Got Debt? Intellect Trumps Emotion.

Newsflash: the ability to apply your intelligence to problems and questions you have is more important than your ability to apply emotion.

Intelligent Personal Finance

Crying won’t make that number higher.

Ignore the charlatans that tell you that your first inclination is the best response.  Gut feelings, emotions, and soft reactions have no place in the debt relief plans of an individual, and only deserve partial consideration in any individual purchase.

Why am I willing to make such a harsh statement, especially in a Sea of Pollyanism such as DQYDJ?  Simple, dear reader: I have become disgusted with what is quickly becoming the most disgusting root in the English language, ‘just’, as in justified or justification.

Justifications Usually Aren’t Justified…

Every time I hear someone ask me about a purchase they made, if I question the necessity of that purchase I usually get a hasty justification saying why something was necessary.  And the worst justification?  Emotional weakness, which crops up a lot more than you’d care to see if you only paid attention.

Why did you buy that brand new laptop?
Why did you trade in your paid off 7 year old car to finance a new car?
Why did you play golf instead of update your resume?
Why did you buy that expensive meal?
Why did you buy those event tickets?
Why did you buy that new wardrobe?

All of these questions, posed to a person either in debt, struggling, job-hunting, or in a similar negative situation would likely be met by a flash of anger and a quick response justifying the answer using emotionally charged language – “I needed to unwind”, “I needed a break” or similar.

Guess what?  When you are fighting your way out of consumer debt that you yourself have brought upon yourself, first note that you yourself brought it upon you (uh… yourself).  In war, there are plenty of emotions – but it is counterproductive to the task at hand.  And make no mistake, you are at war.  With yourself; with the poor decisions that you have already proven yourself capable of making; with consumerism; with a safe retirement – the fact is, you’re in a position where you can’t just quit and say “what will be, will be”.  You need to take active steps towards the end goal… emotions need to get thrown out the window.

Dispassionate Analysis

Since I can’t physically shake you, hopefully this article shakes the core of your being.  Getting your finances in order is goal number one – you can’t justify sacrificing your future self on the altar of current consumption.  Once you get going towards your goal of a fit financial future, the dominoes fall quickly.  When your financial house is in order, that’s when you can consider that new laptop or the newer car.  And guess what?  If your house is in order you’ll probably come to a different conclusion on those purchases.

You need to practice dispassionate analysis with your finances.  What is your goal – immediate, mid term, long term?  How can you get there?  If the word ‘feel’ or any justification works its way into your thoughts, don’t let it get any further.  If it doesn’t fit in an Excel formula, it has no place in getting you out of debt.

Remember – your emotions are likely what got you into this debt.  Only your intellect can get you out.


  1. Alex Dumpfree says

    The blog on intellect trumps emotion is an eye opener. One should not be emotional while buying a product. The buyer must think and analyze dispassionately. The buyer must try to think logically without getting emotional. It is the advertisements which tickle our emotions and make us greedy and the companies sell their dreams through advertisements. We need to face the reality and come out from that dream world!

    • says

      I agree, for the most part, but Mrs. DQYDJ would slap me if I didn’t note that sometimes emotion has a part. Our dog, our house, even her car (and her ring(s)) had some emotional aspect to their purchases, even if they also were part of the financial mater plan. Thanks for the comment!

  2. greg says

    “first note that you yourself brought it upon you (uh… yourself)” – I have found that phrasing it like “you have control over …” to be a more convincing way to initiate change =P

  3. RichUncle EL says

    I agree with the premise of the post. Current consuption of goods and services should not harm your future goals.

  4. 101 Centavos says

    “I feel” and “I think” are hated expressions to hear with it comes to numbers and data. Fact-driven trumps emotion every time.

    Emotions do have their place with it comes to money though. Displays of passion and feeling are effective in negotiation sessions, the trick is to know *when*.

    • says

      I don’t need to negotiate too often at my day job. Perhaps sometimes when I’m promising software deliverables, but our group is a few steps from the money anyway so it’s not a huge deal. Does site advertising count? I take a pretty hard line in that, haha.

      • 101 Centavos says

        Generally hard and sometimes counterproductive to display emotion in an email exchange. Unless it’s with cute emoticons.

  5. says

    Separating emotion and money was the best thing that happened to my finances in 2011/12, trumping a new job, side income and reduced housing costs. The Guess What? paragraph could be made into some word art and framed. It’s that good!

  6. Penny Bits says

    New to your blog and I LOVE this post. How’s that for emotion? I’m adding this to my reader so I can get that good shaking anytime I need it.

    • says

      That’s great, I hope it really did light one of those proverbial fires. Fair warning: most of our articles have numbers in them, so I hope I don’t lure your in with false advertising. Thanks for subscribing!

  7. Jose says

    What about applying or letting emotions override logic when investing? Iposted an article on this earlier today if anyone is interested in reading it,

    • says

      Investing is pretty dangerous if you go on tilt – and it’s as easy to do it when you miss most of an upswing or if you catch most of a downswing. I’m a huge fan of mechanical checks – I constantly watch company valuation, and let my math do the checking for me.