I Always Spend All My Money And I’m Never Going to Change, Am I


I am out of money and don’t get paid for a week. I do this every single month and I am so mad at myself and I’m never going to change, am I.


You’re never going to change with an attitude like that, says your mother. And my mother. And me. Look, Betsy: Of course you can change. Of course. Whether you do change is about whether you want to change or not. Do you actually want to change? Do you want to actually stop spending all of your money before you get new money?

I mean, it sounds like a good goal. It’s pretty much my goal every time I check my bank account and there is no money in it. But it’s not my goal three weeks before I run out of money and it’s not my goal two weeks before I run out of money and it’s not even really my goal when I’m down to my last $20. My goal is to do what I want for as long as I can do what I want. And then I run out of money and I can’t do what I want for a little while. But then I get paid and I can again.

I make real decisions during those weeks before I run out of money: that is me, making decisions to buy drinks and coffees and flowers and sandwiches, this gal, right here. And then I wake up one day and check my bank account and it’s empty and all of a sudden I DESPISE the person who made those decisions. A pox on her house. I forsake her. Loathe that human.

And then I get paid and money money money, I’m going to get an ice cream I’ll worry about this all later/never/when I run out of money again.

A lesson that took me a long time to learn: I am never going to wake up and be a person who doesn’t want to spend the money in her pocket if there is money in her pocket. That’s the kind of change I was trying to believe in but that kind of change doesn’t exist. Barring traumatic brain injury, humans don’t go to sleep and wake up completely different people. Change is active. For me it’s meant paying all my bills as soon as I get paid. It’s meant taking out cash so that I know exactly how much I have until I don’t have anymore. It’s mean learning to pause before I say yes to going to meet people out in the world and thinking, is this what I want to do with that last $20? It’s meant getting another job.

To change you’ve got to actually change your behavior. Hack the heck out of your finances. Give yourself an allowance. Split up your bank accounts. Prepay all your bills. Do what you have to do to save your money from yourself. And then do what you want with what’s leftover. You’ll still run out—if you want to—but you’ll be choosing that. Stop hating yourself. You’re doing okay.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons


34 Comments / Post A Comment

BananaPeel (#1,555)

Splitting up bank accounts!! Man, I want to buy myself shiny, pretty new things and always have, and now that I can only buy shiny, pretty new things out of a certain account, I feel an equal amount of dread/satisfaction (as applicable, when I run out of money OR when I buy something great) as before, but now I also am saving for retirement/vacation/emergency fund. It’s gotta be psychological. Of course that might not work for Betsy, but…worth a shot!
The other thing about separate accounts is that you have to have a cushion in each account, so that’s 2 or 3 or 8x as much cushion money to save up.

highjump (#39)

@BananaPeel Do you have your accounts with different banks or? I’m in the process of saving a For Serious Emergencies Only (not for plane ticket sale “emergencies”) fund and I think I need to keep in it a totally separate bank. But I’ve only ever had one savings account and one checking account. Share your wisdom please!

BananaPeel (#1,555)

@highjump Oh man. I have two checking accounts in the same local bank. One is fixed costs (rent, groceries, etc.) and the other is fun money. A third checking account is with Schwab online and that is short-term savings (that’s your plane ticket sale account!) And I have an online savings account with ING, now Capitol One, that is long-term savings i.e. don’t touch unless I lose my job. So the Schwab account I have a debit card and checkbook for, so that money is fairly easily accessible (though I don’t have the PIN memorized.) The Capitol One account is linked to my local bank account so I could transfer money if I needed to, but it’s not as easily accessible because it would take a couple days to transfer.

By the way, the aggregate amount of money in all of these accounts is less than $10,000 so don’t think you have to have lots of money to do this! I only started like a year ago and turns out it takes a long time to save up money. Who knew?

vanderlyn (#2,954)

@BananaPeel I have Schwab as well, and routinely annoy my friends by praising it to the high heavens. Within my Schwab, I have three accounts (checking, brokerage, IRA), with the former feeding into the latter two via automated transfers. Why I love Schwab:

-Unlimited ATM fee refunds (this is unbelievable; I genuinely don’t give a shit where I withdraw money now, because it comes right back at the end of the month).
-No fees on anything.
-Easy synchronization with a solid brokerage that offers a good array of commission-free ETFs. This means that you can buy stocks here and there, with no penalty for executing lots of orders.
-Really, really good customer service.

The downside is no physical branches. But unless you work in a cash industry (e.g. waitress, bartender, dog walker, drug dealer), this is usually not a problem. I have a backup no-minimum, no-service B of A account with a couple hundred dollars in it for this reason, but I haven’t deposited cash in probably a year. Anyway: Schwab.

