Essays & Confessions / Money Management

The Money Tactic That Finally Cured My Overspending Habit

By Thursday, February 20, 2020

Like many people, I’ve been known to lie to myself about my spending. Despite the voice in my head that tells me, “Hey, maybe don’t spend so much this month,” I’ll whisper back, “Oh, come on, just this one time.” But over the past year and a half, I’ve reversed this pattern. And it’s all thanks to a little accountability that comes in the form of a money group chat. 

Okay, I use the word “group” loosely — in reality, it’s me and one trustworthy friend, Maria. We check in with each other regularly about our finances via chat. Maria and I come from similar backgrounds. Our parents are children of immigrants or immigrants themselves who implored the rigorous work-hard-beware-what-you-spend attitude. My parents’ mindset planted seeds of positive behavior that would be beneficial in my adult life. However, I still had questions. Moving out on my own, I didn’t know what appropriate spending was. Where do I spend? How do I spend? When is a credit card appropriate? When is cash appropriate?

Maria has her own unique journey, but we both had many questions we were afraid to ask, so I invited her to chat daily about our purchases. I felt blind to my spending issues and she felt the same way, so we agreed to send regular pictures of our receipts and set up monthly money budget check-ins on a spreadsheet. If you’re struggling with your finances, I highly recommend starting a similar money accountability group. Even if it’s just a regular chat check-in with a friend, it can be highly beneficial.

I’m not the only one who feels this way. Paulette Perhach, a writer, writing coach and author living in Seattle, participates in monthly money dinners with her friends.  “For a long time I thought yelling at myself was the best way forward,” Perhach says. Perhach, author of the viral article, The Story of a Fuck off Fund, had been doing monthly money check-ins with herself for years, but last year, she realized she’d skipped four months. She couldn’t bear to look at her numbers, and nobody would know if she didn’t. She felt that if she put a social element around the practice, it would force her to keep the date with herself. So she started her own monthly money accountability group with some friends. They meet monthly and talk about their money concerns.

“Skip the self-hatred and just start looking at what went wrong and how you can make next time different,” Perhach advises, adding that it took her a long time to get into that habit. (You can listen to Perhach talk more about her money group chats on her podcast.)

With Maria to hold me accountable, I’m honest with myself when I overspend. Our conversations go like this: “Hey, I spent $60 on groceries this week.” In the past, without accountability, I would have shrugged and kept spending. With Maria, however, the conversation continues: “which is $20 more than I budgeted for the week, but I’m going to make up for it by not buying coffee for the rest of the week.” To which I get a reply: “Hey, that’s great! You could still buy coffee if you cut your dinner this month with your friend. Invite her over instead?” With Maria, I get encouragement, options, and reevaluation. We haven’t had to scold each other yet because our impulsive spending seems to go out the window when we know we have to report them to each other.

If you’re on the fence about opening up to a friend about your money habits, Perhach shares some advice she previously received: “People at every level talk about money, but the people who have wealth talk about it with the advisor they can afford to pay. Those of us who can’t afford financial advisors benefit from being honest, asking each other for help, and sharing our experiences.”

*****

Give yourself permission to leave your old habits behind and find trustworthy people (even if that is in the form of a financial advisor) to discuss your money habits. You’ll be surprised at how good it can be for your financial life. As Perhach puts it, “It’s a relief to have space where it’s not just ok to talk about money — it’s the point of the gathering.” 

Marisa is a Toronto-based writer and museum archivist. She enjoys small-plate influenced restaurants, Toronto’s West End, and documentary films.

Image via Pexels

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