The answer to the last two questions is no – I am in exactly the same financial situation I was a month ago: £12,000 in debt. But the major difference is that I feel OK about it, which means that yes, I think it has worked. I don’t mean OK, I’m in denial way, I mean I can see how I got here and I know that I will get myself out of it.
Also, the fact that I even know where I am with my finances is a major step. At the start of the month I didn’t have a clue what the situation was.
But most important, I think, is the fact that for the first time in my life I also understand why I am the way I am around money. I was brought up with extremes – extreme wealth and then an extreme fall from grace. I have recreated that same yo-yo in my own life. If you give me money, I feel rich and blow it like I’m Ivana Trump, then a few days later, I’m back in overdrafts and panic.
Deep down I throw away money because I think that people will hate me for having money, that it makes me a ‘rich bitch’. This is a hangover from my childhood.
Doing the diary exercises – writing down all your thoughts and memories and history with money – was painful but very cathartic. It helps you see things as they are, it’s interesting. I would really recommend it.
My favourite exercise was Kate’s question about ‘What is your first money memory? How does it relate to where you are now?’ I couldn’t believe how closely they were connected.
A few other nuggets of wisdom:
How you are with money is a direct reflection of how much you value yourself
You might think that spending your money and living for the moment makes you a free spirit but if it’s causing you constant anxiety it’s really a form of self-sabotage. Deep down do you believe that you don’t deserve to be financially secure and happy? Do you have guilt around having money? Are you scared of money and waiting for someone else to sort it out? That day might never come. Kate says that we have to be our own Prince Charming.
Beating yourself up about money won’t help
I have spent so long feeling sick about how I am with money that I will do anything to avoid dealing with it, which does not help anyone. Beating yourself up it totally counter-productive. Be gentle and forgive yourself when you’re addressing your finances and celebrate the fact that you’re now taking steps to improve things.
Stop saying I can’t afford it
This phrase keeps you trapped in a ‘lack mentality’ and in a victim mode. The truth is we can all afford anything we want if we put our minds to it and work hard enough etc. Kate says that when we say we can’t afford something we’re actually saying is one (or more) of the following:
- ‘I don’t want it badly enough to do what I would need to do to get it.’
- ‘I’m choosing not to spend my money on that right now.’
- ‘I don’t think I deserve it.’
I probably say ‘I can’t afford it’ at least twice a day and in my case what I’m saying is ‘I don’t think I deserve it’. I will blow my money on rubbish but won’t save and book a holiday because I don’t think I deserve it.
Let people buy you coffee and tell you look nice
Kate reckons that the people who are in a mess financially are the same people who won’t let friends shout dinner or who won’t accept a compliment. According to Kate the world is all about give and take and you have to be open to receiving lovely things that come your way. Traditionally I would rather do the giving but this month friends and family have been fantastically kind and instead of resisting I’ve accepted their generosity without feeling (too) guilty.
Check your balance every day
I now check my bank balance every day and think of three things I’m grateful for. It’s a fantastic exercise. Kate says it’s like Pavlov’s dog, you learn to associate your finances, even when they’re dire, with feeling grateful for all you have (it could be money, your friends, or the sunny day). I still have butterflies every time I log on to my accounts, but the real numbers are much less scary than keeping myself in the dark and I feel incredibly proud of myself every time I do it. I feel like I’m taking control. Such a baby step but a big one for me.
Worrying about money affects everything
Kate says that if we are waking up at 2am worrying about money (which I do), feel sick every time you hand over your bank card etc… that affects every element of our life. It’s draining us and stopping us from being properly present with our friends, our family, our work etc. I think that’s so true but I’d never thought about it. Worrying about money has just been a fact of life for me. I didn’t really realise there was an alternative.
And so that’s it – a book like this can only set some wheels in motion. I still have a long way to get the debt cleared and earn more money but at least I’m aware of exactly what my situation is. The actual amount of money (or lack of) I have in my accounts has not changed in the month, but the way I feel about it is entirely different. I might, almost, be ready to love my money and indeed to love myself. Oh dear, I really am falling into the self-help rabbit hole, aren’t I?
Money a love story by Kate Northrup – the Happy-ometer test
Good points – the first money memory exercise and checking your balance every day
Low points – couldn’t get on board with dressing up and putting on lipstick for weekly ‘money dates’.
Overall – 3.5 out of 5.Money, a Love Story: Untangle Your Financial Woes and Create the Life You Really Want