Continuing on with my series of Qualities of Success, today we’re talking about SELF-CONTROL.

Let me say honestly, I probably appear to not be the best poster child for this particular quality. I smoke, I’m overweight, I have a gadget fetish that I make very little effort of controlling, and I like taking my wife to nice places once in a while.

All that being said, I consider myself to be in control of myself. The one place where many will try to argue with me is in that I smoke. These people make the argument, “If you REALLY had self-control, you could quit.” My response, (said like a true addict) I don’t wish to quit. I don’t know if I really could, but I know I don’t want to. I think smoking is a disgusting habit, so I’m not going to go into all the reasons why I still do it. The thing is, if I can’t have a cigarette for a period of time, I don’t freak out (usually).

So what does self-control have to do with personal finance and success? Great question! I wish I’d have thought of it.

1. When you let things control you instead of controlling yourself, you show a weakness to anybody who is looking for one. In most everyday situations, this is no big deal, but in some circumstances, this weakness will separate you from your goals. This is obviously not a good thing.

2. Let’s look at my extravagances: I smoke. Currently, the price of a carton of 10 packs of 20 cigarettes each costs me about $36.00. I smoke about half a pack a day. So, I buy about 20 cartons a year. The quicker students will have already figured out that this is $720.00 annually. Could I do something smarter with $2.00 a day? You bet I could. In the 20 years I’ve smoked (or is it smoken…,?), about $14,400.00. Compound interest aside; that could be enough to buy a decent car cash. Of course, when I was younger, I didn’t buy my cigarettes by the carton, but by the pack. I spent about $4.00 a pack for 16 years. So, all in all, I could have spent $14,560.00 on THIS HERE CAR and still had enough money to cover insurance and any other expenses I might have to deal with. For the Hyundai haters out there, I currently drive a Hyundai, and would definitely buy another one when the time comes.

3. Keeping with my personal proclivities, I’m overweight. I’m not going to get down into the numbers on this, but let’s look at what being fat costs me:

– Cost of food (how else could I get this way?),
– Cost of larger clothes
– Healthcare and medicine
– Gym membership so I don’t have to continue being fat.

4. My gadget fetish. I would love to say that this is much worse than it really is. Unfortunately for my fetish, I have what some may call self-control, others might call a conscience, and still others (myself included) call my wife. She doesn’t let me go out and buy all the gadgets that I want. Not that she’s miserly or anything, but she rightly points out that I will not get advantage out of having all the gadgets that I want. That being said, it’s pretty obvious that this can harm my bottom line, and could force many other issues that also hurt my personal finance journey.

I’m not telling anybody not to live here. I’m not even telling people HOW to live. I have repeatedly said that the ONLY value of money is in the things it can purchase for you. THAT is where the real self-control comes in. You can have the things you want, but you need to make sure that you can have the things you need first.

Some of those needs (my list—yours might be different) in no particular order:

– Housing (rent or mortgage)
– Utilities
– Insurance
– Savings
– Car(s)
– Food

Once I have all of those things taken care of, I can look at all the rest.

  1. Wil says:

    Just as a quick update, back in July of 2009 I decided to quit smoking. My last cigarette, was in June of that year. The method I used– cold turkey. I guess I was right that I would quit when I was really ready. I haven’t looked back once and I’m glad to be done with that particular chapter of my life.

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