Could what you think you know about finances be hurting you?

Reevaluating Personal Finance Habits

by Gary Foreman

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"Half of learning is learning. The other half of learning is unlearning."

Recently I saw this quote and thought how it applied to our financial lives. It was attributed to Mark Batterson from his book In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day. Although I doubt that Batterson meant to talk about finances, the quote certainly does apply. Especially today.

Many people throughout the world are re-evaluating their finances. They recognize that they might not want to keep doing the things they did last year. That means that not only do we need to learn new skills and methods, but we also need to unlearn habits and beliefs that are part of our lives today.

If you think about learning and unlearning, you'll recognize that sometimes we need to do the unlearning first. The reason is simple. If your habit is to stop for a fancy coffee on the way to work every day, you can't learn a new habit until you unlearn the old. So let's start with some things that you might want to consider unlearning.

We need to unlearn the "things that we can't live without." For many of us, it's hard to imagine living without a dishwasher or a car. But, if we try, we might find that we can live without these things, especially if we get creative in looking for alternatives (like asking kids to do the dishes or joining a carpool). You might want to think about all the must have things in your life to see whether they really are that necessary.

Related: Could Acquired Needs Theory Save You Money?

We need to unlearn some pride. Let's look at the "I'd never be caught dead..." syndrome. Would you be embarrassed if your friends knew that you bought second-hand clothes or a used car? Maybe so. But, if you're going to survive tough times, you'll need to get over that embarrassment. You can't feed your family or pay the mortgage with designer clothing.

We need to unlearn evaluating ourselves in terms of our possessions. You are not worth less than your neighbor is because they own a newer or more expensive vehicle. For many of us, this could be hard to unlearn. Since childhood, we've assumed that our worth is based on how much stuff we have, but unlearn it we must.

Related: The Financial Folly of Following the Crowd

You may think of other things that you need to unlearn. Each of us walks a different path through life, so we'll each need to make our own adjustments. Once you've begun to unlearn, you can begin to consider some new things that you may want to learn.

We need to learn to "make do." The time has come to question every purchase. Is there some way to avoid spending money? Is there something that you already have or could borrow that would be good enough? We all need to learn to make do with the things that we already have. It's an acquired skill.

Are you one of the many people heading for debt trouble without knowing it? This simple checklist can help you find out and tell you how to avoid it.

We need to learn skills that are new to us. You can learn to sew. You don't need to be good enough to sew your whole wardrobe. Just good enough to repair clothes that need mending. You can learn to cook. You can learn to garden. Learn to do household repairs. There are all kinds of things that you can learn to do. It's especially easy with available instruction on the Internet. You have the ability to learn. And, you'll have the will to learn if it becomes important to you.

We need to learn to make our efforts count. There are some tasks that can save us a lot of money. But, others don't have such a good payback. If you're going to take on extra tasks around your home, do those that will save you the most money. Mixing homemade cleansers can save a lot of money for the amount of time spent doing it. Same thing with hanging clothes to dry. But, there are other things that just won't save much money. You'll need to decide which things are a profitable use of your time.

Again, you'll think of other things that you need to learn. Don't be afraid to take this opportunity to grow. Many great advances have grown out of adversity. And, you're only beaten when you give up trying.

Reviewed May 2017

Gary Foreman

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar website and newsletters in 1996. He's the author of How to Conquer Debt No Matter How Much You Have and he's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money, and Gary shares his philosophy of money here. Gary is available for audio, video or print interviews. For more info see his media page.

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