How to Control Your Financial Appetite

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This article is part of the MH4C Writers Challenge. I’d like to see which articles you like the most. If you like an article, please take a moment to ‘Like’ it on Facebook, ‘Tweet’ it, or give it a ‘Plus One’ on Google +. (To the right of the title, you’ll see each of those buttons so it should make your job easier.) The winner of the MH4C Writers Challenge is the article that has the most social media shares.

The following entry is by Gabe Bruyere.

Everyday, I leave the house for work with every intention of coming home for lunch. I work, and as the clock ticks away I become hungrier and hungrier. As my lunch break draws closer, the idea of leftovers or a sandwich at home seems less appealing as the time draws nearer. Just as I am about to resign myself to getting in my truck and heading home, I have a thought: “I can just grab a quick bite to eat at [insert restaurant here].” I know I should be heading home to eat a sandwich…they are more affordable, but I really have a hankering for some fries and special sauce, and it would be so much faster. As I drive my truck out of the parking lot, my will power becomes less and less until that crucial moment as I drive up to the stoplight…left or right? Left or right? …Left.

Yet again, I have failed, allowing my impulses to rule over my desire to save money.

Does this scenario sound familiar?

If you are like me, then this is far from fiction, and happens more often than you care to admit. We have a great plan in mind; we sit down and run the numbers, have a set amount of money for eating out, new appliances or entertainment, but in the moment of decision, we grow weak and our appetites rule us. Appetite doesn’t have to be just for food (though it is all too often the area I break my family’s budget in); you can have a strong appetite for cars, hobbies, or furniture. No matter what the appetite may be, it can be destructive to the financial budget if we allow our urges to rule over our careful preparations.

So what can be done for those of us who struggle with appetite?

Are we doomed to live one broken budget to the next? I don’t think so.

The way I try to handle my impulsive nature is similar to the way I try to handle sin (not that I am saying all impulsive decisions are sinful).

In the first chapter of James, he describes the “life cycle” of sin. In verses 14-15 he writes,

But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. (NASB)

For a person to sin, there must first be a desire for something. If there is a desire, then there must be a temptation, or opportunity to fulfill that desire. The next step is to take that opportunity and indulge in the desire; that is sin.

Breaking a budget impulsively can have this same “life cycle.” First there is a desire, or an appetite. Then there is the opportunity to fulfill that appetite, whether it be convenience or a sale. Finally comes the purchase, and the broken budget.

So what is the solution?

We have to kill one of the steps within the cycle.

The first is that we eliminate the appetite for something. Craig wrote an article about how “sacrifices” can become habit and cease to feel like sacrifice after time. We are able to train certain habits out of ourselves. This will probably not eliminate the appetite completely, but it can lessen the pull.

The second option is to eliminate the opportunity for the appetite to be fulfilled. Avoid putting ourselves in a position where we can fulfill the appetite.

In practical application these two steps would work best hand in hand. Take the scenario at the beginning of the article as an example. During the summer months, I can ride my bike, removing the convenience of running out to eat. I have to bring a sandwich if I want to eat. This “sacrifice” is beginning to become habit, and curb my desire to eat out. But that will only work so far as my appetite is not too big… the more effective step, is to withdraw the temptation.

I stopped going to work with my debit card. It was too easy to just buy something on the debit card impulsively. Instead, I walk around with a $100 pre-paid gift card for emergencies, but the debit card stays home. The added inconvenience will often convince me to pass the temptation completely. I also avoid going to certain stores…my wife and I should avoid Kirkland’s unless we expect to bring home decorations. I drive around a nice truck because I was “only looking” one afternoon (still paying for that one). By avoiding scenarios I know will trap me, I am more likely to be successful when it comes to the family budget.

Please share your ideas on controlling appetites in the comments below.

Comments

  1. Wes Smith says

    Great article Gabe. Great advice on breaking the cycle of impulses and I appreciate your honesty with you own mistakes and giving us the opportunity to learn from them!

    • Gabe says

      Thanks for the encouragement Wes. I definitely have plenty of mistakes to share with others. :) I am working now to try and build the success stories to share in the future as well.

  2. says

    Appetite for things is pretty strong (probably why there is the line, “lead us not into tempatation” in the Lord’s Prayer). Maybe to add on to your awesome advice Gabe, one might and should pray for fortitude and prudence in their lives and in the financial decisions…maybe not all that practical (day-to-day) but the Lord shall strengthen us to whet our financial appetites!

    • Gabe says

      Great insight, Simon. Prayer and gathering strength from Him who is greater is always a good bit of advice; especially so when dealing with temptations (whether sin or money).

  3. says

    “By avoiding scenarios I know will trap me, I am more likely to be successful when it comes to the family budget.” That’s great advice Gabe! I find that planning ahead helps me avoid the eating out temptations. If I know I already have something prepared for dinner, I’m less likely to stop on the way home with the kids to pick up a quick bite.

    • Gabe says

      Great insight, Brian! I have found the same to be true…sometimes, when I want to eat out, the wife is a great encouragement when saying, “I already have dinner prepared.” It’s hard to argue with that logic! :)

  4. says

    Hey Gabe,

    This was a treat to read the piece. I quite second you in saying that after a certain point of time sacrifices become habits and this is actually a good practice! Moving around without your debit card is a good option, provided you have an alternative option for emergencies.

    • Gabe says

      Tomasz,
      Thanks for the encouragement. I find that I am too easily ruled by my passions, appetites and desires; always looking for the “easy” way out. The best option I have found for my personality is to put “insurmountable” obstacles in front of those temptations and road blocks. I wasn’t sure I would graduate college, so I locked myself into a contract that required me to finish. Unsure as to whether or not I would be able to refrain from eating out, so I avoid the ability to even buy food.
      I find that these sorts of scenarios help me in my personality.

      • says

        Yes, of course there are a number of ways to approach things. While some can resist themselves from having their favorites even while being at a food joint, others prefer not to even enter! It is best to follow what suits you most, always.

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