Devil's Advocate 

It’s Okay To Ignore Your Problems

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This is a Devil's Advocate post.

I must confess that for the past month our budget has flown out the window. I have not even done the math to see the damage yet. I’m avoiding it because I know it will be ugly.

I read that off A Penny Closer today and it’s something we see quite often – ignoring your problems. Now, you might jump to your feet and scream “ignoring your problems won’t make them go away!” or something else equally petulant, but before you do that I want you to hear me out. I think there are very good reasons to ignore your problems and that is the subject of this edition of Devil’s Advocate.

Now, fortunately for Melissa, she has done one thing right – she has found a reasonable explanation for her busted budget and she has a reason for ignoring it. The reason for her budget being busted is because she recently moved. While the ideal situation would’ve been to budget for the move, recognize that you’d be eating out more and slipping, but let’s be honest with ourselves… we rarely plan in that manner. However, just because the budget is busted doesn’t mean you should panic. In fact, in this particular case, ignoring it wasn’t a bad idea because moving is stressful and there are a lot of other issues you have to deal with, the least of which is whether you overspent a few dollars this month on dinner. It was important she ignored the budget problem for a little while in order to focus on other issues and it’s equally important that she set a timeline to resolving the problem.

So, let me outline the reasons why I think you can ignore your problems temporarily.

You Only Have So Much Energy

You know how people tell you to make a list, prioritize, and then work from the highest priorities first? Well, this reason is the motivation for that strategy. You only have 24 hours in a day and you have however many problems you have. In all likelihood, you cannot solve them all so you are forced to ignore (or at least mitigate) some of them in order to solve the higher priority issues. In Melissa’s case, it was more important that she focus on the move and less important for her to focus on cutting coupons, cooking regularly, and all the other things she mentioned in her post. In fact, to focus on coupon cutting while dealing with something as financially more impactful, such as moving, would be a mistake (think: penny-wise pound-foolish type thinking).

Prioritization Enables You To Ignore Problems!

If you properly prioritize all of you action items, it enables you to intelligently “ignore” some of the items you’re in charge of. By identifying which tasks or issues or problems are more important, you can be sure that you are ignoring the items than you can ignore and focusing on the ones that require immediate attention. While we often don’t make a list (and we don’t check it twice), having even a mental picture of priorities is enough to help you make decisions.

Allow Yourself Time To Regroup

A budget is a budget is a budget right? It is, unless you’re stressed out about moving all of your life’s possessions into another home. A budget is simple, unless you’re selling your house and conducting the largest business transaction of your life. A budget is really easy to do, unless you’re dealing with one of the more stressful events in your life. Everything is harder when you add on stress and mistakes are made when people are stressed out. Messing up your budget because you ate out a little more often than usual is something you can correct in the next week or month. Messing up your budget and then making a manageable situation worse because you’re stressed out… that might be a little trickier. So, allowing your self time to regroup, the proverbial “count to ten” mantra, may mean you have to set one on the back burner for a while and that’s OK.

Time Heals All Wounds

This is not related to Melissa’s budget busting issue but if you ever have any emotional difficulties with someone, you’ll find that ignoring it for a little while will mellow out feelings. I’m ten years away from high school, with the reunion coming up in ten months, and I can’t recall one ill feeling I have towards any of my high school classmates. While I find it difficult to believe I didn’t have a problem with any of the four hundred classmates, the fact is I can’t recall a single thing – so that has to speak to this point, right?

Ultimately, the point is you can ignore your problems but only temporarily. Melissa’ problem is relatively simple: it’s a budget and she didn’t accidentally spend thousands and thousands of dollars on a whim. However, the crucial part is that she’s now taking steps to resolve it. So, if you ever feel overwhelmed or under-prepared to tackle a problem, consider sitting it on the sidelines for a couple days (unless it’s due in a couple days!).

{ 3 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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3 Responses to “It’s Okay To Ignore Your Problems”

  1. At least mathematically, people tend to get what their deserve in the long run. In other words, character/behavior is associated with a given future and this becomes more true the longer the time span is. For instance, it is the reason that lottery winners often find themselves broke again – they did not change their character/behavior.

  2. Mrs. Micah says:

    I agree. We moved last summer at it was crazy. While we tried to keep expenses down, we still didn’t have much energy for anything proactive. And it was a lot easier sometimes to buy prepared food. We moved past that, of course, but I expect things would be similar if my mom went into the hospital or somesuch.

  3. This is an unusual and intriguing perspective! Of course, none of us would advocate ignoring financial problems as a way to make them disappear. We all know that they won’t go away. But you make a really good point in saying that a temporary shift in your priorities might be inevitable (and possibly the most appropriate response) when dealing with intense situations.

    Dedicating the effort needed to maintain my normal frugal budget (clipping coupons, shopping the sales) when so much energy was needed in negotiating my largest financial obligation to date would not have been the best use of my time and resources. Now that the move is no longer my number one priority I can go back with a clear head and address my budgetary indiscretions. I’ve been hard on myself for my temporary blindness with my food budget but really it was probably the best thing to put on the back burner while so many important financial decisions were on the table.

    I appreciate this article on many different levels. It opened my eyes to a fresh perspective I hadn’t considered – thank you.

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