It’s Halloween season, the time when we decorate with pumpkins, buy candy for little goblins, and watch monster movies. A perennial favorite is Dracula. Movie vampires are spooky fun, but financial vampires can be more dangerous. These creatures of the night drain your wallet of cash. Sometimes, they leave your money feeble, or even worse, they can kill your financial dreams outright.
A surprisingly dangerous financial vampire is the forgotten subscription. It’s so easy to sign up for music, movie channels, and video games. For business owners, subscriptions can become even more expensive—images, software, and communication services. There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of these items. However, after enrollment, it’s easy to forget about the purchase. Even worse, you may not even be using the service. The only constant is the monthly sucking of money from your wallet. To kill the subscription vampire, look at your credit card, bank, and cell phone statements each month. Cancel anything you aren’t using. If it’s an annual subscription, put a note on your calendar to stop the service as soon as you can.
Online shopping is another kind of financial vampire. During COVID, many of us began to buy necessities from apps on our phones or computers. The updated process certainly saves time and may lessen unplanned purchases at stores like supermarkets. However, other online shopping sites offer easy access to almost anything with the swipe of a finger—the definition of an impulse purchase. Of course, some items are necessary, but others are purchased on a whim or out of boredom. You can kill the online shopping vampire the same way as its cousin, the shopping mall vampire. If something captures your attention, click off the site or leave the store, and don’t look at it again for three days. If you still want the item after 72 hours (and the purchase is reasonable), go ahead and buy it. Usually, though, after reflection, you’ll realize you didn’t want it after all.
The final kind of financial vampire is the most dangerous of all—the money script vampire. Everyone holds beliefs about money, and our families and friends are powerful influencers of our attitudes. For example, we may have been told that our mother was never good with the checkbook, or dad would get ahead if his boss weren’t stingy. Further, we may have learned that it’s good to be generous, or alternatively, the poor brought on their own condition.
These statements, called “money scripts” by interior finance researchers, are so ingrained in our minds that we accept them without question. If we grow up being told “mom isn’t good with the checkbook,” it’s easy for our minds to expand that to “girls can’t handle money wisely.” If “dad’s boss is stingy,” it’s not a far stretch to “wealthy people aren’t as virtuous as the working class.” The statements are presented as facts, so there’s no point arguing with them. As a result, female family members may assume they can’t make sound financial decisions. Alternatively, if family members rise above their childhood financial status, they may feel unexplainably guilty about their success. Self-destructive financial decisions often follow the internalization of beliefs.
Money script vampires are the most insidious because we believe them, and we don’t even think to kill them. And yet, they must die. The first step is to expose them to sunlight. Make a list of all your beliefs about money, and then question each of them. You are likely to find some money scripts holding you back from creating and implementing healthy financial strategies. You can address them one at a time, and it may take months or years before you vanish the monsters.
Financial vampires come in many forms, much like Dracula. However, by reviewing your expenses, postponing purchases, and analyzing your beliefs, you can overpower them. Just in case, you might want to get some garlic, too!