This article was originally published on September 6, 2019, and has since been updated.
I have found, often, that within the first few pages of any finance book, the author barks at you to face your numbers. But the fact of the matter is this: if facing your bank account was so easy, you would have done it already.
When I decided I needed to make a budget, I was a mess on my bedroom floor. I had Christmas looming in the near distance; I had enough money to pay rent and my visa bill, but that was it. I could end up in trouble come January if I didn’t figure my finances out. The process wasn’t easy, and I put myself down a lot, mainly asking myself why I put the process of budgeting off for so long. I had to remind myself, though, if it was that easy, I would have done it already.
My dad likes to say numbers are more afraid of me than I am of them. This saying holds a lot of truth to it. Once I learned how to control my numbers, I reclaimed that power, which is an incredible feeling. The fact of the matter is, the numbers are not afraid of you if you don’t face them. If you don’t log into your bank account and go through your recent transactions, you give money all the power in the world to lead your life.
If you’re anything like me, you don’t make very much money to begin with, and you don’t want to do anything that would make you feel even more restricted than you already do. Which is why the phrase “I don’t need a budget” may frequently pop up in your vocabulary.
We all lead busy lives, and money is the main vehicle that allows us to get from point A to point B. When we start budgeting, we want our lives to come to a full stop. Move somewhere with no rent, stop buying groceries, put our phone bills on hold, and take a breather so we can allocate all that money into an emergency fund or paying off our bills. But between birthdays, which seamlessly transition into holidays, which flow right into summer, by my calculations, the only month you can get away with not spending any money is none of them! I understand how exhausting it can be to climb that budgeting mountain, which is why I want to share five tips you can use to soothe yourself when you decide to face your finances.
1. Remind yourself knowing where you stand financially is literally good for your health.
Chronic worry and intense anxiety can have a tremendous effect on your health. On the “safer” end of the health and money spectrum, it can simply ruin your day. For example, getting a pedicure and worrying that your card might be declined when you pay throughout the experience (negating any of the relaxation aspect). On a more serious note, it can impact your long-term health. In Cold Hard Truth about Men, Women, and Money, author Kevin O’Leary is emphatic about the detrimental effect that money-related stress can have on your health, informing us that money-related stress can contribute the development of conditions like type 2 diabetes.
This is worrisome, especially if you live in a country where access to healthcare is costly. The sooner you face your numbers and begin to budget, the sooner you can improve your health. Remind yourself that even though the process is difficult, you are putting your health first by understanding your finances. This could save your well-being and potentially thousands of dollars in medical bills.
2. Remind yourself that if you knew better, you would have done better.
It was very easy for me to beat up on myself for being “stupid” about my spending. When I went down the rabbit hole that was my monthly statement, I kept repeating to myself that I didn’t need to take myself shopping or go out to lunch that frequently. Why did I buy that expensive almond milk? Why didn’t I walk, why did I Uber?
None of these questions are valid, and they never were. I had to put a stop the negative self-talk ASAP — and you do, too, because the person who made those decisions had access to either money or credit and just didn’t understand how to use it. Many of us are left in the dark when it comes to discretionary income. How do we spend it? Where do we spend it? Repeat this positive affirmation to yourself: the person who made those decisions wasn’t the well-read finance-savvy person that they’re now trying to be. You are on the road to something better, and you need to leave the past behind.
3. Remind yourself that you decided to take your finances into your own hands. Be proud.
The first steps of printing out a monthly statement, highlighting areas you could improve and beating yourself up, are the hardest parts. Once you complete those steps, you can move forward. You took your finances into your own hands by yourself; remind yourself to be proud that you felt the necessity of financial wellness in your life.
4. Remind yourself that you are not alone — talk to someone.
Everybody’s financial situation is different, and none of us are to judge. Whether you maxed out your credit card on clothes and can only pay the minimum balance, or you suddenly became a primary caregiver and you could only afford to pay for things on credit. Both situations are serious and should be treated with empathy.
I have personally found that it is easy to feel like a failure when it comes to personal finances, but we shouldn’t. Sometimes we need to talk about it with someone and feel the warmth of a community of people who encourage non-judgement and vulnerability. Debtors Anonymous is a free support group that helps people learn how to manage their lives and finances, with real people who share their personal stories with each other. (They seem to currently be hosting most of their meetings remotely via Zoom.) Remind yourself that there’s no shame in admitting you need help. If attending a meeting seems particularly daunting, you can sign up for their free e-newsletter to gain an understanding first, or talk with a good friend.
5. Remind yourself to continue to practice self-care.
You are in a vulnerable place right now — it takes a lot of courage to put aside the ego and declare that you need a change in your lifestyle. Remind yourself that it’s okay to still take care of yourself, especially if you feel like you don’t deserve it. There are free ways to enjoy yourself while you fix your financial life. For example, there are plenty of YouTube channels that allow you to follow exercise routines from anywhere.
Although it will be hard at first, I mean it when I say that the months will begin to pass you by just as easily as they did when you were negligent about your finances. Remind yourself that as your financial health increases, your money anxiety decreases, I promise that you can do it.
Marisa is a Toronto-based writer. She enjoys small-plate restaurants, Toronto’s West End, and interior-decorating.
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