Rationalization Is All Around You


Rationalization Is All Around You

Each year at the beginning of December, me and my hubby set out our weekend schedules to make sure that we watch all of our important holiday movies before Christmas. This isn’t always an easy task since I typically fall asleep by 8pm on Fridays, but even if we have to move our schedules around, we make sure that the important ones of never missed.

In case you are wondering, the movies on our “must see” holiday list include National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Love Actually, Elf, A Christmas Story, Charlie Brown Christmas, and Mickey’s Christmas Carol. Nothing gets us in the mood for the holidays like this group of movies.

Inspired by my favorite Christmas movie

This past weekend we watched my favorite holiday movie and one of my all-time favorite movies, Love Actually. For those of you who have never seen this classic, the movie is broken up into 10 segments sharing the loves and heartbreaks of various people in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Every time I watch this movie, I try to figure out whose storyline is my favorite and whose breaks my heart the most. While I always determine that Jamie and Aurelia represent my favorite couple, I have to say that a close second to me in recent years is the story of Billy Mack and Joe.

Billy Mack, played brilliantly by Bill Nighy is a washed up aging rock star who is convinced by his manager to perform a Christmas remake of the song Love is All Around by the Troggs entitled Christmas Is All Around; and the opening scene with Billy trying to get the song right never ceases to crack me up.

This year as I listened to the song play over again, I thought a lot about some recent client meetings I’ve had and wanted to perform my own remake where instead of Christmas I inserted the word “Rationalization.”

Rationalization actually is all around

I think many of us struggle with our spending because we have the problem of over-rationalization when it comes to our spending choices. Most of us know that we should break up our spending categories into “needs, wants and wastes;” however if we rationalize purchases as needs when they are really wants or wastes, it’s easy to see our spending get out of control, especially around the holidays.

Yes, we all want to provide our families with a special holiday; however, gifts and holiday spending fall into the wants and wastes category. Most of us don’t need what we receive on Christmas and I hate to see money wasted out of a rationalization that we need to spend during the holidays.

Two answers instead of rationalization

Beyond Christmastime, though, rationalization continues to be all around us and I have the perfect rule of thumb for how you can combat this problem. If you are going to spend money, stop yourself and ask why you are doing it. This is the point where you can rationalize anything; however, I suggest that there are really only two answers.

Answer Number One: It’s Life or Death

If you need to spend money to save your life or the life of a loved one, then you should absolutely spend the money and deal with the ramifications afterward. I’m supportive of living a frugal and mindful lifestyle, but that should never come at the expense of your health or someone you love.

Answer Number Two: You Planned for It

One of the biggest things I get my clients to do is create plans for the quarter or for a full year and this includes spending in big and small areas. If you have a plan for your money for the year or any period of time, then it’s easy to stay focused on whether or not you should spend it. If you’re about to make a spending decision and it isn’t part of your plan or it takes you further away from achieving your plan, then you can’t rationalize doing it.

I know this is easier said than done, but it’s really that basic. I started framing my spending choices within these two answers and it really made a big difference in the choices that I made. If you don’t have a framework for your spending, then rationalization will take over and that’s where you’ll get into trouble. This year avoid the rationalizations and make sure your spending falls into one of these answers.

Do you rationalize poor spending choices as something you need? What was one of your worst rationalizations? How do you stop yourself from making a bad spending choice? What’s your favorite Christmas movie?

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Shannon is a financial planner who left a “traditional” financial services firm to start her own company, The Financial Gym, because she felt traditional financial services firms did not have the tools or resources to help people in their 20s and 30s who are starting out and trying to build assets while also managing debt. She realized that the key to long-term personal financial success is a commitment to financial fitness and making smart financial choices. Through her blog, Financially Blonde, her book, Train Your Way To Financial Fitness, her podcast, Martinis and Your Money and The Financial Gym, Shannon is committed to making financial fitness fun, easy and accessible for everyone.


  1. Elf is by far our favorite Christmas movie. 🙂 It’s tough not to get caught up in the moment when shopping during the holidays and use the excuse “It’s the Holidays” it’s okay to spend a little more. We make a plan and stick to it to prevent bad decisions.

  2. Love that storyline too. Not gonna lie. I’m sure I have rationalized a lot in my life. I think the biggest was the life coaching classes I took. I rationalized it was OK to go into debt to pay for my new “purpose” in life. I don’t know what I was thinking!

  3. Rationalization Is All Around you sounds like a 1980/90’s public service ad on TV. The more you know… ;o)

    I think everyone’s guilty of rationalizing at times – sometimes in really big ways or even in tiny ones. Like it’s only a few more dollars, it doesn’t matter.

    Did you know A Christmas Story is playing at The Papermill Playhouse? I found it to be surprisingly good.

  4. My favorite storyline will always be Hugh Grant’s character.

    I think I sometimes find myself rationalizing why I don’t try harder to enforce less spending — especially when it comes to my husband. Granted, some of the rationalizing is valid; health problems mean sometimes the convenience tax is worth it. But maybe not as often as I rely on that reasoning. It’s something I’m going to work on in the new year.

  5. All time favorite movie: A Christmas Story.

    I often rationalize purchasing tools. I do woodworking as a side hustle and I sometimes mix up “wise investment” with “this looks cool.”

    Thanks for the motivation! Keep up the good work.

  6. It’s easy to rationalize purchases! When I bought a car I couldn’t afford in my early 20s, I convinced myself I needed a new car for my career! What a huge lie that ended up being.
    Unfortunately (fortunately??), getting older means being more in touch with your own bullshit. I couldn’t convince myself of anything like that now.

  7. I absolutely love Christmas movies, but since I live with a nine year old, with the little time I have we have watched every dog Christmas movie on Netflix. Although watching a dog talk, while ensuring that the Christmas spirit stays in tact has lost it’s magic for me….seeing my child light up is well worth it.

    Missed you Shannon….Just came over to say hello….Happy Holidays.

  8. I haven’t watched any Christmas movies yet this holiday season :/ I did binge on Netflix the past couple days, in between catching up on YAM work. I think rationalization comes into play more than we think. It’s important for people to become self-aware of what they are truly rationalizing and why they are rationalizing it. For example, I have cable but I will be the first to admit it’s a “want” and absolutely not a need. I may try to rationalize something else, though, like needing a nicer car because I have a long commute and ‘deserve’ for it to be a comfortable one. Becoming self-aware of rationalization would be a wonderful goal for 2016 for just about anyone.

  9. I LOVE Love Actually! My friend and I have a tradition of watching it every year. I am going to watch it again tomorrow with my bf 🙂 It’s soooo good. I think it’s easy to rationalize things, it makes it easier for our brains to process. But not so good for our finances. Great post, Shannon!

  10. Rationalization is so common. A lot of people feel they “deserve” to treat themselves, and that’s what gets them trapped in debt. Like you mentioned, not differentiating between needs and wants is a big issue too. When I told my mother that no one NEEDS a new flat screen TV (it’s something they WANT) and an old TV is perfectly fine, she looked at me like I was completely insane. It’s amazing how many people don’t seem to be able to tell the difference between a “need” and a “want”.

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