Sometime around February three or four years ago, I got a sick note for the whole week for having a kidney infection. It was one of the most painful things I have ever experienced, but it turned out to be not as painful as I was looking into my bank statement online. I shook my head in disbelief, and my small eyes got wider and wider, examining every amount on the bank statement. I looked at the calendar, and it was just the second week of the month. I went to open another tab to check on my credit card balance. I almost maxed it out. Another tab open and I starred at my other bank account balance—nearly zero. I put both of my hands on my face. Panic started to creep in. Do you know the feeling? Do you ever have the same question? How did I get that far?
WHAT IS YOUR MONEY STORY?
Both my parents worked very hard to build our own house, and I supposed that was the symbol of financial success back then.
I, however, witnessed how they got into massive debt and how they treated their money years after. No planning, no investments. Money comes and goes.
When I was 27, I finally bought my first house. Everybody was proud, I included. But since then, I, just like my parents before me, stopped caring about money. Sure, I still budget here and there, but I wasn’t using it as a tool to help me with my financial goals. But then again, I didn’t have goals.
In my mind, having a house means that my future was secure, and it was my investment. That was my goal since I was young, and I made it.
Fast forward years later to that February, when I knew that I wouldn’t have enough in my bank account even to survive the month, I realized I had hit rock bottom.
I was a woman in my late thirty who had no secure job, no pension, no savings and a credit card debt. I also was living not in one of the most expensive cities in Europe.
As I sunk back to my bed, I knew I had to do something about my bad money habits before it’s too late.
DO YOU POSSESS THESE FIVE NEGATIVE MONEY HABITS?
Don’t tell me your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money and I’ll tell you what they are.
James W. Frick
For the first time in my adult years, I spent the next days after that wake-up call figuring out what I needed to do to change my situation. What I usually do when I have a problem is to recognize that problem and find solutions.
That time, I thought I messed up so bad, and there must be valid reasons behind it. So instead of just recognizing my problem, I tried to dig the ‘why’ behind it.
I created a document on my computer, and I documented every single money related Q&A I had with myself, every pleasant and unpleasant experience related to money. I also listed down what I considered my money habits and trying to be brutally honest while I was doing all these.
The result? I had a bad relationship with money because I was a lazy ignorant. Here are five bad money habits I discovered I constantly doing back then:
FALSE CONCEPT OF REWARDING
I worked hard. And for that, I deserved to buy anything I want.
That was more or less the mindset I had back then. So I would spend my salary mostly on clothes, cosmetics and other things that gave me temporary satisfaction.
The concept of paying yourself first was familiar to me, and I did that, indeed, only not the right way.
PAY ME LATER MENTALITY
Using credit cards or online payment instalments were some of the things I did. The fact is, I didn’t have the money, and at some point, somehow, my brain was so foggy I couldn’t realize it.
‘I will pay it later when I have my paycheck’ – was my motto when I did those. Now imagine, how many ‘payments’ I had due by the time my salary came in?
MINDSET OF Y.O.L.O
‘I already have that one gorgeous pair of shoes in black, but now it’s spring, so perhaps this blue is better. After all, I only live once.’
‘Why put aside money for a rainy day? How about if you got hit by a truck tomorrow?’
Seriously, those were some of my dumb logic back there in the past, related to this YOLO mentality.
It wasn’t a productive way of thinking and careless to the max. That would suit an 18 y.o, not some thirty years old.
It only ended up with my buying kinds of stuff I didn’t need.
BUDGETING FOR NOTHING
Every time I budget back then, funny enough, I knew I wouldn’t stick to it. But I kept doing a budget, without actually using it as a tool to progress further. I didn’t know why I did it, although I have a theory.
I knew I was having money management trouble, and part of my conscious knew that budgeting would start things in the right direction. Maybe. Either way that didn’t help much at that time, but now it makes things easier.
INVESTING IS ONLY FOR RICH PEOPLE
Thinking about investing in ETFs or stocks back then already make me dizzy. I always felt those are for professionals, and I wasn’t.
The fact was, I was just a lazy ignorant. I thought that my house was an asset; therefore, I had my investment. I wasn’t interested in investing in myself, learning about finance, which turned out to be not as hard as I thought.
CHANGE MY MONEY STORY
Knowing I had those habits truly opened my eyes. I didn’t want to be stuck in the same situation anymore and determined to change my money story. What I did was the following:
EVALUATE WHERE I WAS FINANCIALLY
When my wake-up call happened that February, I was working freelance twenty hours a week for a very clever woman as her assistant. She was running her own company, and I had been working for her for more or less three years.
I could work from anywhere I wanted, and that was a big plus. We also had an excellent relationship. I had to leave the company and find a full-time job to fix my situation, so I did.
SET THE RIGHT SPENDING PRIORITIES
The authoritative financial advice of paying yourself first is excellent. However, my priorities at that time were to get rid of my credit card debt, so I arranged my monthly spending as follow:
- Monthly fixed cost (apartment, public transport ticket to work, food, phone).
- Paying credit card ( I set a fixed, automatic payment every month, slightly higher than the minimum amount required).
- Pay my self (saving for a rainy day)
By analyzing your situation and knowing your priorities, you would budget correctly and eventually achieve your goals.
HARNESS THE SELF-DISCIPLINE HABIT
Every time I tempted to spend my money, I always ask if I need the item. Most often than not, I didn’t. It wasn’t only about clothes or shoes or cosmetic. I question if I wanted to spend on another piece of that fancy chocolate I love every weekend.
Nobody said it was going to be easy, but I knew I needed to make sacrifices here and there. It was an excellent exercise to harness the habit of self-discipline and taking control.
IT’S OKAY TO LIKE MONEY
I learned a couple of things during the process of getting my money straight. One of them was that I liked money, but I didn’t talk about it, discuss it, or mentioned it because people around me didn’t.
Some even think money is evil. That owning too much money is going to change you, that it’s shallow.
This social stigma somehow has blocked me, to be honest with my self. I felt guilty to possess an interest in wealth even though I found my self very interested in investing. One of the reasons I want to have money is because I want to be able to finance my lifestyle and dreams and help people.
Live with less.
That was the idea. Of course, at a later stage, I embarked in finding the right minimalism concept that works for me. However, at that time, I was in the middle of financial trouble.
Living with less has an impact on my mindfulness, which later on proven to be effective against ineffective financial decisions.
It has been some years, and my attitude towards money has changed and I developed better money habits.
Is it even possible? Yes. Is it hard? Yes. Am I still evolving? You bet.
When you have harnessed bad habits or cultivated false mindsets for years, it’s hard to implement new. A change for the better never come easy, especially when it’s about money.
You might be addicted to shopping already, or having a massive debt from two or more credit cards. It doesn’t matter.
What matter is, you can change your life; you need to want it bad enough and make your self familiar with this one power word: sacrifice.