The Biggest Lie I’ve Ever Told Myself

I know a lot of personal finance bloggers write at least one post explaining their biggest financial mistake, and I’m sure I have a few of those to share. I could tell you about the credit card balance transfer I almost couldn’t repay during the promotional period, or the addiction to that easily had me putting $200/month on my credit card. There are a couple of other decisions I made that I’m not proud of, but lately I’ve been thinking about the one big reason I got into debt in the first place. It’s the same reason I’ve always sucked at saving money, and why I kept eating while I was gaining weight, and why I kept partying and holding onto unhealthy relationships when I knew I shouldn’t: I was lying to myself. And each big lie included two small words:

“One day.”

I’ll pay off my debt one day. I’ll start going to the gym one day. I’ll stop eating so much junk food one day. One day, I won’t drink until I blackout. One day, I’ll give up holding onto relationships that aren’t going to work. One day, I’ll live a healthier life. One day, one day, one day – those two simple words paired together are full of both truth and denial. Each time I swiped my credit card, I knew it was because I didn’t have the cash for the purchase but I convinced myself I would be able to pay off my card. Whenever I gave into food cravings or declined invitations to go to the gym, I knew I was making the wrong decision but I convinced myself it was the best decision in that moment. If I had to guess, I would say 75% of the alcohol I drank went on credit, so we could call that a double whammy of denial. Somehow, I just always managed to convince myself that I was happy with my life, when secretly I knew the decisions I was making were wrong and that one day I really would have to do something about it.

The “one day” lie was finally up when I was 25 years old, maxed out with $28,000 of debt and weighing in at 209 lbs. At the time, most of my social life consisted of shopping, eating out and partying. The first “one day” lie I had to stop telling myself was that I would pay off all of my debt – I had no choice but to start doing that. In switching to a more frugal lifestyle, I slowly started to cut back on how much / how often I was eating out which resulted in losing a few pounds. Eventually, seeing the progress I was making with my debt repayment motivated me to start going to the gym. When I was in the routine of going to the gym 5 days/week, I started to realize that alcohol had to play a smaller and smaller part in my life. I was finally able to kiss that last “one day” lie goodbye, but I still feel those two words creep up on me all the time.

I keep thinking that one day I’ll have savings in the bank. One day, I’ll have an Emergency Fund. One day, I’ll save enough to buy my first home. One day, I’ll make $100,000/year. One day, I’ll be able to retire. Where do these thoughts come from and why aren’t there actionable steps behind them? Why do I continue to make silly little purchases, when there are more financial goals ahead of me that need to be tackled? Because it’s easier? Maybe in the moment, but making the easy decision now puts me in a tougher situation down the line. There really is no such thing as “one day” – today, and every day, is the day I need to start taking action. I’ve proven this by getting out of debt, losing weight and making healthier decisions overall. It starts with one decision, turns into a routine and becomes a way of life. So, I’m done with “one day” lies. The jig is up. I’m writing “One day is today” on a Post-It and sticking it on every mirror in my apartment.

What would you say is the biggest lie you’ve ever told yourself?

  • I could easily post this identical article on NWW with my name on it and it would be true.

    For so long in my early 20’s, I was the “one day” guy. I put off success in many avenues of life to just enjoy life in the moment. Though there are some good memories from doing so, nothing compares to the struggle and delayed life in my late 20’s due to paying down debt.

    This is great advice for “youngsters” aka early 20’s. Asking one’s self what can be done today to improve your life tomorrow can reduce a lot of struggle later on.

    Enjoyed this article!

  • Very well written and obviously a great call to action for some of your readers. Just found your blog accidentally and very impressed!

  • It’s amazing how so many of us fall into the “One Day” trap without even realizing it. So many of us, including myself can relate to this. Thanks for sharing!

  • Yep, procrastination/dreaming kills me in many areas of my life. It’s funny, I was never very active, but last year I learned to run. And I ran road races and everything (so far, 5, 8 and 10k’s) but I gave it up because my life got too busy. But not busy enough to stop me from shopping… and my debt spiked up. I am going to have to start back at square one with my running, but I am going to do it – I will be a balanced person (financially, physically, and emotionally)!

