’t make the best possible investment so I shouldn’t do it in any way”.

Will Romey:
Right. When good enough is often good enough.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah you know incremental progress – here’s the big thing that, I so all of these statements. Maybe you’re feeling bad now, because you’re like “Oh crap this is me”

Lillian Karabaic:
Or maybe you’re like Oh no I’m great at this I’m great at incremental progress but I think it’s important- it’s important to recognize that the the problem with all or nothing thinking is going from 100 percent to 0 percent and then back to 100 percent. And again back to 0 percent and again and again.

Lillian Karabaic:
And kind of that loop, and recognizing – I think it’s really helpful to recognize that money is a process.

Lillian Karabaic:
It’s never a trophy that you won and you put it on a shelf and you’re done.

Lillian Karabaic:
Money is always going to be a process.

Will Romey:
Some scrooge mcduck action.

Lillian Karabaic:
And there is no such thing as perfect with money. And we talk about how like my budget is not your budget, and neither of us would feel happy about that.

Lillian Karabaic:
But it’s also important to recognize that like there is no perfect ideal – of even necessarily your budget. There is what makes you happy in the moment with your money.

Lillian Karabaic:
And sometimes that is slow incremental progress towards a goal, right? Those big wins can be really sexy but almost all of those big wins came from people making slow incremental progress and not being caught up in the perfect ideal of something.

Lillian Karabaic:
And you *can* do things incrementally with money. It’s okay to not be perfect. It’s okay to have an off budget week or month or even year.

Lillian Karabaic:
It’s okay to backslide on your debt pay off or your savings goal because you had a breakup or you got sick or just stop focusing on it for a little bit!

Lillian Karabaic:
You don’t even need a good reason right? It’s more –

Will Romey:
things happen.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah it’s more important to focus on the fact that you can sit and reassess and come up with a new plan. And just because you did that, don’t catastrophize, like oh because I backslide I’m now never gonna get out of the paycheck to paycheck lifestyle, I’m never gonna be able to save for retirement, I’m going to end up eating cat food in retirement.

Will Romey:
Like Yeah.

Lillian Karabaic:
No like it’s important to recognize that you can do things incrementally with money. And, like yes like, I think optimization has become so mainstream, and so sexy thanks to like that Tim Ferrisses of the world. And the Mr. Money Mustaches of the world that, like people get really caught up in the fact that, like, if their budget isn’t the most efficient form of XYZ, Then they’re failing.

Will Romey:
Or that it’s wrong.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah. And that makes them wrong. But like. Yes. Sure. Maybe you could work out outside and buy free weights for your house and ditch the gym membership and save yourself a bunch of money and pay off your student loans XYZ the number of years faster.

Lillian Karabaic:
But if you’re using the gym membership, and you don’t want to run in the rain, that’s fine. Like, you’re not a bad person just because you have made a different choice with your money.

Lillian Karabaic:
And just because you can’t pay off your student loans tomorrow, doesn’t mean you can’t make a payoff plan for them. I know a lot of people who convinced themselves, there’s a better future perfect version of themselves who will have more money to pay off their student loans and they should just do it on a lump sum.

Will Romey:
That’s ambitious.

Lillian Karabaic:
Kind of the lottery – I mean like the lottery version right? You know. Or the or the. Oh I. Someday I’m gonna be making big bucks doing this, so I will just put that off. But the best student loan payoff is the one that you can just do now.

Will Romey:
Incremental or throw or start. You start with whatever you can.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah. And it’s also. This is a big one- It’s OK if you don’t track your money to the cent.

Lillian Karabaic:
It’s OK to make an imperfect organization system for your money.

Lillian Karabaic:
You know I find a lot of people that have success with the automatic account method, where it just goes into different accounts. They know themselves well enough to know that they’re never going to get out of that cycle of just checking their bank account balance to see if they have enough money to spend and they know they’re going to spend down to zero so they have one account that’s their discretionary spending and that’s their account.

Will Romey:
Yea. I like that.

