Thursday Rant: 6 Phrases that will Doom Your Finances

I’ve been happier lately, so I’ve laid off the ranting. This doesn’t mean that I can’t still get angry every once in a while…

How often do you hear nonsense disguised as wisdom that makes you want to run for the exit? Maybe on Thanksgiving, your Uncle Larry has three drinks too many and starts unloading his worldly “wisdom” on the family.

Been there, seen it.

Or domineering relatives think they know what’s best for you and aren’t afraid to regale you with their “knowledge.”

No comment.

And unwanted wisdom isn’t confined to politics or world events. I hear personal finance “wisdom” (is my sarcasm coming through?) almost every day that makes me cringe. Here are some of my favorites:


“It’s only $xxx per month!”

Car dealerships, mattress stores, and home builders all use this trickery:

The reason is simple: $289 is easier to swallow than the price of the car. How many folks can afford to buy a new car outright?


Don’t fall for the trap.

Do this instead: Always consider the total cost of an item. Also, think about the long-term potential of the money. Even if you can afford to unload $30,000 for a new car, you need to think about what that money would be worth 30 years later if you invested it insteadHint: Lots. Also note that the car will be worth $0 in 30 years.


“Treat yourself!” or “You deserve it!”

Why do you deserve anything? And if you do deserve it, why must you buy yourself <insert one: shoes, a purse, a car, sports tickets, gadgets,> because of it. You don’t need a shiny new object just because you accomplished something.

Do this instead: Take the money and invest it. Strive for financial freedom. Time is the ultimate reward and you do deserve it after you’ve worked hard and invested diligently. If you want a fancy toy (I’m raising my hand because I’m guilty), wait until you’re financially free to get it. My NSX is a lot of fun, but nothing feels as good as financial freedom.


“Let’s go shopping!”

Shopping is a horrible word. Roaming stores at a local mall isn’t a pastime or hobby. If you don’t know you need it, you don’t need it.

Do this instead: Make a list of what you need at the store and stick to it. And find other ways to have fun. Instead of looking for stuff to buy, go to the playground with your kids, swim at the beach or have a potluck with the neighbors.


“You only live once (YOLO)!”

People say this when they’re naughty and know it:

The purse is $800, but YOLO!

Do this instead: It’s true, you do only live once. I’m glad we agree on that. Now, let’s agree that since life is short and you should enjoy your limited time by living on your own terms. Find your Enough and step off the hedonic treadmill.


“I’ll buy it now and figure out how to pay for it later!”

No. No! NO!!! This is wrong, bad and borderline batsh*t crazy. Just don’t.

Do this instead: Save your money now so it’s there when you need it. Repeat after me:

I’ll save it now and figure out how to spend it later.


“Oooh, the Joneses have a new car!”

Shiny new things bring envy. However, I have something to tell you:

The Joneses are living check to check.

They’re 3 months away from bankruptcy should Mr. or Mrs. Jones lose his/her job.

Do this instead: Forget the Joneses. Don’t follow the herd. Know that no one ever did anything great by looking at someone’s butt. Be confident. March to your own voice and carve your own path.



Oh wow! If you can’t tell, I’m all worked up. I’m getting off my bossy soapbox now before my head explodes or I go all T-rex on the next person who utters one of these phrases.

How about you? What ridiculous wisdom drives you nuts?

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62 Responses to Thursday Rant: 6 Phrases that will Doom Your Finances

  1. Team CF says:

    Yes yes, but Mr 1500 (aka Mr Jones) bought and NSX. So I need to buy one too!!

  2. I can’t stand when people say I’ll figure it out on my own. Nevermind that wisdom and experience of everyone that has come before you. You need to blaze the same path as everyone and fail miserably on things that is well known to fail. I wish more people would listen to wisdom and experience.
    Mustard Seed Money recently posted…9 Ways to Cut Your Tax BillMy Profile

  3. Doppleganger Wayne says:

    Only X$/day sounds even cheaper. People appear to not be able to multiply by 30 or 365.

  4. Jacq says:

    The ‘you deserve it’, I support is encouraging someone to take time for self care. I have gotten to yoga early a few times, and someone is standing there, in yoga clothes, having taken 1 class, debating a second. Child care is covered, they have a membership so the extra class won’t cost anything additional out of pocket. If they are already debating it, a part of them knows they need it.
    I am with you on all the rest.
    If only we could use ‘It’s only $xx per month’ to convince people to contribute to 401ks…

    • Yeah, You Deserve It only applies to silly stuff. But maybe in this case, it’s not so much that you deserve self-care; it’s that you need it. But, to build on it a little, maybe it’s OK to push the envelope a little. If a fancy bike (looking at myself in the mirror) or yoga is what you enjoy, go for it.

