Finances are definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. In fact, if you do not get extremely excited when someone mentions personal finance that’s okay. You’re not alone. Often when people find their heads in the sand over their financial situation, it can lead to a rude awakening. Credit tends to not be available when you need it, money is tight for everyone else and your boss seems to be freezing that cost of living raise. So, why are you avoiding your finances?
Sometimes when people think of their personal finances, they automatically feel shame. Perhaps you are just not where you thought you would be with your earning potential and feel behind in your peers. This happened to me when I was younger and felt everyone was light years ahead of me financially. At 29, I was living with a roommate deciding to go back to school while other people were buying homes and taking worldly trips.
Another reason you may feel shame is due to a financial predicament you might be in. Maybe you are currently behind in bills or have a collection agency to deal with. You might feel hopeless and have no one to turn to.
Raise your hand if your parents taught you how to balance a checkbook? What about utilities or how to secure an apartment on your own? Credit score?
A lot of our families do not teach us independent or financial skills until we are already out on the real world for a variety of reasons. Maybe you belong to a multi generation household or your parents simply do not know enough to feel confident to teach you. If you do not know enough about budgeting, frugal living or 401ks, you can easily feel overwhelmed and not want to deal with anything.
What if you actually make decent money, know a lot about personal finance and you are still not saving adequately? Could your mindset be effecting you?
As humans, we learn by example and lead by our feelings. Its human nature and perfectly okay in reason, as long as you are rational. But because you have a “money script”, you tend to believe and feel things that may not necessarily be true. Experts Bradley & Ted Klontz, as featured in this Huffington Post article, have termed the phrase money script , citing “money scripts are typically unconscious, developed in childhood, passed down from generation to generation within families and cultures, contextually bound, and often only partial truths”.
Think about this for just a second. Did you grow up with food on the table? A lot of us, especially if we had parents who used government assistance, may have noticed that food was plentiful at the beginning of the month and by the end, you were stuck eating cereal. My mom who was terminally ill and just getting by did this a lot. And while I still eat cereal for dinner from time to time, it’s not necessarily because I am barely getting by as much as it is laziness. But because this happened, it’s important for me to make sure every paycheck, I allow myself a certain amount for food so it doesn’t run out. Even if I have food at home or will be away on vacation, I still budget that same amount in fear of running out. That is one of my many “money scripts” that has been passed on to me from the generation before.
Maybe you did not grow up poor, but perhaps you had parents living paycheck to paycheck or were consistently stressed out over their finances. As a child seeing consistent stress and fighting may lead you to think your own finances are going to be stressful or frustrating and you would rather not deal with it. Past aggressions can sneak up on us in all aspects of our lives, especially money.
So, what can we do instead?
First, take a deep breath. Know that if you are in a money mess or worse, rock bottom, it can only go up from here. And I have a hard time saying worse because you are not a tree. Very few things in our life our truly permanent. We have the power to change so much and you are not going to be built in a day, just like Rome.
Figure out where you stand financially, what your debts and savings are, including retirement and look to see if you have any assets. You might be better off than you had originally imagined and if you aren’t so what? Remember, we can only go up from here.
After you truly assess your financial picture, make a spending plan, which is what I affectionately call a budget. Figure out your expenses and how you can apply incoming funds to take care of business, including your money mess if you have one. Figure out a payment plan if you are in the hole with bills, start saving if you don’t have anything to your name and cover your financial obligations, such as retirement.
Maybe you made a spending plan and realized you just don’t have adequate funds after taxes are taken out. I truly get it. That happens to a lot of people once they start earning their first paycheck. If this is the case, figure out if you have cut all expenses that you can and look at options such as temporary assistance if this applies to your situation.
If you’ve already cut as much as you can and do not qualify for assistance, try to earn more money. There are dozens of ways to earn extra money on the side with all sorts of skills a person may possess. Consider freelancing online if you have a writing or graphic designing background, babysitting in person or running errands if you have a car. Millionaires tend to have multiple income streams so don’t feel bad spending less time watching TV and instead, doing something productive with your time.
You can also look into earning more at work by asking for a raise, changing positions or trying to find a new job altogether. Just make sure you do your research and come prepared with talking points. Websites such as Glassdoor.com can help when doing this type of research by allowing you to see what others in your field are making in your area and what competitors may be paying their staff. Just remember to never threaten to leave your place of employment unless you are ready to walk away. If you stay after you threaten to leave, this can be used against you down the road.
When people think of dates, they often think of wooing someone with who they have a romantic interest in or even love. But who said we just have to show love to person and not ourselves? Or our money?
Block a night off once a week where you can take time to relax and get cozy with your money. Maybe light a candle for ambiance and pour a glass of wine to help you get ready to look over your spending over the past week, your spending for the next week and any financial goals you may be working on. This is a good way to review your expenses, bills and accounts in a way you don’t want to maybe throw up every time you see them. The more you do something, the more it becomes a habit. And when we have healthy habits, we can form a healthy relationship with our finances.
These are just a few ways to combat the uneasy feelings money may bring in our lives so that we may have an easier experience with it. These feelings might not go away overnight but with time and healthy money habits, it can be a thing of the past.