BananaPeel (#1,555)

@vanderlyn Also, you can DEPOSIT a CHECK by taking a PICTURE of it with your PHONE. (Does my use of capitalization accurately convey how cool I think that is? Because it is very cool.)

lemonadefish (#3,296)

I have so many bank accounts! Hubby and I each have a for-fun checking account, and a joint operating expenses checking account, then a vacation savings account, a furniture savings account (we love fancy chairs), an emergency savings account, a general savings account (about to be pillaged for a down payment), and I have a small savings account my grandparents started for me that isn’t really for anything. There is a seriously complicated set of automatic transfers that feeds money between all these accounts. Except my small grandparent savings account, which is all alone.

Oh, and there are a total of four banks involved (counting the lonely savings account). There is no trouble with automatic transfers between the different banks.

a27 (#2,268)

@BananaPeel Schwab has changed my life. i love them. i love them SO MUCH.

BananaPeel (#1,555)

@lemonadefish furniture savings account! I love it. I read once that you should upgrade one piece of furniture each year (until you are satisfied with everything, I guess.)

@fo (#839)


“Do you have your accounts with different banks or?”

I have known people who intentionally use a credit union or online bank with like one local, inconveniently located, free atm, to avoid the withdrawal temptation. Dunno if valuable to *you*, but valuable to consider.

honey cowl (#1,510)

@BananaPeel You guys. Schwab is the fucking BEST.

BananaPeel (#1,555)

@honey cowl You know what was really cool about Schwab? When I set up my account and told them the relatively low amount I wanted to auto-transfer every two weeks, the lady immediately started talking about savings goals that were exactly what I needed. Like, even though they probably aren’t going to make lots of money from me being their customer, she still took the time to talk with me about their services and everything. And she didn’t talk down to me at all. And then like two weeks later they called just to make sure I was happy and did I have any questions?

SterlingCooper05 (#2,529)

@BananaPeel ^^^^This^^^^ …my local credit union just added this feature and now I never go to the branch.

may june july (#2,862)

@BananaPeel oh oh oh! I can’t recommend INGdirect (now Capital One 360) enough. You can have as many savings accounts as you want (I have 8) and one checking, but transfering money between them takes 2 minutes. I have an account for hair cuts, an account for furniture, an account I’ve deemed “carmageddon”, an account for hobbies, and one to pay taxes. It’s beautiful.

I think this is great advice! I love my split bank accounts too.

Li'l Sebastian (#3,297)

Logan, if you can be “proud” of an internet stranger, I’m really proud of you for this post and the way you’re taking active steps to get your money together, and doing it so honestly and publicly. Thanks for being you, lady.

a27 (#2,268)

this might sound crazy to you, but perhaps having someone you really trust open a bank account under their name for you might be great. every month you can give them 20-2000000 dollars to put into that Account and then when your money runs out you have to be accountable to someone else to get saved. but Not a credit card. that also can be the first step to having your own secondary checking account, once you’re used to just spending $20 less a month. because this way when you run out of money… you haven’t really run out. it’s a psychological thing. it works. … for me.

pinches (#3,520)

@a27 basically hire a friend as a trustee for a separate bank account! emphasis on trust.

a27 (#2,268)

@pinches and instead of hire, just give them thank you hugs!

jr (#3,151)

Here is my monthly process:

First I start each month with an amount I made up to make me feel comfortable in my checking account. I have all my bills setup to auto debit. I only use my credit card for purchases thru the month. I ALWAYS pay it completely off each month. (Dont do this if you aren’t going to pay it off). I find myself spending less if I know I will be making 1 large payment a month. It gives you a pretty good idea of how much money your spending. At the end of the month I take my checking account back down to my comfort limit and put the rest in my savings.

A lot of times I do this process for each paycheck.

sunflowernut (#1,638)

It helps me to have a budget – that way I have a certain dollar amount I get to spend on food, drinking, buying random shit, etc. Every time I spend all the money in one category it’s sort of a wake up call to be more frugal, which I think helps me to be a little more conscious of my spending in the other categories. Sometimes, at least.

j a y (#3,935)

This? Is exactly how I feel about food.
The ice cream graphic is so apropos.

I’ve never had a problem with saving money, but I’m on my third ice cream drumstick (actually, my second… the third is just in the near future). And you can’t quit food, just like you have to earn/spend money.

My strategy? No stretchy pants allowed.

Lily Rowan (#70)

@j a y I was going to say this is just like dieting! It’s not about “willpower,” it’s about setting yourself up for success.

