Finance vs. Feelings: The Battle Between Head and Heart

by Kevin on August 23, 2012

Today I’m kicking off a new series to contrast spending, saving, and investing your money with your head vs your heart. I hope you’ll join me in the conversation.

Money is complicated.

We get this emotional connection to money. We see the hard work we put in to earn what money we have, and if we’re smart we then want to spend that work as diligently as possible. (That’s why debt is such a bad deal: you’re spending loaned money and have to work more than you would have if you just saved up for the purchase in the first place. It’s work on top of work.)

My awareness of how much work went into the money I earn often puts my brain at odds with my heart.

My brain says I don’t need to buy something. My heart tells me it’s great, it’s worth it, or it will be enjoyable. This inevitable tug of war goes on between head and heart.

For me, head usually wins out. Usually.

That’s why I write a personal finance blog. That’s why I save a huge chunk of my family’s income each month. That’s why I have financial goals. That’s why I love spreadsheets and tracking my progress toward those goals. My brain gets warm fuzzies when I see progress toward goals I set.

It’s also why I force myself to spend money on fun things by giving myself an allowance. I lean more toward the hermit lifestyle than the rock star, so I force myself to be a rock star from time to time.

It’s also why my wife is so awesome. She balances me out, understands me, and prods me toward the heart section every once in a while. (She’s how I came to own a 1978 BMW that sits in our garage.)

Others have the opposite problem that I have: they can’t see the consequences of their actions or they do and just don’t care. Traveling by the seat of their pants, unsure of how they’ll pay for their next meal is how they play the game. It all seems great until the ride stops and things like retirement, a career, and healthcare costs steamroll them.

How do you balance yourself out? If you know you lean more toward one side than the other — you’re more spendthrift than miser, more indebted traveler than wealthy homebody — how do encourage yourself to stray to the other side from time to time? How does the miser learn to live a little and the wild traveler learn the value of saving a dollar or two along the way?

That’s what I want to dive deeper into with this series. I’ll share my personal struggles with financial head and heart problems, but I’d love to hear about yours as well. (And not just because it will make me feel better — honest.)

In the coming weeks I’ll share my thoughts on buying local versus online, purchasing green energy credits, and dropping money into sporty vehicles that will likely never be recovered. I hope you’ll find the discussion interesting at the least.

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