Obsessing Over Finances — When Does it Go Too Far?

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“My wife is undeniably right; I have found a relatively healthy thing (financial independence) to obsess over. I guess it’s better than constantly straightening my fork at Red Robin. Where it probably crosses the line is in the form of my hyper sensitivity to spending, and my overall monitoring of the expenses.”

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Let me just being this post by saying that I’m not a Doctor. If you’ve read any of my previous posts on this blog at all that should be almost as abundantly clear as me making statements such as, “I am not a squirrel,” or “I am not a log cabin.”

So when I talk about things such as my OCD, keep in mind that I’ve only self-diagnosed myself (with the constant “help” of my wife), and am really talking out my ass about the subject in general. It should also be stated that, whether I suffer from a mild form of it or not, I am in no way making light of people dealing with this disorder in any form.

I have some quirks that I very rarely notice, but others pick up on. An example would be that if I sit down at a table at a restaraunt, I straighten the silverware and napkins so that everything is perpendicular and/or at a nice right angle.

If I’m sitting in a meeting and I put my sketchbook on the table, I’ll meticulously adjust it until its bottom edge runs as parallel as possible with the edge of the table.

I tend to obsess over details like this, but at the same time I allow pure and utter chaos to enter my life at other times. As I type this I’m staring at my desk which is cluttered with car keys, vitamin bottles, pens, post-it notes, a hard drive, and for some reason and empty Ziploc bag that has been on my desk for weeks. Not sure what was in it, and equally not sure why I haven’t just thrown it away. I’m 93% positive it was not a human toe. I think I threw that bag out ages ago.

Yet when I find that thing that latches onto that obsessive part of my brain, it’s really hard for me to shut it off and let go.

When it comes to this condition manifesting in my job, it’s actually served me pretty well. I have taken an entry level job at one of the most well-known companies in the world and no college degree, and turned it into a role as a senior member of my team with a college degree and 2 additional two-year certifications to boot. All because I love my job and am obsessed with growing as much in it as I can.

When I was studying to become a digital animator, I would literally spend 5 hours a night and another 20 on weekends at my computer after work, honing my skills. Sometimes I’d get home at 7:00pm, and work until 3:00am, only realizing far too late that I was only going to get 4 hours of sleep that night.

So that kind of obsession is mostly good. My wife and kids will sometimes tell you that the hours Dad works can suck, but otherwise it’s provided a great life for us.

When it comes to things like wanting a new gadget, car, or other similar non-essential item, I get obsessed with finding and buying it as soon as I’ve officially made up my mind to get it. There have been times where I have driven 3 hours for an iWatch that I could have easily waited 2 days to get in the mail, paying more in gas and final price, just to have it now. This is a good part of the reason why I am in the financial situation that I am right now.

When it comes to a videogame I love, I’ll spend hours, days and even weeks playing the game and attempting to master it. I would be scared sh*tless to ever add up the number of hours I’ve put into videogames, but I can at least partially justify it since I work in the videogame industry.

So that kind of obsession mostly bad. Or at least that’s what my wife told me I had to say.

Finances hit squarely in the obsession column for me, and once I recovered from the initial shock of just how in debt we were, I became obsessed with getting things back on track.

  • I created a spreadsheet to track every single cent we were spending, and it has now ballooned into a monster file that tracks investments in real time, savings, spending, all purchases, and things like what percentage equity we currently have in our home.
  • I called every single credit card company we had, often waiting on hold for hours, and whittled down every interest rate I could.
  • I refinanced a car, which took days of shopping to find the best rate.
  • I refinanced our home to free up some monthly cash. That process has taken just shy of 2 months, but will be completed early in August.
  • I read financial articles and listened to podcasts as often as possible
  • I read almost every book that was recommended to me on the subject. I’m not a typical reader at all, and I bet I’ve read 50 books on this subject by now.
  • I watched hundreds of YouTube videos from various “money gurus.”
  • I joined financial Facebook groups and dug through mountains of awesome posts from the folks in them.
  • Oh… and I started this blog.

That’s in the timespan of just over 6 months!

So to say I’ve been obsessed with overcoming our mistakes is putting it mildly. At one point my wife said, “I can’t quite tell, but it feels like you’re actually enjoying this.”

My wife is undeniably right; I have found a relatively healthy thing (financial independence) to obsess over. I guess it’s better than constantly straightening my fork at Red Robin. Where it probably crosses the line is in the form of my hyper sensitivity to spending, and my overall monitoring of the expenses.

For example, I have now gotten into the habit of checking our bank statement 6-10 times per day, even when I know nothing has been spent. It’s a weird nervous tick I’ve now developed where I just yank out my phone and check the bank records. This is not because I think my wife will have suddenly purchased a new chainsaw or snowmobile. It’s mainly because I spent the first 2 months of this process being “surprised” constantly by expenses to the point where it felt like almost every day I found something new I hadn’t accounted for, thus throwing our debt-to-income even further out of whack.

Now I have everything accounted for, but I still can’t shake the feeling that I’ll be surprised by a bill or expense at some point that I was absolutely not expecting.

This is where the dangerous part of the obsession comes in, because I’m sure this has all had a negative affect on my blood pressure and general health. So to counter this, I meditate daily, I exercise daily, and I try to eat good foods for my body daily. I’ve cut pretty much every single bit of processed sugar from my life, and I try to take frequent breaks with my family. This past weekend we purposely selected a trail high on a mountain where we knew I wouldn’t have cell phone coverage, and thus couldn’t look at my bank statement.

When I’m at home or at work though, that spreadsheet is always open, and I tinker with it whenever work and life permit. Oh… and one day I literally caught myself checking the bank ledger on my phone while standing at the urinal. In case you ever need to borrow my phone, it has since been wiped down with Clorox wipes. (My hands smelled like lemons for days!)

I think healthy obsessions can sometimes be a good thing. Getting obsessed about getting into better phsyical health, or spending more time with friends and family, or taking on a new hobby are all examples of decent things to get mildly obsessed about.

Almost every obsession can cross a line though, and I fear I’ve probably stepped over that line and back a few times on this journey. My hope is that, as the sting of the initial faceplant subsides, things will just beging to sort of “flow” and then I won’t feel the need to be involved on the same level.

When that day comes, I think I’ll get on my wife’s new snowmobile, fire up her chainsaw, and go have some REAL fun.

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What are your obsessions both healthy and otherwise? Do you think I’m taking things too far? Let me know so I can obsessive over your comment! Just enter it in the fancy little box below this post, and I’ll read and respond as soon as possible!

3 thoughts on “Obsessing Over Finances — When Does it Go Too Far?

  1. I understand. I haven’t got that far, but I understand. While I won’t say we have the market cornered, I’d say those of us in software tend to have that tendency.

    Liked by 1 person

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