The 3 Costs of Procrastination

July 12, 2016

The 3 Costs of Procrastination

What’s the busiest day of the week? Tomorrow. And the busiest time of the day? Later. Yes, we are always, always putting things off. But our procrastination comes with costs.

This may seem off-topic from finances, but it’s not at all. How often do we procrastinate in our money matters? Do you have a 401K with an old employer that you haven’t gotten around to moving? Have you been meaning to open an IRA? Have you ever said, “I’ll start paying off my debt when ____?”

Well, in my wisdom and (almost) forty years on this planet, I have come to the conclusion that procrastination will always cost us one of three things: time, money, or quality.

1. Time

Whether it’s dealing with long lines because we waited until the last possible minute to do something (Christmas Eve shoppers and April 15th, tax return mailers, I’m talking to you), or missing out on the benefits of investing early, putting things off costs us time.

2. Money

Late fees; higher hotel rates and airline fares; missed early-bird discounts; higher-priced seasonal items, etc. By delaying what we need to do, we ensure that it costs us more when we finally get around to doing it.

3. Quality

If you’ve ever waited until the first threat of snow to buy a shovel, then you know that procrastination can cost you quality. If you delay studying or writing a paper, the quality of what you produce will suffer. We sacrifice quality and choice, and we limit our options when we procrastinate.

Triple Threats

There are times when our procrastination will cost just one or two of the three costs: time, quality, or money. But there are times when it will cost us all three. Delaying any financial matter usually is at the expense of all three.

For example, I mentioned investing. By delaying that, we miss out on time in the market; we naturally lose money, and the quality of what our investments produce suffers.

Beware of the triple threats!

Counting the Costs of Procrastination

Extensive studies have been done on the psychology behind our procrastination, and maybe one day I’ll look into them. In the meantime, one tactic I use to combat procrastination is to count its costs.

I encourage you to do the same. When you feel the pull of procrastination, ask yourself, “Which of these three things will my procrastination cost me? Time? Money? Quality? All three?”

In answering that question, you will be more aware of the consequences of your procrastination, and hopefully, that will propel you into action. The worst result of procrastination is inaction. Counting its costs is a good antidote.


My challenge to you is select one thing that you’ve been putting off and to commit to doing it. Give yourself a time frame to complete it so that you will be more likely to accomplish it.

I’ll start. I do have a 401K with an old employer. I’m going to give myself three weeks to figure out what I’m going to do with it and to move it.

Your turn! What is your procrastination costing you? What have you been putting off regarding your finances? Let me know what it is in the comments, and when you’re going to do it!