How I Automate My Life to Minimize My Money Anxiety
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Like any good nerd does, I love a quiz — especially the kind that promises to provide insights into my soul and personality (or, y’know, confirm for the hundredth time that I am indeed a Ravenclaw). Enter TFD’s Money Personality Matrix. At last, along with my Myers-Briggs and DISC, I could discover my money identity. Rainbows would arc across the sky, a unicorn would nuzzle my cheek, and I would finally be able to tell people that my way of handling money is the best way.
Have you heard the saying about pride going before a fall? If not, you’re about to read a textbook example.
TFD’s matrix says I’m an “Automator Extraordinaire.” I prioritize “structure and convenience,” and am “app-savvy,” preferring digital budgeting tools over paper and pen ones. I’m not afraid to spend a little green when I’m so inclined, and text alerts are my friends.
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If I’d seen these results in a vacuum, I would have been happy as a clam. Unfortunately, I’d gotten a close look at the quiz’s other potential answers, and was disappointed in myself for not choosing what were obviously the “right” ones — the ones that would label me a “Frugal Fiend.”
Why did I “only” have three months’ living expenses saved when having a year’s worth was clearly “better”? Why wasn’t I finding credit cards whose rewards programs exactly match my needs and habits? Why have I been tossing coupons in the recycling when I should have been scouring them for deals? Clearly my way of handling money wasn’t the best way — why was I being lazy with my finances?
Time for a pep talk
Living with generalized anxiety disorder means that pretty much everything — including finances — can be extra stressful for me because I tend to misplace my serotonin. It’s so easy for me to end up on a hamster wheel of thoughts that can pitch me into a shame spiral from which it’s hard to escape.
This was the moment I chose to step back from the precipice. Learning my money identity should not have been a time for me to compare myself to others — it was an opportunity to learn more about myself, appreciate what I think I do well, and reflect on what I could change or try if I want to.
After giving myself a little shake, it was time to get philosophical. Why did I get the Automator Extraordinaire money identity? What about my personality or history with money makes me most comfortable in this quadrant?
Automate me, baby
The TL;DR is that I automate to protect my sanity. I’m blessed to be in a position where I don’t have to track my every penny (and remember the stress of the days when I was), so I consciously choose to avoid putting that pressure on myself.
I’m a thinker, and an obsessive one at that. One of my coping mechanisms is to make lists: grocery lists, to-do lists, book lists, packing lists, lists of things I’m currently worried about, lists of bills I need to pay, etc. I’ve trained my brain to forget anything I write down so I don’t drive myself crazy by continuing to think about it.
The trouble is that sometimes I have so many lists I can’t keep track of them all. That crumpled envelope I scribbled “Pay insurance” on ends up in the back seat of my car; because I’ve written it down, my brain thinks I don’t need to remember it anymore. The result? Late insurance payment.
This is why automating is so helpful for me. All I have to do is keep track of the automation itself, rather than having to remember to do whatever it is at whatever cadence it needs to be done. For example, I have most of my bills (electricity, water, car payment, Netflix) set to auto-pay every month. Most of these kinds of services have this feature — it’s just a matter of tweaking your settings online or calling customer service to set it up. In some cases you can even choose the day of the month your bill is due. Another thing off my list. Box checked, tiny serotonin boost. Genius!
There are a few things I don’t automate, like rent (the system my landlord uses doesn’t allow recurring payments) and my credit card statement (I’m trying to get in the habit of scanning for unexpected charges before I pay).
I also use Google Calendar as a kind of backup. It’s helpful to be reminded that something I’ve got scheduled to auto-pay is coming up soon. It gives me time to stop the payment if I need to delay it, and helps me remember to check that things went through without a problem.
Clearly the “automator” aspect of my results is right on the money. The only piece of my results that surprised me was that I’m “willing to pay extra for an expert to do pretty much anything [I think] is worth it.” This is 100% accurate, and I didn’t realize it until I took the quiz. I could change my car’s oil or weed-and-feed my own lawn twice a year, but every time I consider it, I can practically hear my mother saying, “It costs money because it saves money!”
It’s taken me a long time to learn the lesson that my money should work for me, not the other way around. Doing things on the cheap may save money in the short run, but if I botch that oil change or kill my entire lawn, I’ve now got an even more expensive issue on my hands.
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You do you
Do I wish I could “lifehack” my spending by researching and opening credit cards with super-specific rewards programs, or that I could love meal prepping as much as some of my friends do? Sure! Those sound like valuable things. But are they valuable enough to counteract the decision fatigue and anxiety-induced meltdowns and guilt they would inevitably cause for me? Probably not.
It’s not just that Automator Extraordinaire is the best identity for me, or that Frugal Fiend isn’t — nothing is best for anyone, because there is no “best.” Just like with any kind of personality quiz, there’s no such thing as “right” or “wrong” as long as you’re taking care of yourself and those who rely on you.
Regardless of where you land on this matrix, know that you are doing good things. As always, it’s about recognizing where you are, figuring out what does or doesn’t serve your larger goals, and making a plan for getting to where you want to go. So get to it!
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