  • If I were a better writer I’d swear that I had written this! I’ve had very similar conversations about how I always use this “one day” excuse. I’ve told myself “one day” about so many things, so many times, but only actually follow through when I don’t have a choice.

    I’m definitely suffering from the “debt fatigue” right now. Maybe stealing your “one day is today” mantra will help me get through it. Or at the very least tread water until I can find the motivation again. :)

    • I’ve had this post drafted forever, so I’m happy I finally finished it.

      As for debt fatigue, I think it’s ok to take breaks. Just make sure you’re making at least the minimum payments for one month, until you can regroup and figure out next month’s strategy. I went through that a few times…

  • Amazing! This has been the most meaningful post I’ve read in a while. Maybe because it hit me right between the eyes. I’ve told that lie to myself quite often lately and in a lot of the same areas you have. Looks like I needed a little motivation :) Thanks for writing this!

  • “What would you say is the biggest lie you’ve ever told yourself?”

    For me, Cait, that would be thinking that I had all the answers. Not so – at least not all the time. We’re always learning something new and rethinking our positions on certain topics. Facing reality with an open mind to other people’s valid viewpoints. We all have weaknesses and as Clint Eastwood (playing Dirty Harry) would say: “A man has to know his limitations”! :-)

  • This post was spot on! I’m sure a lot of people out there are guilty of it too but are too chicken to admit it so bravo to you for being honest with yourself and owning up to it.
    I have definitely told myself “one day…” a million times and in the end it was just an excuse to not have to face the truth. Hearing statements like “YOLO” and “we only live once” are obviously dangerous words to live by but it’s hard to block them out when it has become society’s choice of words.
    My mentality is to get it done today because you never know what tomorrow may bring.
    “One day is today” Thanks for the motivation!

  • That ‘one day’ talk is such a trap!! I’ve said I’ll be happy ‘one day’ and make more money ‘one day’. The time is now and things don’t move unless you are in the driver’s seat. Congrats on moving through it and taking ownership. In so many ways, denial is easier.

  • Awesome post, Cait. I can totally relate — it’s amazing how often I do something I know I shouldn’t, whether it’s sleeping in instead of working out or having something sugary for breakfast. I think my justification is similar to yours — “I’ll work out tomorrow,” I think, knowing full well I won’t. One day is definitely today!

  • I’d love to meet the person that never once used this excuse. I know for me it’s what I use for exercising consistently. I go into good grooves for a while and always end up falling off the wagon. I need to apply the same discipline I have with money to working out. There are no excuses.

  • Thanks for another inspirational post Cait. I couldn’t have put it so eloquently as you did. But “One day is today” has definitely been a theme for me over this last year and a half as I finally went out and got my second job and paid off all my credit card debt. Many of my friends, family and colleagues were quick to say I don’t know how you work so much. But for me it was something I HAD to do. “One day” was today. I couldn’t stand one more year drowning in debt. So I have already tackled “One day I’ll pay off my debt” and I am about to tackle “One day I’ll go back to school”. I registered for two night classes yesterday that will be starting on January 6th. I’m still working on one day I will eat and live healthier. But tackling two “one days” this year has been awesome and I’ve already gotten better at bringing lunch and supper with me on those days I’m out of the house all day and evening.

    Thanks again Cait.

    • Woo hoo! You’ve made so much progress this year, Trista – and all because YOU took control of situations you wanted to change. I love it. Next year, you can work on adding in healthy lifestyle choices into your new routine of work + school. If it’s in your routine, it’ll stop feeling like a chore… and then it’ll happen EVERY day. :)

  • I think the “one day” view isn’t necessarily bad because not everything can be achieved in one day. I’m in debt and one day I won’t be but I know I can’t pay it all off today. I tell myself I will pay it off eventually because otherwise, it’s easy to give up on.