Lillian Karabaic:
You know rather than being like oh I have to track it. And then sort of like yo-yo dieting with budgeting. Where for two months they follow this perfect system and then they fail at it, and then they go completely off the rails, and end up overdrafting all their accounts because they don’t want to look at it at all.

Will Romey:
Ya.

Lillian Karabaic:
Let’s take a quick break and we’ll talk more about ways that you can find ways to overcome perfection in your budget.

Will Romey:
Yes. Be right back.

Lillian Karabaic:
We’re back. We’re back and we are talking about the concept of progress beating perfection.

Lillian Karabaic:
So if there’s something that you are procrastinating on because you feel like you have to figure out the best version of it – maybe it’s worth finding the “good enough solution”. So if you’re putting off logging into healthcare.gov to find a plan, or like filling out those forms that have been on your desk for a month at work trying to pick a health insurance plan, maybe you don’t need to have the “perfect” health insurance plan with the optimal deductible, that you’ve figured out, and the best selection of doctors – maybe you just have to pick a health insurance plan.

Will Romey:
YI remember when I moved to Portland I had a really crappy house way off in the middle of nowhere and we always referred to it as our “wooden sword.” Because you’ve got your – you know, when you start a video game you’ve got like your wooden sword – which you know of course upgrade as soon as possible. But I feel like that was a constructive attitude to take towards to just something I needed.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah right. Like it it is a thing you have to figure it out, and it’s OK if it’s not the best possible solution in that possible moment. Right?

Lillian Karabaic:
You know.

Will Romey:
Gotta start somewhere.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah.

Lillian Karabaic:
And I see this so often with starting to save. So I know a lot of people that are like oh I have to find the perfect high-yield savings account before I can save my emergency fund. And I’m like I “no, you don’t”.

Lillian Karabaic:
You really don’t! Like the difference between the 1.85%e percent interest and the 1.95% interest means nothing, if you have nothing in savings. Right?

Will Romey:
And know 1.5% of nothing is still nothing.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah exactly and like it’s just it’s like you just have to start saving and and doing those automatic and – like maybe it’s a pain in the butt, and you don’t want to set up the new account, but you already have one at your credit union or whatever because you had to open a savings account.

Will Romey:
Like and it doesn’t get you any interest. Okay fine. Right?

Will Romey:
MM hmm

Lillian Karabaic:
Like just getting started with it is more important than finding the best possible option. And then maybe, later, when you have more energy and you’re feeling excited about the fact that you have started saving, then you can work on optimizing it. Right?

Lillian Karabaic:
And like I think that a lot of the kind of early retirement movement, can make people feel a lot of shame around saving.

Lillian Karabaic:
So like they haven’t hit the perfect 50 percent savings rate for their income. So they feel like they shouldn’t even bother with it at all like.

Lillian Karabaic:
Oh it’s great if you can save any amount of your income and find a way to start saving at all. You don’t have to save 50 percent of your income. Getting started is more important than having the perfect one.

Will Romey:
Yeah. There’s that quote the best time to plant the tree is last year, and the second best time is today.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah. Yeah. Perfect! I also think the seven days a week fallacy is a big one. So there is this book on time management, that I actually really like even though is actually focused on working mothers. It’s called ‘I Know How She Does It”by Lauren Vanderkam.

Will Romey:
I mean working mothers are probably great at time management.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah exactly. And it’s it’s particularly like – I love it because she did a massive study of high-achieving women where she had them log their time in 15 minute increments,.

Will Romey:
Because they don’t have enough to do?

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah exactly. Hey I log my time it doesn’t take much time! but but it’s really cool because it shows it shows that I think one of the cool parts. She interviewed a lot of women that have like legal careers, and children under 10, and also have a side gig, where they may write mystery novels like publish mystery novels.

Lillian Karabaic:
Like like- just people where you look and you go like “how could someone possibly achieve all of that?”

Will Romey:
How does she have that time?! Yeah.

Lillian Karabaic:
And one of the big things she talks about is these seven days a week fallacy. And I know a lot of people who kind of fall into this trap, which is as if they can’t do it seven days a week they shouldn’t do it at all.

