Monday, 15 October 2012

Wake-up call and attitudes to money

I began to realise we had a money problem that was going to need attention earlier this year.

For various reasons, things had changed financially.  My husband had got a new job (for slightly less pay) and we had to get a second car to make things work.  I am a freelancer, and one project that I was working on wasn't providing quite as many days as hoped, plus I had been ill.

I wasn't keeping up with how this affected us financially.  My husband would say every few weeks, "I think we are going to go overdrawn this month - how many days have you invoiced for? How many days will you work next month?"  I would then stress and panic about money, a few weeks would go by, I would assume everything was back on track and then we'd have the same conversation again.  I would lurch from feeling like everything was fine to feeling like we were about to lose the house.

So after a few iterations of this unhelpful pattern, I decided to take a more strategic approach to this issue and first of all address the question of how my husband and I communicate about money.

I prepared myself.  I got a couple of books from the library about personal finance, including Alvin Hall's Plan Now, Retire Happy (and a couple of less mainstream ones that seemed to involve a lot of risk).  I looked at a few blogs for some advice and came upon a couple of great reads, namely Mr (and Mrs) Money Mustache on talking about money, and Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You To Be Rich on Money and Gender.

I began to think about my own attitude towards money. Fortunately, I am able to take a reflective attitude towards my own motivations and thought processes and can usually get down to what is really going on for me, even if it is rather unpleasant and shows me up in a bad light.  After considerable reflection, I came to realise a few things:
  • I was carrying a somewhat puritan attitude towards money - both "I don't want to be rich because I don't deserve it" and (in a breathtaking example of doublethink) "Only awful people are rich anyway." 
  • I believed that thinking about money was "grubby" and that I should "set my mind on higher things". 
  • I thought (think?) "I don't want very much stuff, so anything I do want must be okay." 
  • I also realised I had never had proper conversations with my parents about money management, and they were poor role models for managing money.  
I opened up to my husband about some of my unconscious attitudes, attitudes set a long time ago but continuing to inform our relationship today.  He understood that I was talking about this because I wanted these attitudes to change.  He shared a few of his own attitudes towards money and we discussed it for a while.   This was only the first step but it was and remains absolutely critical.

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