    I will say however, that when it comes to eating less dessert, your view on starting today is definitely something I need to follow. But it’s so hard… lol

    • If you’re already paying off your debt, though, you’re not telling yourself it’ll happen “one day”… you’re actively working on that goal today. “One day” is if you were still just thinking about paying it off, but ignoring the situation and just making the minimum payments.

  • YES. That “One Day” trap has gotten to me so badly in the past, especially when I was in college. It’s so easy to look to the future and avoid dealing with the present. I’m dealing with the “This little bit doesn’t matter” lie right now.

  • I’ve fed myself that line many times too!

    Going from a passive “one day” sentiment to an active “one day” statement is the hard part.

    But once you get going on those “one day” promises, it’s a fun and wild ride!

  • What an honest post and certainly one that pertains to me as well. I truly believed that ‘one day’ everything would work out. Sadly, that day never arrived. I have only been on my down with debt project for about a month, but am more committed than ever to be completely debt free in 18 months. (hopefully sooner!)

    Thank you for a fantastic post!

    • Amazing goal, Talia! Does your debt repayment plan include any fun money, so you can still enjoy life over the next 18 months?

  • I find this happening all to often with myself, too. One day, I’ll wake up earlier. One day, I won’t procrastinate so much and get everything done on time. That one day should be today, as there’s really no reason to hold off. I’ve been breaking some barriers (running/exercise), but I still have a bit more to work on. One day might never come, and I don’t want to have any regrets about the choices I made.

    • No regrets – I used to live by that motto. Unfortunately, I think I had all the wrong priorities. Do whatever it takes to make sure you don’t have any. :)

  • Love this! Although I hate reading that you were at such extremes. :( But of course you’re doing great now. My big one day was when I was laid off and was playing volleyball and not being productive. I thought “one day” the freelance work would just start rolling in. Ooops! My bad. :)

    • Haha, now we both know how hard it can be to find it… and how many pitches it can take! Ahh well. Onwards and upwards. :)

  • This is definitely the best post you have ever written. I am tired of the one day this, one day that roller coaster. I have been telling myself that I am going to move to a different city for a while now. Time to start putting forth the effort.

  • I think we’ve all been guilty of this one. Procrastination and not taking charge of our lives can really set us back a lot. It’s good you realized what the problem was, this way you can make sure you don’t repeat the same mistake again.

    • Agreed. Now it’s just time to start tackling a few of the other “one day” goals I have floating around in my mind… :)

  • I was living a life similar to the one you describe when one day I woke up and realized this isn’t me. It wasn’t who I really was. I was spending too much time trying to be someone else – the cool one or the carefree one. I may no longer be fun, but I am much happier being me.

  • With this post you have, so eloquently, legitimized so many feelings and inspired so much action. So wonderful!

    This is exactly how I’ve been feeling about my fitness over the last few months–continuously opting for the shorter run or easier hike while simultaneously wishing for the endurance and physique that I had a year ago. Whether it’s with regards to paying off debt, getting in shape or anything in life, it’s easy to forget that every small decision DOES matter in the grande scheme of things. This post was such a great reminder of that!


  • Ah yes I related to this one so much. Almost every addiction and area lacking in my life has been due to me putting off the hard part (actually doing something to make my life better).

    This is still a struggle I deal with every day!

  • Cait, thank you. This post explains every roller coaster I’ve been on in my life. The biggest lie I’ve ever told myself was that buying stuff would make it all better. It would make me happier somehow…it never does.
    Thank you :)

  • Really great post Cait. We all get tricked by that “one day” lie, me especially. Time to start doing, and I mean today!

  • I appreciate the honesty, don’t we all do that? One day is the same as ‘tomorrow’ or ‘next time.’ We’re trying to figure these things out too! The most helpful thing is identifying manageable steps to take. Saving 10k is intimidating, saving $x a week is manageable.

  • I love the physical reminders! That should help!

    Sometimes I pretend my life is a video game. What would I do if I was controlling someone else instead of myself? My avatar probably would probably put down the donut and hit the gym…

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