      And if you don’t pay for exercise now, you’re going to pay the doctor many times over in a couple decades!

  5. Brian says:

    I’ve heard this one a few time lately. I need to build credit. So taking on debt, loans, credit cards, etc. are a good idea for that purposes. Wrong!
    Brian recently posted…College Transition: Saving MoneyMy Profile

  6. The ones that piss me off the most are “You deserve it!” and “You only live once.” And you’re “Do this instead” solutions are spot on.

    I’ve managed to FIRE already and to me FIREing is about freedom to control your time and your life. Nothing makes me angrier and sadder than to see people squander their life by buying crap that will make them unhappy because it prevents them from buying their own freedom.

    Everyone deserves freedom. And everyone only lives once, so freedom will allow you to make the happiest choices. If I could wave a wand, I would magically make everyone FIREd. The next best thing is a blog like this. 🙂
    Mr. Freaky Frugal recently posted…To budget or not to budget?My Profile

    • Unfortunately, humans don’t typically think long term. It’s in our programming when we were more worried about dinner tonight than anything else.

      And retirement is a new phenomenon too. 150 years ago, humans didn’t live long enough to retire. You’d work until you were 45 and then die of some nasty disease.

      It all makes you appreciate just how good life is now!

      • Mike in NH says:

        The part about thinking long term reminded me of something I read once about how most people spend more time planning for a two week vacation than they do regarding their lives in general.

        Best way to predict your future is to create it, and that’s not happening without a plan.

  7. As you indicate, my biggest problem is things I tell myself, not outside influence. Things like “your house/car/life is boring” due to living with the same things for months and years. They lose their luster after a while and the grass is greener effect takes over. I need to stay disciplined to avoid the shiny new thing trap.
    Barnaby @ Personal Finance King recently posted…9 Life and Finance Lessons from “Alexander Hamilton” Biography by Ron ChernowMy Profile

  8. “Treat yourself” bothers me to no end. People just spend money like its going out of style with that attitude. That phrase fell out of favor at our house but then we (I) started to get antsy.
    I love video games but wasn’t able to buy any for myself, that’s when we started giving ourselves $15 a month allowances. Now I can play all the video games i can buy…with my allowance.

    You can “Treat yourself” if that money is your own small amount set aside for treats :D.
    Budget On a Stick recently posted…Minnesota State Fair on a BudgetMy Profile

  9. sendaiben says:

    “I don’t have time to…” …read that, learn about that, find out how that works, etc.
    “I couldn’t…” not spend that, earn more, put money aside every month.
    “I’m not good at…” maths, saving, numbers, taking responsibility.

    I give talks about personal finance from time to time, and I have started including this section about how the world doesn’t care about the reasons you didn’t start saving and investing for your future. You just won’t have that money later when you need it.

    Do or do not. I don’t care either way. The only person you are hurting is yourself.

    • “You just won’t have that money later when you need it.”

      Nice. I’d be curious to hear more about your talks. Who are you talking to? Have you turned anyone around?

      I’m mostly quiet now because most folks won’t change unless they’re already predisposed to your message or something really traumatic has happened to them.

  10. Kyle says:

    So I should cancel my Ferrari order? I got a bit jealous of your NSX beast :(.
    I hate the word YOLO, people always use it in regards to spending stupid amounts of cash on something similarly stupid. In a similar spirit though I’ll decide to hang out with good friends and family when I wanted to do something else instead. You only live once and nothing brings more happiness than simply hanging out with good people.

    • Ha, cancel it! You can drive the NSX in October and get the fancy car out of your system. We need to find a good mountain road.

      “You only live once and nothing brings more happiness than simply hanging out with good people.”

      Yes, this is the best part of life.

  11. Danny the Pizza Guy says:

    I’ll admit it…in my younger days I fell for the “It’s only $xxx per month!” lease trap. Luckily it didn’t cost me as much per month as the amount listed in the ad pictured above, but it was still a mistake nonetheless, and I’ve learned from it.

    Another nugget of wisdom that always has bugged me is, “Never invest in ‘stock market/real estate/other regulated investments’ due to ‘one time catastrophic event'”.

    • Danny!

      Nice to hear from you! And the stock market! You made me think of another one that I hate: “I don’t invest in the stock market because it’s gambling.”

