Perfectionists have impossibly high standards. And impossibly high standards make things impossible, setting up a never ending cycle of procrastination, overwhelm and discouragement.

With finances, it usually starts with some “expert” advice. For instance, financial experts say that we should save 20-40% of our income. They will tell us how much to budget for a clothing allowance. They’ll give us a surefire way to pay off our debt.

Now, these are all great goals. They look great on paper, and they work well for some people. But for a perfectionist, this well-meaning advice can become a trap.

Perfectionists spend most of their time letting their caveman brain run the shots. This primitive portion of the brain is very rigid and thinks only in black-and-white terms. With the caveman brain running the shots, a perfectionist is operating from an system of all-or-nothing, success or failure.

This ever happen to you?
So when a financial expert tells a perfectionist how to do something, it has to be done exactly that way or else it’s not right. And anything less is not even worth doing or trying. So here are three scenarios of how that might play out:

Procrastination: The perfectionist wants to set a goal of saving 20% of his income, but deep down, it feels impossible. Before he even starts, he’s going to have to pull up his old records from the past 5 years and set up some sort of system for budgeting, or else he might as well not even start! And where’s he going to find that extra 20%, anyway? That’s going to be a lot of work, and he just doesn’t have the time for it. After all, he’s already cut into his free time by bringing home work from the office.
Overwhelm: Okay, this perfectionist has her system all worked out! She’s got it exactly right and now it’s time to put it to use. She’s keeping every receipt and jotting every expense down in her ledger. But wait! What happened to her receipt from lunch? How much did that lunch cost, anyway? Maybe she can check her credit card account online. Wait! It hasn’t posted yet. She’ll just write a note to check tomorrow, so she won’t be able to reconcile today’s ledger until tomorrow ... pretty soon, there’s a breakdown in her perfect system, and she sinks into overwhelm trying to stick to the plan!
Discouragement: This perfectionist has executed the plan for five days, when he realizes that he has to get his oil changed. How could he forget to budget his car maintenance? Then there’s the unexpected office party. He should’ve known that things like this would crop up! This shouldn’t be this hard, but there’s just no way he can eke out 20 % this week. He just can’t seem to get it together, and he believes that this type of thing can never work for him!

Step into success
Perfectionists are really hard workers and really smart people, but their all-or-nothing thinking sets them up for failure in their own lives. They can be work-a-holics, trying to execute everything perfectly and winding up with no energy for their own goals or fun. Or everything seem so complicated or overwhelming that they either put things off or quit.

The key to having success with financial goals is to step into it slowly and simply. Since the perfectionist thinks in terms of success and failure, you have to create success by starting small and slow. Set aside the ultimate goal of saving 20% per week for now, and create a new goal that can give you absolute success.

Make the new goal easy to hit and easy to execute. Don’t put a lot of planning into it, or it might not happen. So maybe you’re just going to start saving $1 per week.

Now I know what the perfectionist is thinking -- after all, I used to be one! Why bother? That’s ridiculous! That doesn’t amount to anything! It’s not worth it! That’s that caveman brain talking, and you just have to learn to ignore it and set the goal anyway. Remember that we’re stepping in slowly and simply.

After a month of success, bump up the number to $2. Or maybe you’ll even be ready to step up to $5 per week. But remember, keep the increments small and simple so that you can keep having success and eventually reach that 20% goal. If you start to feel those signs of procrastination, overwhelm and discouragement creeping in, recognize it as the perfectionist trap. Just take a step back and rework the plan, so that you can feel good about what you’re doing and continue to succeed.

Author's Bio: 

JJ Frederickson helps people Live Life Easy by making the powerful connection between stress and the caveman brain. She is a certified life coach and trainer with The Fearless Living Institute. And JJ the Life Coach is also Today's TMJ4 Life Coaching Expert on Milwaukee's NBC affiliate. She is currently working on her first book tentatively titled, "Live Life Easy: Stop Thinking Like a Caveman and Start Living Your Perfect Life."

JJ has a BA in Broadcast and Electronic Communication from Marquette University, with a Journalism emphasis. She’s been a writer and editor for Southern Lakes Media and a news reporter for WIN-TV and WMIR. She was also owner and founder of Sage Street Dance Company.

As a Life Coach, JJ has truly found her calling, “Life Coaching brings everything in my life together. Talk about accessing my perfect self! I get to pull together all my skills and experiences to help people reduce stress and fall in love with their lives. It’s amazing!”