Lillian Karabaic:
So. Well, I have to eat out lunch Friday and Wednesdays, because of co-worker meetings or because I have to pick up my you know, kid after school or something like that.

Lillian Karabaic:
So I should never bother to pack lunch. But if you pack lunch the other five days a week you’re still saving a lot of money1 It’s like just because you can’t do it seven days a week, or “Oh I can’t do that a hobby, I can’t go to the gym every single day, so I shouldn’t do it at all.”.

Will Romey:
Why bother.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah because it doesn’t work for me on XYZ day a week or it can’t bike to work every day to week. So it’s not worth doing. But like hey if you bike to work one day a week – that’s still better than zero if that’s your goal!

Will Romey:
Yeah that’s the drastic improvement from zero.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah. Or like I see this a lot like if you want to start getting better cooking at home, you don’t need to make Pinterest-perfect meals every night of the week or followed like the perfect YouTube video of batch cooking.

Lillian Karabaic:
Just try it out. Like, find the thing that works for you.

Will Romey:
Start somewhere.

Lillian Karabaic:
Giving yourself permission to not have it dialed in. It’s okay to have a less perfect solution to your money. So for example- a lot of people ask how he spends a little on groceries, and one one of I think the surprising things for people is I actually know I could spend a lot less on groceries, because I buy a lot of my groceries at Whole Foods, otherwise known as Whole Paycheck.

Lillian Karabaic:
I generally only try to buy certain things at Whole Foods, that I know have you know a competitive-esque price but I objectively know that Whole Foods is more expensive than many other options.

Lillian Karabaic:
But it’s also less expensive than eating out right?

Will Romey:
Yea.

Lillian Karabaic:
So it’s a three minute walk from my house. You know what? I cook way more food at home because I grocery shop at the Whole Foods that that is a three minute walk from my house.

Will Romey:
Right, a further walk and I’m sure you’d start considering other options along the way.

Lillian Karabaic:
There’s a lot of restaurants between me and the other stores. I could support like more local businesses, and I would like to. I could shop at the farmer’s market and get the fresh veggies that look really great on Instagram

Will Romey:
I could buy my tofu from the special cheap tofu store out on 82nd – they have very good tofu. But you know what? I buy stuff from Whole Foods and I probably spend five to 15 dollars more a month on groceries than I know I could if I went to other stores.

Lillian Karabaic:
But I can round trip shop door-to-door on foot in under under 20 minutes each week. So yeah.

Will Romey:
Yeah.

Lillian Karabaic:
And like I’m okay with that.

Will Romey:
And go with it go with what’s best or what’s working.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah it doesn’t. I guess you can always dial something, and more if you start with something you feel is imperfect, that means there’s always room for incremental improvement like you can start making beans at home and not buy the cheapest dried beans right.

Will Romey:
Start with canned beans.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah. And oh and that was my tacos are a great example! Despite the fact that like overall food prices have gone up, my taco costs have gone down because I’ve gotten more efficient slowly, at my breakfast tacos. Which if you’ve listened to the show regularly, you know I eat three tacos for breakfast every morning.

Lillian Karabaic:
And I started with canned beans and then I moved to making beans on the stove, and then I moved to slow cooker, and then I moved to a pressure cooker. And like all of that lowered my prices and made it more efficient, but like that was over the course of like seven years!

Will Romey:
I think I like your analogy of dialing something in, because that makes me think of dialing in espresso shots at a cafe first thing in the morning.

Will Romey:
Your first one’s gonna be like all off this can be way too fast or way too slow it’s gonna suck! Then your second one, you’ll probably air on the other side too hard. This kind of takes those incremental mistakes and getting it until it’s you know – perfect.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah. So here is a big should, that I hear “I should start investing but I need to do the research.”.

Lillian Karabaic:
Here’s the thing! It is OK to use a target index fund and we’ve talked about this before – target retirement funds essentially automatically allocate based on your age sort of the percentage of stocks and bonds

Will Romey:
And over a large number of stocks and bonds, too, to really average things out.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah it’s it’s and they have different expense ratios, which is the cost to you overall. And we’ve talked before about how like lower expense ratios are great, but sometimes you just don’t have a lot of options in your like access to 401K at work 0 you might have one with very few options.