      No. NO! NO!!!

      And there are few things better in life than hanging out with new and old friends in a beautiful park with some good beer and pizza. See you again in 2018 when we’re there?

      • Danny the Pizza Guy says:

        “I don’t invest in the stock market because it’s gambling.”

        Ah…that was the phrase I was trying to think of! Definitely hear this too often.

        If you and the family come back to our next of the woods next year, absolutely! Beer + Pizza + Great People = Awesome time! Still reflect on that day often

  12. MoneyAhoy says:

    “Treat yourself – you deserve it” is one that I am always hearing. It really is a destructive phrase that many folks fall into. It is such short term thinking that it drives me crazy! There are thousands of things I could afford and buy today, but that leaves me with a less secure tomorrow.
    MoneyAhoy recently posted…Avoid Debt After DivorceMy Profile

  13. Brian says:

    A phrase that makes me mad first and then sad is “Rent to own!” I recently walked by a nationally known rent to own place on a family walk to the grocery store. Glancing inside I see front loading W/D sets, stainless steel refrigerators, and ride-on mowers. Ugh.

    What do you think it’ll cost you to rent to own a Samsung activewash W/D set? Only $139.99/month for 24 months! This doesn’t include taxes or the $25 sign up fee. So after 2 years you would’ve spent in excess of $3,400 to be the proud owner of a fancy pants W/D set. Regular retail price for a set looks to be less than $2,500. What if you had invested $139.99/month for 24 months? But of course life isn’t complete without the fulfillment and meaning that comes with owning a fancy W/D. Sad.

    The FI community should co-opt the term “YOLO”. It’s the perfect rationale for being financially independent.

    • Oh my, those rent to own places are horrible. Simple math people!

      The front loader washers/dryers drive me nuts too. I know a lot of folks who are barely making it, but have these in their home. Come on folks!

      “The FI community should co-opt the term “YOLO”. It’s the perfect rationale for being financially independent.”


  14. The ones I hate the most are shopping for shopping’s sake and keeping up with the Joneses. As to shopping, I’ve read articles where psychologists explain that it’s kind of like a drug: a temporary pleasure that wears off (leaving you poorer in the process). As to keeping up with the Joneses, I agree that, a great deal of the time, they are in debt! It never ceases to surprise me, how people max out their credit cards to buy “status symbol” stuff.

    • Yeah, we get a dopamine hit when we buy something. It’s in our evolutionary programming. Acquiring stuff feels good because when we were hunter-gatherers we had to do it every day to survive.

      Status symbols! More like shame symbols…

  15. MrWow says:

    Ahhh. The great irony of a BMW lease ad in the middle of the paragraph about why not to buy a new car. Ha!

    Treat yourself…. With more donuts and beer and chicken wings. You worked out all week. Its one day. Don’t sweat it!
    MrWow recently posted…Busy is No Longer an ExcuseMy Profile

  16. I’m a big hater on the phrase “but everyone is…” (doing it, in debt, etc etc). No! Be yourself and go do something radically different!
    Mrs. Adventure Rich recently posted…Working Remotely: Key Components for SuccessMy Profile

  17. Robin says:

    Add “If you wait until you can afford it you will never do it” to the list. I heard this a lot, mostly in terms of having more children. We had our first at 19….unexpected obviously, but we waited until we were 30 to have our second. Those 11 years were filled with:

    People: When are you going to have another child
    Me: When we’re financially ready
    People: If you wait until you can afford another child, you’ll never have one.
    Me: *eye roll* I’m not going to have a second child at 21 just because society deems a 2 year age gap acceptable and an 11 year age gap unacceptable.

    Now you have me fired up on a rant! 🙂

  18. Wade says:

    All of those reasons/sayings drive me nuts as well.

    This reminds me of my favorite SNL skit:

    Steve Martin kills it in this one. 🙂

  19. The Frug says:

    My favorite is one travel sites when they say “only three seats left at this price” or “only two rooms left at this price”. What they’re really saying is only two rooms left at this price , on this website, at this moment in time. What they don’t tell you is that the future price might be lower, or you can find this on other website at other times. I usually run a couple searches on hotels using KAYAK, Google and can always find away.

  20. I hear ya, but COME ON! It’s only $289/month, I deserve it, so let’s go shopping! After all, you only live once so I’m just going to buy it now and figure out how to pay for it later. Gotta keep up with those Jones’, after all!

