No one can serve two masters


No one can serve two masters.

Coming across this adage the other day made me think how true it is. While it is surprisingly easy to want one thing and do another, this behaviour will eventually bring on negative consequences. Perhaps to one’s conscience, sanity, or sense of self. And certainly to one’s finances.

‘No one can serve two masters’ is helpfully defined by McGraw Hill as “Prov. You cannot work for two different people, organizations, or purposes in good faith, because you will end up favoring one over the other. (Biblical.) Al tried going to school and working, both full-time, but soon discovered that he could not serve two masters.

Think of your most pressing financial goal.  We’ll use the example of wanting to get out of debt.  Of course this is what we want!  In fact, we want nothing more – our debt can bring us stress, can prevent us from moving forward and can be tough on relationships.  And yet the spending patterns continue.  We are serving two masters: 1) wanting to be free from debt, and 2) spending how we’ve always spent.  These are two opposite forces that cannot be reconciled. Serving these two masters means makes us feel overwhelmed, defeated and hopeless.

We cannot change our impulse to spend.  It’s ingrained, and that’s okay.  And fortunately we have mechanisms at our disposal that can help.  That can create just enough space for us to make the decision that our tomorrow-self would want us to make.

So let’s keep it easy.  At your next spending decision, ask yourself:  Which master am I serving?  Am I:

1) Helping my financial goal

2) Hindering my financial goal

Help or Hinder.  That’s it.  And the answer might be #2 – that’s okay.  You’ll know that’s the master you chose to serve at that moment.  This is a subtle, but incredibly important step.  It’s like eating a late-night chocolate bar you don’t need. Saying “I am eating a chocolate bar that I don’t need” makes you own that decision.  It makes you responsible and aware.

I suppose the best of us can stay so focused as to resist opposing forces.  For the rest of us, choosing our desired master a little more often is an auspicious start.

Rich regards,


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Hello Spending, I’ve Been Expecting You

Imagine that yopublicu have a big presentation to make at work.  If public speaking isn’t your forte (and even if it is), you may feel nervous.  And you might feel disappointed in yourself for being nervous because a confident, knowledgeable person would not be.  Oh puh-leeze!  Confidence and knowledge have nothing to do with it.  The fact is, we are wired to want to please people.  And performing in front of them makes us vulnerable to their disapproval.  No wonder we get anxious!

So how to deal with this?  Does the advice “don’t worry about it” or “you’ll be fine” or “think positively” help?  I didn’t think so.

What if instead, we expected worry to show up?  The book Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents teaches a key concept which is to expect the worry.  Instead of dreading worry, learn to expect it.  So when it arrives (which it inevitably will), you don’t get upset.  You know it’s coming.  Your internal dialogue becomes “Oh hey, there you are Worry!  I’ve been expecting you.  You’re welcome to stay while I do other important stuff in my life”.

And you realize that you can accomplish great things even while you feel worried or anxious.  That you do not have to choose between anxiety OR success.  That a wonderful state of duality is possible: to feel anxious AND be successful!

Let’s put on our personal finance lens now.  After all, money is as much about psychology as anything else.

When we are out living our busy lives, we will inevitably run into things that we want to buy.  And we will have impulses, because evolution has wired us that way.  These impulses can leave us feeling powerless and disappointed.  Our good intentions of sticking to a budget desert us.

But having an intense desire to spend money is nothing to be ashamed of.  The impulse to spend is natural, normal, and always there.  And that impulse doesn’t need to write your story.  Next time it comes, give it this message:  “Hello Spending Impulse!  Yes I was expecting you, and here you are! It’s fine that you’ve arrived, and you are welcome to hang out.  By the way, I’ve got other goals I’m going to accomplish.”

“But having an intense desire to spend money is nothing to be ashamed of.”

You do not have to choose between being financially responsible and feeling impulsive.  You can feel impulsive AND be financially successful.   And that acceptance, that kindness, toward your impulses might be just the thing to stop them from turning into action.

Rich regards,


The Secret to Undoing Your Summer Spending

First we travelled to Regina.  Then Drumheller.  Then Penticton.  Then Edmonton.  Then Cypress Hills.  Sound familiar?  Or maybe your summer spending consisted of summer camps, backyard barbeques, and hosting travellers.  Whatever it is, many of us feel tapped out after summer holidays.  But as a hand-written note on the lid of my recent to-go cup put it, “Don’t look back.  You’re not going that way.”  So instead of beating yourself up over past spending, look forward.  The most powerful antidote you have against summer spending is to take a Spending Holiday.  No, not the kind where you spend money, but the kind where you take a holiday from spending.

The most powerful antidote you have against summer spending is to take a Spending Holiday.

No, not the kind where you spend money, but the kind where you take a holiday from spending.

A Spending Holiday doesn’t have to involve number crunching or spreadsheets.  It’s as straightforward as asking yourself one simple question before you part with your money:  “Is this something I can live without?”.  If the answer is yes, liberate yourself and your credit card by keeping your wallet shut.

Framing a choice as a simple yes or no makes decisions delightfully clear.  No, I can’t live without paying my kid’s hockey fees.  Yes, I can pass on those concert tickets.

The more times you say Yes, the quicker your finances will recover.  And those summer memories?  They’ll feel even sweeter.

Rich regards,