Oh money, my friend, my old pal.
For the majority of my life, managing my money has been like trying to create boundaries with my rebellious friend who is always trying to make me stay out way too late and put me in sticky situations.
It’s having conversations with my finances like, “No, money, I really shouldn’t. I need to pay rent next week,” and money responding with, “You only live once—don’t be lame.” It’s can feel like money has the wheel and I am just along for the ride. Obviously, this is not a good place to be. We should be in control of our financial life, and if we are not, we must re-evaluate.
It has taken me a long time (and it’s still a journey) to not be dragged along by my money. Instead, I have been working on switching the narrative, simply by telling myself: I am in control of my finances. Luckily, there are tons of habits and tools out there that have assisted me in harnessing this feeling.
Below are some shifts in my perspective that are hugely helpful for developing a healthier relationship with managing money.
Talking about it with friends and family vs. making it off-limits
My parents did a respectable job of keeping finances a secret—one that only the adults needed to worry about. My brother and I never knew if my parents were stressed about money, because our parents simply did not share their stresses with us. This is something I’m grateful for as an adult, but it also created a stigma. I grew up feeling like people are not supposed to talk about money with one another.
It’s only been in the last couple of years that I have allowed myself to ask those around me for tips and tricks, as a way to learn more about money management. I have especially confided in the people in my life who seem like they have a healthy grasp on their finances (like my husband, for instance). This shift made me realize it’s okay to discuss money, not just in the shadows, but in a more accessible and open way.
Using finance apps & documenting spending to create transparency
One of my best friends is incredible at budgeting; if I invite her somewhere that requires spending money, she often responds with, “Unfortunately, I have used up all my ‘fun money’ for this month—maybe we could do something less costly.” Every time she responds that way, it sheds light on my lack of budget for anything, let alone having a responsible “fun money” fund.
Going back to asking friends and family about money management, I asked her to assist me in creating a budget. She, of course, had already created the most amazing Google spreadsheet for managing her own finances. She gave me a run-down on how she uses it and I have been able to use that to fit my own personal lifestyle.
Finance apps like Digit and Cleo have also become my best friends—literally—in offering me daily reminders of what is in my bank account and keeping me on track with budgeting. Because I am a visual person, it’s helpful to have reminders from both the apps and the spreadsheets to prevent me from falling into the out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality about my spending.
Prioritizing “paying myself first”
This was a tip that I learned years ago and it has stuck with me. It seems simple, but putting it into practice can take some time—or at least it did for me. The idea is essentially to pay all of your priority bills, groceries, and personal savings before spending money on going out or shopping. I love the idea that you are taking your hard-earned cash to first pay for all of the things you owe yourself. This has been extremely helpful for me in solidifying priority spending over frivolous spending.
Saying “no” to certain activities
I am very much a “yes” person. I love to seize opportunities and am easily excited about anything that sounds fun. As I get older, however, I am learning that it is okay to say no or to be more mindful about prioritizing my “yeses” financially. However, I will never completely rule out spontaneity and spontaneous financial spendings.
Now, though, I am more aware of the things I say yes to, and I aim to budget it out before saying yes. This concept goes back to having a detailed spending log that allows me to see what I am spending my money on and allocating X amount of dollars to the “fun money” slot.
These habits and shifts have allowed me to feel like I am walking alongside my money instead of being led by it, blindly, into the abyss. These mental shifts have created a sense of financial freedom instead of making me feel trapped within money’s clutches.
As we continue to open the conversation surrounding money management, if there are any tips or tricks you have learned, please share in the comments below!
Courtney Jay Higgins is the Associate Editor at The Good Trade. She is also a Yoga Instructor, vegetarian, wellness and fashion enthusiast. Originally from Colorado, her soul found California when she came to get her degree in Visual Communications at the Fashion Institute Of Design & Merchandising. She has a background in telling a story through writing, creative direction and content creation. Check out her blog and Instagram for her unique perspective on the mergence of fashion and spirituality.