Can Not, Will Not, and Why Not?

by Kevin on February 11, 2009

Last night in my MBA class we had a discussion on how to become a better leader. How to compete better. How to stand out.

The professor brought up a great point with this simple phrase: Can Not or Will Not? You can’t become a better leader or you won’t become a better leader?

The phrase transitions perfectly to personal finance.

You all are bright people. I know you can figure this out. But I’m going to sketch it out for you anyways.

Stop Making Excuses

Every time I talk to someone about setting up a budget, or getting out of debt, or starting a savings account I get a boatload of excuses. It’s too hard. I don’t have time. I like to spend money frivolously because it makes me feel good.

I ran into this yesterday as I talked with an acquaintance about cutting back on her spending. She is worried about her job and even understands she is living paycheck to paycheck. But she just loves spending and can’t bring herself to slow down (not even stop, just slow down). She is going to rely on her tax return to help her pay off some credit cards and build up a little bit of savings.

That’s a backwards strategy. You can pay off your credit cards today with your tax return, but if you don’t address the habits and spending issues you have… well, next year you’ll be waiting on that tax return to once again pay off your debt.

At the end of the day these are all excuses. Excuses that keep you from getting out of debt and building wealth.

Can Not or Will Not?

If you say to yourself “I can’t cut off my cable to help myself get out of debt”, do you really mean that? You really can’t cut your cable? “I can’t get out of debt!” and “I don’t have any money to save!” are similar excuses.

The fact is that you can get out of debt. You can cut off your cable. You can set up a budget. You can open a savings account.

But you don’t want to.

That’s a serious problem. It relates to motivation, confidence, and knowledge of your situation.

Why Not?

For everyone reading this thinking to themselves “that sounds a lot like me”, I have another question.

Why won’t you? Why do you believe you can’t do something? What good reason is there that you won’t stop going to the mall and spending money you don’t have?

While not wanting to stop your spending problems is quite serious, it is also pretty easy to fix. A mental roadblock should be a lot easier to overcome than an actual physical roadblock. It’s easy in that all you have to do is flip that mental switch. To finally “get it”.

Yet getting to that point isn’t necessarily easy. It usually takes a real emergency, or a good kick in the pants from someone who knows you well (or that you respect) to set you straight.

This is actually something I like about Dave Ramsey. He is blunt. He tells it like it is. He doesn’t let you hide behind your excuses. It is something I am going to try to do myself when I talk to people. Being blunt can drive people away, but I think more often than not it hits them hard enough to make them sit up and pay attention.

So I am challenging every single one of you reading this that are making excuses. Let’s hear them. Why not? Why won’t you let yourself get out of debt? Drop a comment and let’s work this out.

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Tomi February 11, 2009 at 12:41 pm

About a year ago I was faced with a similar situation related to the TV. I “Could Not” get rid of cable. There was no way I was going to let that go. Finally I decided if I didnt get rid of it I would at least get a cheaper cable package–which in my case was the basic cable with the local channels, CSPAN, QVC, and those other ones no one watches. What I found was when I sat down to watch TV there would be nothing on, so I would end up turning off the TV in the first 20 minutes or so to go do something else. After 2 months of limited TV I noticed I was only watching about 3 or 4 hours a week–most of which was news. I ultimately decided to drop TV and simply use the internet for my news. AND in the past 6 months I have drastically improved my health, gotten all of those “small tasks” done around home, and rarely feel like I am always on the go.

If you are on the edge go ahead and give it a try.

Ken February 11, 2009 at 9:31 pm

I too am a Dave Ramsey fan. I lack the gazelle intensity he refers to. Taking on a second job while I already have 1 that takes 50 hours is a tough deal. I already get the family time talk from my wife. I do have a written budget that I abide by. My wife is on board. I just started blogging and would like to monetize it in the next 3-6 months. This is a second job that I’m learning about.

D, Smith February 12, 2009 at 6:55 am

I really wanted to comment on this post but… jk. Really good post. The truth is brutal sometimes, but no matter what people at least respect that. or.. “respectable” people respect that. I say no holds barred.

tom February 12, 2009 at 11:42 am

Very good article, I will feature this on my top 10 list for next weeks post.

I think there is a huge distinction between being able to and not wanting. Usually anything is possible to do but people are lazy. And worse yet, they want others to do it for them and assuming they will do a good job.

With debt, the services these debt reduction programs or companies offer, you could do yourself for free.

Jesse Michelsen February 13, 2009 at 12:55 am

Great post. I know far too many people that are like this.

Kevin February 16, 2009 at 9:16 am

@Tomi: Congrats on having the fortitude to get past that!

@Ken: My advice for the blogging side is content, content, content. If you write it (good content), they will come.

@DSmith: The truth will set you free! 🙂

@tom: Exactly. It’s a lazy attitude. We’re all guilty of it in certain areas of our life.

@Jesse: Unfortunately I think we all do.

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