Well, as predicted there have been tears. This weekend was spent gathering six months worth of bank statements, credit card bills, phone bills, receipts etc, as recommended in Money – A Love Story. It was an unholy mess. My tummy felt sick, my chest felt tight, then I felt proper panic and then I started crying.
I hate myself when it comes to money, really, really hate myself.
It’s like looking through a giant magnifying glass at all that is bad about me. I’m reckless, stupid, vain, careless, deluded… I know that in life in general I am not a bad person but with money I feel like I am. It makes me feel sick and ashamed. I am crying now, again, as I type this.
As a freelancer I have to do my own tax return and so I deal with this feeling once a year – but usually I’m earning enough at the time to deal with whatever mess I’ve created. I vow to change my ways but I never do.
This year is different because I seem to have stepped away from paid employment in order to have a re-think. I don’t have any regrets about that, but the money thing is now reaching crunch-point. I’m now more in debt than I’ve ever been in my life.
In December, for the first time, I had to borrow money to pay my tax bill. It was stressful. I phoned up the tax people who, quite rightly, told me that I’d been spending money that wasn’t technically mine and they could take legal action. That conversation, actually the one I’d been imagining in my head for years, confirmed everything I thought about money: I’m a stupid, bad, spoilt brat and people hate me for it.
They told me I had to find the money, so I took out a loan. I am now having conversations HSBC about paying back the money I owe them. I’m going to meet them at 3pm. All of this is my doing, so I’m not in anyway asking for sympathy, I’m just trying to be honest, something Kate Northrup says is very important.
One of the things she asks you to do is to look through six months statements and see if there are any patterns as to where you money is going. Here’s what my bank statements showed me:
I AM THE QUEEN OF COFFEES
Costa, Starbucks, Cafe Nero, Strada, Pret a Manger, some pub or other, another pub or other, Thai restaurant, Italian restaurant etc. Some days, when I’m in London, I can whip through £30 on coffees, croissants and sandwiches in the day then another £35 if I meet friends for dinner and more if we go on drinking. That can be up to £100 on nothing but eating and drinking. My mum works hard as a teacher but rarely has coffee out because she cannot justify £2.50 for something she can make for pennies at home. Here I am, Lady Muck, doing only minimal paid work and ordering coffee number two, three, four – with cakes.
IT COSTS A LOT TO LOOK THIS AVERAGE
Blow dries at £25 a pop, nails another £25, £42 at Boots for God knows what, £22 in Holland and Barrett for stupid vitamins, £70 hair colour, £70 facials. Because I sometimes get photographed for work, I tell myself that it’s important to look as nice as I can but why can’t I do my own nails? Wrestle with my own wild hair? Laziness and vanity. I’m a classic example of the: ‘I’m worth it but I can’t afford it’ generation. I do the same with clothes. And it’s not as if I ever enjoy this spending, I feel guilty about it straight away.
IT’S EXPENSIVE TO TALK
Then my mobile phone bills. It would seem that my AVERAGE phone bill is £143 a month. £143. I had no idea. In December alone, I spent £84 calling my best friend in Ireland. I knew it would cost a bit more to call Ireland but had never actually took the trouble to find out how much more. And, of course, I never opened the bills. Heaven forbid.
MYSTERY DIRECT DEBITS
Then the subscriptions – £14 a month for a magazine subscription that I don’t even get anymore. Nearly £20 for the online Times package, even though I go out and buy the actual paper most days. There are a couple of direct debits that I cannot identify and have probably been coming out of my account for years. Again, stupid, careless.
THEN – THE MYSTERY MONEY
£100 taken out here, another £100 there – I have no idea what it got spent on. It may as well have vanished into thin air.
WHAT A EFFING IDIOT I AM. A TOTAL EFFING IDIOT.
The whole time I was doing this I had mum in my head. She would be disgusted if she knew the way I burn through money. I am disgusted.
Kate says that you have to forgive everything you’ve done and realise that it was the ‘perfect’ decision at the time. I’m finding that hard. Nothing about it seems perfect. Right now I just wish I was someone else.
FOCUS ON WHAT YOU’VE GOT
Instead of disappearing into a black hole of self-loathing, on a practical level, Kate says there are two things you have to do everyday: look at your bank balance and give thanks for everything you’ve got.
Kate says that ‘what we put our attention on grows’. So if we put all our attention on how broke and stupid we are with money, that’s what we’re going to get more of. However, if we put our attention on what we do have, we’ll attract more ‘abundance’ into our life. Abundance is a very popular word in the self-help world.
So this morning I looked at my two overdrawn accounts and gave thanks for the tiny amounts left in each before I hit the limits. Kate says that if you don’t have money coming in, you can be grateful for the other things in your life – your friends, your family, the nice cup of tea you’ve just had.
I gave thanks for a lovely bright day, my wonderful, gorgeous, funny friends (who are worth spending £80 to talk to), my healthy body and the heat coming out of the radiator. It felt good.
I like the money magnet one, and also one that I read somewhere else: ‘Money comes to me easily and effortlessly.’ I am now repeating that over and over in my head.
It’s not really working yet. I still fell sick to my stomach, and I still want to cry but Kate says that’s OK. ‘You’ve got to feel it to heal it,’ apparently. So there you go. Right now I’m feeling rubbish but I hope it will pass.
The final thing she recommends, is to get organised – physically organised – when it comes to your finances. She says to put statements in lovely files to try to make them as appealing as possible. Or if you get bills online, save them (rather then ignore them) and give them nice names. She refers to bills as ‘Invoices for blessings already received’, it’s a step too far for me but… this is what I did at 10pm last night:
Yup, I filed my statements and tax letters and put on labels called ‘Beautiful Barclays’ ‘Lovely HSBC’ and then I drew hearts around my HMRC folder. Totally nuts but what the hell? It can’t hurt.
—Money, a Love Story: Untangle Your Financial Woes and Create the Life You Really Want