    Arrrggghh. If you can’t pay for in cash, don’t buy it. Why don’t people get it??

  21. Mr. Tako says:

    The “wisdoms” that get me worked up always seem to revolve around investing — “Real Estate is always a good investment.” “You can’t beat the market because of the EMT.” “Investing in stocks is risky.”. “Buying a home is the best investment you’ll ever make.” “Most small businesses fail, so don’t bother trying to start one.”

    I could go on all day with these so-called “wisdoms”. There’s very little wisdom to be found in “common” wisdoms like this… I try to ignore them, but now you’ve got me all worked up! Argh!
    Mr. Tako recently posted…A Financially Independent Life Is A Good LifeMy Profile

    • These are great! I especially love the home one. Why do people think that they have to buy a house?

      And Efficient Market Hypothesis; Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger make fun of that one all the time.

  22. Jason says:

    All I want to do is put a bunch of emoji claps…but alas all I can say is here, here, here!!!!!
    Jason recently posted…Scam Alert: The Federal Reserve and Secret Bank AccountsMy Profile

  23. Daniel says:

    My mom told me about her neighbor who’s making big bucks. I asked her how she knew. She said, “Have you seen the remodel they’re doing?” “Mom,” I said, “You can’t judge a person’s wealth based on their output.” She wasn’t having any of it.

  24. That truly is the car salesman gottya call. It’s only $XXX/mo. Also applies to the house. It drives them nuts when I have no desire to talk about monthly payment, but only about total cost.

    Also, the statement “Well, how much can you afford?”

    Straight up non-sense. Those of us here, likely can afford pretty much whatever we want. It only helps to perpetuate the ignorance of the masses when it comes to money.

  25. Amber tree says:

    On a non fire related level, meetings where people use their own habits as universal truth to eight on decision, or worse, they use their mom. Example: we do not need that feature on mobile as I would not use it. And I have the average age of our customers. Sure! Point is, we need also to attract the younger customers… Aaargh!

    Side note: I work as product owner and have fallen in that trap also. I now regret.

  26. Mrs. Kiwi says:

    Ah, I hated that when I went to a dealership to buy my first car the salesperson was kept asking what I wanted to pay per month! It’s a car, I do not want to think of it as a monthly payment, it’s the final cost that matters! Fortunately I didn’t let them sway me since I went in with a plan, even though this was before my discovery of FIRE.
    Mrs. Kiwi recently posted…Healthy Habits for Financial Independence and my FutureMy Profile

  27. Todd says:

    Here’s another. “Spend money on experiences instead of things”, to justify spending thousands on luxury vacations.

  28. It really grinds my gears when I give a reason why I’m waiting to do something and people say, “Oh, just do it anyway! Do it now!” It’s as if people don’t recognize the rewards of careful planning. Sigh.
    Mrs. Picky Pincher recently posted…Frugality Does Not Solve PovertyMy Profile

  29. Chiino says:

    I completely agree; cutting “treat yourself” out of my mindset changed everything for me! If you don’t, the temptation is always there to overspend, and knock you off your tracks

  30. Antonio says:

    “I rather prefer to spend my money now than wait” followed by the incredible justification of “I don’t want to retire anyway because I don’t know what could I do with my time” This combination leave me mad or speechless (or both) everytime I hear it…Get out! the world is an amazing place to explore and life is full of things to do!

    • YES!!! I have decades left, but I already know that I’ll die without the chance to see so much of the world. I have no idea how I’d every be able to fit retirement into a two decades, especially at an advanced age when my body is in decline…

  31. I have definitely fallen into the “YOLO” and “Treat Yourself” traps. That’s largely why we’re in our current situation. But no longer! So glad we are making these habit changes now and not accruing even more debt.

  32. Good post! YOLO is one that gets many people into trouble because it sounds so convincing and appears like sagely wisdom from a philosopher. I counter it these days with YODO (you only die once) so make every moment of life free from the clutches of debt and materialistic misery!
    Ten Factorial Rocks recently posted…Pursuit of HappinessMy Profile

  33. Beth says:

    I absolutely hate YOLO and “you deserve it!”

    The other two I absolutely hate are “must be nice to…” and “that’s easy for you to say” – because it gives in to jealousy and takes away all agency we have to determine our own financial futures. I confess I fall into the trap sometimes – “must be nice to have a six-figure earning spouse” – but the pity party doesn’t get me anywhere.

  34. TinaP says:

    One of my favorite sayings – “You only live once? Bullshit, you live every day. You only die once.”

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