Lillian Karabaic:
A lot of people are like oh I’m going to lose money on the expense ratios. So until I’ve done the research and found the perfect allocations, I can’t start getting invested for retirement.

Lillian Karabaic:
Here’s the thing.

Lillian Karabaic:
It’s okay to use a target retirement fund instead of allocating out your investments for yourself. Yes maybe you’ll lose some money, over the long term to expense ratios, but you did it!

Will Romey:
Yeah it’s not like you’re losing money overall you’re still, you’re losing money over what you could have done – and that’s that seems like not worth focusing on.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah. and. I also think that a lot of people get caught up in the should with their past selves.

Will Romey:
The past tense hypotheticals are bad news.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah I shouldn’t have bought this house! You know, like, I heard that a lot during the housing crash. I knew a lot of people with underwater houses, who were so angry at their past selves, that they weren’t really dealing with what they needed to do then – because they were so angry at their past selves for like buying a house at the height of the housing market.

Will Romey:
Yeah yeah.

Lillian Karabaic:
So yeah – Those are some of the things I think one of the exercises I find really helpful. I tend to I tend to be on the catastrophic side, where I catastrophize, like basic decisions. Where I’ll be like oh “because because I didn’t do this, then I’m going to end up on the street as a bag lady.”.

Will Romey:
Probably.

Lillian Karabaic:
You know my inner bag lady is strong as I like to say.

Lillian Karabaic:
Which is rarely true. Like I have a support network. I have a lot of resources I’ve been saving for long. I’m gonna be OK but I decide because I like didn’t respond to that email on time, and I lost that brand deal then, I’m going to be eating cat food in retirement.

Will Romey:
I like to use “Then, what?” Exercise which is when I make a statement that falls into that should category or that I’m blaming myself. I just keep asking myself “then what?, then what?” And eventually I reached the absurdity of the statement, where I realized that like it’s unreasonable. Once I asked myself “then what?” a bunch of times I’m like “Oh oh yeah I probably won’t end up eating cat food in retirement”.

Lillian Karabaic:
Because it helps reduce it to the absurdity of the statement. The other thing I like to do is -I’m a lot – if you are a self-critical perfectionist, you’re probably harder on yourself than you would be on a friend in that situation.

Will Romey:
Mm hmm

Lillian Karabaic:
And so I like to imagine myself as a friend – or a listener – that I’m giving advice to.

Will Romey:
Oh I see.

Lillian Karabaic:
So you know when when I am procrastinating on something, and I’m like “oh I don’t want to do this” because it won’t be the best version of it, and because I don’t know how to do this thing in Final Cut, and I can’t edit this video this way I shouldn’t do it at all.”

Lillian Karabaic:
And I would be like but I would probably tell a friend “well that’s OK, You’re learning” like you – just make the thing.

Will Romey:
Yea yea yea.

Lillian Karabaic:
You know or like, can you fix that by watching a tutorial on how to do that thing? like is it should you just not do that?

Will Romey:
You’re making it less personal seems like a good tactic. That is really helpful. Or like you know the friend that’s like “oh I don’t want to log in to check my bank account because I’m afraid of what it’s gonna say”.

Youu would tell your friend that you should do that just so you know what it says.

Lillian Karabaic:
like is it going to change?That’s where the “then what?” is helpful. Like the. But if you know that it’s negative “then what?”.

Lillian Karabaic:
And you’re like “Oh well then I probably have to call the bank” and I’m like “OK then what?”.

Lillian Karabaic:
And you’re like well then “I have to talk to the bank” and you’re like “then what?” And they’re like and then “they’re going to murder me at my house and you’re like”

Will Romey:
No.

Lillian Karabaic:
That’s kind of catastrophizing. Like other people have overdrafted their accounts before.

Will Romey:
So this this would be a good area to ask for listener input. I think I’d be interested in hearing what other examples people can come up with of catastrophic housing things or times they’ve gone for less than 100 percent perfect solutions, that work for them.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah. I would love to hear about your good enough solutions things that you’ve just decided this is ‘good enough” – for now or maybe forever.