When you get paid, just get, like, SUPER drunk and then withdraw all your money in cash and hide it all over your apartment and in the pockets of your clothes and stuff. Then drink some more to make sure you are totally blacked out. FOOLPROOF PLAN.

(My spending problem is not as bad as yours so I’m just extrapolating from when I found $10 in the pair of jeans I wore out last weekend.)

echolikebells (#3,272)

@stuffisthings Finding cash in the pockets of clothes you wore out last weekend is in the top 10 best feelings, I think. I found a whole night’s worth of drinking money in a pocket last weekend! (Clearly, the weekend before, I’d either been expecting to get black out drunk or buy for someone else. The fact that I can’t remember which is only mildly concerning, right?)

WayDownSouth (#3,431)

I like a lot of what Betsy wrote, but disagree that it’s not possible to change one’s approach to spending money.

When we’re young, it’s me, me, me all the time. Over time, though, we learn that our worlds actually encompass other people and we need to consider their feelings and our impacts on them. That is, we learn to develop a bit of self-discipline in order to co-exist with others.

Spending money is similar. When we first get some money (whether by allowance or a first job), it’s natural to waste it. I certainly did. However, over time, it’s also natural to set larger goals than just buying an ice cream today or new shoes tomorrow. We start to think about larger things (e.g., a house, a baby, a spouse, an overseas vacation). At this point, we need to start developing the self-discipline to be able to buy the overseas vacation, not just the ice cream.

I think that this behaviour is learned, not innate. I think that Betsy and Logan can start to develop the financial self-discipline to get past running out of money every month because of spontaneous purchases. When they’re ready to do this, their lives are going to be significantly easier than they are right now (imho).

Renleigh (#2,110)

@WayDownSouth I think Betsy was actually the one who wrote the initial “I fucked up” mess and Logan was the one who wrote the long response. The ideas still stand, but I just want to make sure Logan gets credit as the advice-giver, as opposed to the receiver.


I had to go back and check the to/from headers, myself – I hope Logan is proud, because this is great advice! It’s awesome how much her outlook/writing has changed since this time last year.

Slutface (#53)

I think the advice like “set a budget”, “have different accounts”, etc… Is something Logan has heard and probably tried over and over. Sometimes this stuff just doesn’t work. I couldn’t change my spending habits until I face the problems that were behind my spending (trying to live like my friends, insecurity, feeling I deserved things like dinner out or iced coffee just because I had what I perceived to be a bad day). Figuring out why you’re doing these things and working on those issues, not on the action of spending money, really is the only way to fix this.

I’m rooting for you Logan. I’ve been there and this might sound dramatic, but it’s a struggle everyday not to end up back in that place.

orangezest (#317)

YAY LOGAN. YAY! Being better with money is alllll about finding the system that works for you/setting yourself up for success. And forgiving yourself when you backslide.

Ugh, I’m struggling with this right now too. I had a separate account, at a separate bank where my savings deposited every time I got paid. I moved almost a month ago, still haven’t set that system back up, and subsequently have the same amount in savings that I did this time last year!

Though this article did inspire me to pay my credit card bill, so there’s that at least.

hellonheels (#1,407)

Logan! You are doing so, so, so much better than you were a year ago, and I am so proud of you, but your advice to your friend still applies to you: You’re never going to change with an attitude like that! I know it seems now like you will never not be a person who spends all your money, but that’s not necessarily true, and you don’t even necessarily have to worry about it now. As other commenters have very eloquently pointed out, your priorities will change over time, and there may well be a time a few years from now (particularly when you start to see some momentum on paying down your debt!) when it will seem more appealing to put that money toward a credit card balance or savings for the future or a hard-earned vacation.

Up until a couple of years ago my situation and habits were very similar to how yours have been in the past and are now. And I am now down to paying off the last $2,000 or so of what was once almost $25,000 in credit card debt. It was super hard at first, but over time my priorities naturally changed and it became second nature, and now even though I can afford to throw some money around on frivolous stuff, I rarely want to. I mean, it doesn’t happen the same for everyone, but all I’m saying is, you defeat yourself from the start when you have the attitude that you are incapable of change.

@hellonheels I can second this! I am also very close to paying off what had been some formidable debt, and the idea of having that wiped out is far more appealing than spending more on pretty much anything else at this point. Whereas before it just didn’t seem to matter as the number was so high. The idea that I being debt free was actually possible– rather than this impossible abstraction that I could never, ever do–was the thing that actually got me to change my spending patterns.

hershmire (#695)

My dad, who is excellent with money, always gave me this advice: pay yourself first. Put away 10% (or whatever you can afford) as soon as you get your money. Only then do you pay your bills and then have fun.

I have successfully avoided this advice for several months now.

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