Money relationships can be complicated. If you could rate your relationship with money on a scale from 1-10, what would it be? If it’s anything less than an 8, you have some work to do. Having a healthy relationship with money is key to being financially stable. In fact, the way you relate to money has a direct correlation to the way you behave towards it. Further, your financial goals and how you use money are determined by your habits, thoughts, and feelings about money. So, if you want to improve your finances, you must first cultivate a healthy relationship with money.
I have a confession to make – the relationship that I have with money needed some work. Although I love money and the many comforts that it affords me in life, I realize that my money management skills over the last two years were nothing to brag about. Yes I have a great job, loving relationship, and bomb ass friends. In reality, most would look at my life and not see anything wrong, but there’s a dark cloud that’s been following me for a few years now: my debt.
My debt, I finally realized, is a direct result of my tumultuous relationship with money. But instead of villainizing the credit card companies, I’ve decided to own my shit. After my admission, it suddenly clicked – if I had a better relationship with money, I wouldn’t be in this situation with my debt! Duh! Once I faced that hard truth; I decided enough was enough – and I dedicated myself to giving my relationship with money a much-needed makeover.
My Wake-Up Call
I’ll be honest with you guys, Money and I have never had a great relationship. Just thinking about it (earning it, saving it, spending it, and investing it) made my head spin. All I knew was that I liked to spend it. That coupled with the fact that I’m highly impulsive and look for any excuse to acquire something new doesn’t help. This has been especially true since I’ve started blogging (only to blow hundreds/thousands of dollars on clothes that I never wear – whew chile don’t get me started).
I’ve spent a lot of money over the last two years. For a long time, I thought that as long as I was able to pay my bills, contribute to my 401K and throw a bit of funds into my savings I was fine. But on my recent quest to better myself, I realized that if I wanted to live a more balanced and happy life, I had to face my debt and conquer it head on.
I’m not going to lie, I literally cringe at the thought of how much money I have to send out each month to pay my credit card bills. Yes, I can maintain them, but its such a waste of money when you think about it! At the end of the day, the only one that is losing from all of this is ME! That money could easily be used to travel, save, or prepare for a baby (No I’m not pregnant, but I want to be a mother one day!).
I’ve always wanted to do better, and I’ve tried in the past. But as soon as I paid a card off, I’d start using it again. That small behavior has morphed into a habit that I’ve grown accustomed to. Like, I rarely ever leave the house without a credit card on me. In some sick way, it’s given me a sense of security. That all changed a few months ago when my company decided to suddenly let some employees go, one being a friend of mine, with little to no warning. I quickly realized, that my financial situation could change in an instant. And although I could technically “afford” my bills at the time, if I lost my job unexpectedly, I’d be in a heap of trouble. Let’s just say – it was the exact wake-up call that I needed.
I think everyone has their own unique story when it comes to money. For the sake of this post, and my story, I feel it’s best to start from the beginning. Growing up, I was the oldest of four kids in a two parent household. I have to say that I never really wanted for anything and we all got exactly what we needed. My mother would literally spend her last on making sure we were all well-dressed and put together. And my father always made sure to provide for us.
But as I got older, I wanted things much faster than my parents could get them for me. So instead of waiting for them, I decided to earn my own money so that I could get what I wanted. At the age of 10 I set up my own lemonade stand, and that’s when I first learned the convenience of earning a dollar.
Since making my first sale, I found ways to fund my juvenile wants and growing shopping habit. I shoveled snow in the winter, cleaned houses, got straight A’s so that my parents would reward me with payment, and even taught myself how to do hair so that I could make money. By the time I was 16, I was working in retail, bringing in a few hundred dollars a week with no responsibilities in sight, and feeding my shopping habit even more. Through all of those years, saving was never a thought that crossed my mind. I didn’t know or understand the concept behind it. I just liked being able to do what I wanted, with my own money, on my own terms. So by the time I moved on to college, I worked most of my high school years and had literally nothing to show for it.
I know that my parents did the best that they could, but when I think about it, neither of them really taught me what it meant to have a healthy relationship with money. As an adult, I realize that I’ve adopted some of their habits (good and bad). Now as a result, I myself, have had many ups and downs with money. For starters, I have a love – hate relationship with my credit cards. They’re so convenient and easy to use. But on the flip-side, they kept me in denial over my bad spending habits and poor financial decisions. The whole “Buy now, Pay later” philosophy is extremely tempting and can be a slippery slope if you’re not careful (clearly I wasn’t).
Honestly, I have been so embarrassed to share my truth and my mistakes with money for so long. I can’t say that I’m ready for full disclosure (like how much I owe). If I’m being honest, I guess a part of me is still dealing with the shame of it all. Like I woke up one day and couldn’t believe that I let it get this far. Either way, I realized that I’m not perfect, and maybe I can stand to help someone else who is going through the same thing!
How to Improve Your Relationship With Money:
As I stated earlier, if you want to improve your finances, you must first cultivate a healthy relationship with money. Here’s how…
Be honest about your situation. For me, it’s knowing and understanding my triggers and why I spend the way I do. I noticed that when I’ve had a bad day, or REALLY good day, my self-control goes out the window. When that happens, I’m more prone to make emotional purchases.
Hold yourself accountable. Most if not all of the time, no one is to blame for your financial situation. In my case, it was important for me to first acknowledge and more importantly own the fact that I created this mess. So, I have to clean it up!
Create a budget that works for you. When it comes to finances, I don’t think that there is a one size fits all approach. We all have different incomes and situations. Personally, I’ve decided to follow the zero-based budget. This budget enables me to give every dollar I own a PURPOSE. In doing so, I can pay my bills, and prioritize between eliminating my debt, saving, investing and still live my life (with some boundaries of course).
Checkout my free budget worksheet!
Understand that this won’t be fixed overnight. When it comes to money management skills, and debt elimination, it’s not a sprint! It’s more so a lifestyle change. I won’t lie, it’s going to suck and seem like it ‘s going to take forever. But you have to keep your eyes on the prize and see it through. This is the one thing that I’ve struggled with in the past. So to stay on track, I plan on doing bi-monthly check ins.
Root for Yourself
Celebrate the small victories. I think doing so is VITAL! Be proud of all of your accomplishments. Coupled with the zero-based budget that I’ve been using, I have been able to tackle my debt with the snowball method. I’m so happy to share that I’ve already paid off one credit card. And I am due to pay off my 2nd one this month! After that victory, I plan on rewarding myself with something small like a day at the movies or a facial. Doing so will keep me motivated to keep going until I eliminate all of my debt.
Keep your impulses in check. Reality is, there’s always going to be a new bag, new pair of shoes etc. Before making an impulsive purchase, I plan on sleeping on it first. That way, I can give myself a chance to really deciphering between what I NEED and what I actually WANT. So far this has worked well for me and I’ve avoided making unnecessary purchases.
Do you need more help improving your own relationship with money? Check out some folks that I like getting financial inspiration from!
- Stacey Flowers – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iINWlFL_Lno
- Dave Ramsey – https://www.daveramsey.com/baby-steps/?snid=start.steps
- Clever Girl Finance – https://www.clevergirlfinance.com
So let me know your thoughts… what are some things you do to maintain a healthy relationship with money? Let me know if you guys want more information on my use of the zero-based budget and debt snowball method!