Getting Honest About Your Money
By Erin Lozano
There is power in financial planning—you make a budget, you’ve got a map to anywhere you want to go. But, for all the plan making and budget creating that I encourage, the real power is in the honesty you bring to the table.
The truth is sneaky sometimes. We think we’re speaking it. Playing our cards. But sometimes it is deeper than we are used to playing. How many times have you hemmed and hawed your way out of a commitment? Do you leave sundry items off of your budget and wonder where the money went? When you’ve overspent, how long does it take you to reconcile your check register and uncover just how much you’re behind? Do you put one more thing on credit and promise yourself to get on track next month?
In personal finance, personal honesty cannot be overstated. The broader culture has certainly felt this truism as we spiral into the consequences of inflated obligations and unstable economies. We are seeing on a community level how our personal choices affect each other. I call this effect “the Spiral Concept”: it’s the idea that I really don’t do anything in my world that doesn’t affect someone else.
Lighting the Dark Spots
Women by nature are community-aware. We radiate outward and we notice the effects we have on our friends, our relationships. I might do something mundane, but I can see its effects on myself, my community, my workplace. (Try whistling a popular tune in the morning, and listen for how many are humming the same tune by afternoon.) The great news is that I can use this awareness to create change. If the spiral is negative, by becoming aware of my place in it, with complete honesty about my contributions, I can make it a positive spiral. My actions can create a positive affect outward.
So how do you get honest about money? Allow every last aspect of it to surface. What follows are a couple of exercises to help you explore where you are being honest and where you are falling short of it. As you approach the exercises, open yourself up to your deepest truths and fears. If you are making a budget and looking at options, bring up the possibility of failure. List it as one of your options. It is mortifying, but when you confront failure in the light of day, it becomes an option. Options are choices. When you know all of your choices, you are empowered. You can get a sense of how resisting some of them in silence is affecting the rest of your abilities and actions.
Knowing is Better Than Hiding
– Write down the general themes or your repetitive behaviors around dishonesty:
I set myself on a budget every month and fall off two weeks later.
– Then write down who that behavior effects:
Me, because I get down on myself; my close friends because I overspend, which makes me stressed, so it affects the time I spend with them; sometimes I don’t see them at all when I’ve overspent because I can’t afford to join them. My work, because I start to feel slave to the grind.
– Write down actions you need to take to clean up that agreement:
1. Create a budget that works with real numbers.
2. Enroll a mentor or my community to stay on track.
3. Do my budget on Sunday morning, rather than Monday night when I am wiped out from work.
5. Create a new agreement, rather than continuously falling off the old one.
6. Admit I’ve fallen off if I’ve fallen off.
Another process you can take is almost the reverse. Write down any “incompletes” you have in your world. What did you say you would do that you did not complete? What emails have you left untended? Are the bills late?
1. Tag, highlight or make note for those that are money related.
2. Next to that, figure out the actions you need to take to clean up the money-related items.
3. Mark home-related items in another highlighter color, and figure out the actions needed to cross those off of your list.
4. Highlight personal relationships in another color.
5. Categorize topic by topic in different highlighter colors, and then go about completing each category. Organizing them in categories makes the list less dominating, and easier to tackle.
When listing these things, let go of shame. Being honest isn’t about finding shame. It is about looking at your financial life with a fresh eye. How can you stay on track with your budget or goals if you are not honest about yourself and whom you impact? From ruthless honesty comes a new perspective, and a roadmap out of unknown territory.
Erin Lozano is COO of GreenSherpa.com, a unique Cash Flow Management tool makes your financial future as important as your financial history. Automated to all of your online banking and credit accounts, Green Sherpa handles expenses and plans up to twelve months ahead to give you 100% visibility on your goals.
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