In the long run, I believe that honesty is definitely the best policy. One can get away by being dishonest for a short term, but ultimately, honesty is what pays.
When I began actively looking into buying a house, I visited my credit union to inquire about how much I could get a loan for and the general interest rate I could expect. I had exactly enough credit history to apply for a loan. The broker said “You must live a very simple life.” I replied with “I don’t like debt.”
And it’s true. My life is drama-free and relatively simple. The key is being honest with yourself and with those you deal with.
My neighbor is losing his house. He’s moving into an apartment, and he wondered aloud to me what would happen if he left the utilities in the complex’s name. I told him he’d probably be fined by his complex and then evicted if he didn’t take care of it. Then he decided to put the utilities in his roommate’s name so he didn’t have to pay the balance he owes the utility company. Now he’s going to stop paying on one of his rent-to-own furniture sets because he doesn’t want it anymore.
This is exactly the sort of dishonesty that gets people into these situations. He is, sadly, not the only person I’ve seen work as hard at not paying as some people do at just making the money to pay what is owed.
But being honest with others is easy. The hard part is being honest with yourself.
You have to know what your weaknesses are. You have to acknowledge when you’re making excuses in order to stop making them. Admitting that “I’m going to just buy shit and that’s just the way I am” is failing to be honest with yourself. “I’m just going to buy shit and I don’t have control over my finances” is much more truthful. There are times to just buy shit, but those should be few and far between, depending on your financial situation. Eventually you know when and where to spend and how much to allot yourself to indulge your particular weaknesses. You don’t stress out about your purchases because you know it’s okay. You’ve got it covered.
Being honest with yourself is realizing your mistakes and correcting or mitigating them. It’s knowing that you’re losing your home because you’ve chosen to spend your money on rent-to-own furniture, DVDs, and late payment fees. It’s knowing that buying that thing isn’t the best move, but you’re not going to lose your home because your mortgage payment has already been sent out for next month, you’ve got everything else covered, and your emergency fund is rebuilding itself nicely.
Trying to fix your mistakes is costly, trying to prevent them is hard, but trying to get out of them dishonestly will bite you in the ass every time. What I didn’t tell my neighbor was that the utility company requires the name on the lease to match the name on the account. The digital age will ensure you pay your pound of flesh, there’s no way around it.