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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.