Will Romey:
And I’d also like to hear about you know maybe some all or nothing nothing thinking that is impacting your procrastination or your financial worries.

Will Romey:
Yes.

Lillian Karabaic:
Maybe we can work through it. It’s just a group money therapy session here on Oh MY Dollar!

Lillian Karabaic:
But we’d love to hear from you. So if you have any of those you can always leave them on the oh my dollar forumss or you can email us at questions@ohmydollar.com – or you can just tweet me @anomalily or @ohmydollar.

Will Romey:
That wraps our show for today.

Will Romey:
Our producer is Will Romey, our intro music is by Aaron Parecki, and your host and personal finance educator is Lillian Karabaic Thank you for listening. And until next time to manage your money so it doesn’t manage you.

Lillian Karabaic:
Just remember we have a kickstarter going!

Will Romey:
Yeah.

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3 Likes
#2

I relate to this one. I had a leak in February from a drain pipe. I didn’t call a plumber for almost a month because I was afraid of how much it would cost. It cost less than $200 to fix the pipe once I finally called, and my husband and I spent $1000 more than usual that month going out to eat because we didn’t have a usable kitchen sink. facepalm Would have been better off even paying a premium for emergency plumbing services and just getting it done that same week.

6 Likes
#3

loved loved loved this ep. I’ve had to take three rideshares to work since starting my new job three months ago. one was out of waking up later/laziness, and two were out of unavoidable breakdowns of public transit schedules. every time it’s happened I’ve let it absolutely ruin my day at work (because people who use rideshares are bad at their jobs by nature?) I have a weird rideshare complex where the confluence of “millenials are bad and they take rideshares so rideshares are bad” and “rideshares exploit their workers so i feel guilty” and “finding oneself in a situation where you have to spend money on something you don’t even like to be able to function properly (get to job on time) is the Ultimate Failure”

and how weirdly it upsets me more to find myself buying food out when I’m absolutely starving and can’t even concentrate versus deciding to buy a lunch out just because i feel like it and want it.

5 Likes
#4

I read this instead of listening to it, and I’ve definitely done a lot of this! I think I only cottoned on to the idea of “good enough is better than none” this year. We’re a household of sick people this week, so instead of overreaching and trying to optimise our groceries like I would during a week when we’re well, we bought a bunch of sugary snacks, easy and quick dinners… And I feel SO much better about spending a ridiculous amount on groceries that I KNOW we’ll eat instead of ending up getting takeaway because we’re too tired and also letting whatever we bought go off.

3 Likes
#5

Sometimes I feel like that’s the only thing I’m good at. It’s why I identify as a Hufflepuff. This episode was really interesting for me because perfectionism is definitely something I worry about, but I don’t think I’m a perfectionist anymore. I think having a baby gave me a big anti-perfectionism kick in the butt and I’ve worked to overcome it with incremental progress. (Though I’m sure there are some areas where I’m still a perfectionist.)

WHY haven’t I read this yet?! ::puts in library hold::

3 Likes
#6

IT IS SO GOOD.

1 Like
#7

I am sure you’ve mentioned this book before (I know you have) and I can’t believe I forgot to read it back then. I’ve also added it to my reading list :slight_smile:

1 Like
#8

I LOVE THIS.

I used to be a huge perfectionist (oh gosh was I), and I wish I could have given this episode to my much younger self! Grad school slowly squeezed the perfectionism out of me, believe it or not, because:

  1. I had to support my students in breaking their own perfectionist habits (what predicts the success of a student in a course isn’t perfection – it’s steady, incremental progress).
  2. I couldn’t write a nearly 300-page dissertation and be a perfectionist. I had to internalize my advisor’s second-favorite catchphrase, “the best dissertation is a done dissertation,” before I could get the thing drafted and (mostly) revised and turned in!

It would have been great to actually internalize all that much younger, though, and I wish I’d had people sit down with me and actually discuss what perfectionism really does to you when I was much, much younger.

7 Likes
#9

I might have graduated college if I had learned that!

5 Likes