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The Fierce Girl's Guide to Finance

Get your shit together with money

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mindset

Fear, failure, shame: are there red flags in your relationship with money?

Money is never just money.

Money is feelings.

Money is fear or worry or failure or shame. It’s hope or excitement or success or freedom.

It’s a currency that we use to communicate things.

How much you spend on a gift reflects how much you love someone.

How much you spend on a wedding reflects your standing in the world.

How much you spend on a car reflects how successful you think you are.

It shouldn’t, but it can.

Money is never just money.

It’s wrapped up with how you feel about yourself and your worth and your future and your past.

I wonder if that’s why women have a complex relationship with it. We are often in our feelings.

It’s why opening our banking app is rarely a neutral experience. It’s not like checking the bus timetable. We open that app and we feel things.

We hope there’s enough money in there. Or we feel happy there’s more than expected. Or we feel satisfied with our savings. Or we feel disappointed with our spending habits. Or we feel ashamed that we aren’t where we think we should be.

How did you feel last time you thought about money?

Was it this morning, when your inbox had a bunch of emails about the new season collections from a bunch of stores? Did you feel desire? FOMO? Annoyance?

Was it last night, when you had to pay some bills for super boring stuff? Did you feel annoyed about the pain of adulting?

Was it yesterday, when your kid’s school told you about the next thing you have to pay for (excursions, costumes, sports, devices)? Did you feel exhausted?

I think it’s useful for all of us to identify and unpack some of the emotions behind our finances. My hunch is that many of them are negative. And is there any better way to turn your emotions around than to feel them, speak about them, hold them up to the light?

How about I tell you some of my feelings, and you can think about yours. 

If I had to pick two words that I associate with money it would be: fear and safety.

The fear is about not having enough to do the things I want, to live the way I want. I don’t really know where it comes from. Maybe my family. My dad was a successful lawyer with a tendency towards impostor syndrome. He was always looking at the downside and planning for it. (What if he lost his job etc.)

Maybe I picked up some of this; maybe I was just born with it. Either way, I’m scared of not having money, but on the other side of fear is safety, and that’s what I aim for.

I would much prefer to have money in the bank and a good income, so I can plan against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. My ex used to accuse me of being obsessed with insurance; I’d argue there are worse thing to be obsessed with. But he’s not wrong.

I’m not saying this is the only feeling I have about money, but it’s kind of the bedrock to everything else. I prefer not to buy expensive things for the sake of it, because that money could be better used to shore up my safety barrier. It also means I experience guilt when I do spend, because I feel like I’m chipping away at that barrier.  Guilt is a default setting with me though, so it’s not that big of a deal, and I do still spend money on shit (hello new Mecca palette!).

Overall, this emotional relationship to money has worked well for me. I was able to leave a marriage and land on my feet, financially, because of the decisions I’d made. I have a manageable mortgage and an old car, because I have distaste for debt. It means I can take some career and income risks at this stage, because I’m not a slave to a giant black hole of home loan and car debt.

Sit down and check in

I encourage you to think about how you feel towards money. I see a lot of people, especially women, feel shame about it.

They’re ashamed because they don’t feel in control, think they spend too much, or don’t know enough about it. They think it’s somehow their fault – when in fact society has done literally everything possible to make them feel like this – from not socialising us to discuss money, through to telling us we are ugly and fat if we don’t buy products to fix ourselves.

So please, sit down in a quiet moment and list your emotions about money.

See if you can unpack them a little. Do they stand up to scrutiny? Are they serving you well? Or are they holding you back?

The good thing about feelings is we aren’t just stuck with them. We can always change them, with some work. Time to have a long chat with money … and show it who’s boss.

 

3 things to remember for smashing the patriarchy

I was sitting under a tree at my holiday house recently, next to my older and wiser cousin Jenny. I asked her, kind of out of the blue, “Do you ever wonder if you’re doing enough to smash the patriarchy?”.

“No”, she said. “Never crosses my mind”.

However, she is a bad-arse woman who gets shit done all the time. She is a certified Fierce Girl-level budgeter. She empowers her 14-yo daughter every day. So Jenny is actually helping with the smashing-the-patriarchy job all the time, whether or not she thinks about it.

And we can all do that. We don’t need an International Women’s Day to be empowered, awesome, independent or feminist. We slay all day, erry day.

However, since we are allocated one day a year to step this up, I feel compelled to celebrate it. So, today, I give you some fiercely held beliefs that underpin the Fierce Girl Finance universe.

  1. You are way better at money than you think. Yep, you’re a financial guru in the making. Ever watched a make-up contouring tutorial on YouTube? Ever done the mental math on how many tops in your wardrobe go with the skirt you’re wearing in the change room? Ever done some sneaky calorie calculations to work out whether you should drink this glass of wine?

    I thought so. Fact is, we are always learning, researching, calculating and rationalising in our everyday lives. And these are all the skills required to get in control of our money. Don’t let anyone (especially yourself) tell you that you’re ‘just not good with money’. Women are fucking great at it, when we give ourselves permission to be.

  2. Nobody cares about your money as much as you. Not your husband, boyfriend or father. Not your bank manager, fund manager or financial adviser. The best person to look out for your interests is YOU.

    Educate yourself, go with your gut, ask difficult questions and generally be a pushy bitch when it comes to managing your money. The only person you can always rely on to have your interests at heart is yourself, so you may as well give yourself the education and knowledge to kick arse at finance.

  3. You have more hurdles to overcome, so you’d better ‘work bitch’.  As with so many life events, Britney said it best. You’ better work, bitch, because as a woman, you start behind the 8-ball.

    We get paid less, for complex reasons (including structural workforce issues and not asking enough). We have lots of time out of the workforce to care for kids and elderly parents. And we end up in lower-paid sectors that someone (maaaybe men) have decided are worth less.

    Regardless of all the complex reasons, there is just one solution: work and save hard. We have to (as usual) do even more to get ahead. We need to add more to super early on, before we have kids. We have to take charge of our cashflow and budgets to make sure we save for the future. And we have to make sure we have money set aside for disasters (aka a Fuck-off fund).

So,  for IWD2018 this year, I say what I say 364 other days of the year: money is power. If you  take charge of it, you take charge of your life.

Please ladies: go forth and be fierce. 

 

Are these 4 spending traps blowing your budget?

There’s a curious thing about modern, middle-class life. We can afford things. We have money to spend. But we’re not very good at it.

Sure, we have to cover the boring bills and housing costs. But someone with a decent income has a bit of flex left in their budget. The dilemma is deciding what to do with it.

I’ve been thinking about this lately. How do we know if we can afford something?

Or more accurately, how do we decide what we can afford?

It’s more complicated than it sounds. Humans are notoriously bad with delayed gratification. So, when we’re deciding how to allocate our money, we often choose what’s right in front of us.

Shiny things, fun things, easy things!

In a perfect world of financial responsibility, we wouldn’t go shopping or to the pub until we’d put extra money into our savings,  our mortgage, or investments. But life is not perfect, nor are we.

But I have a theory that the key to building wealth is saying, “I know I can afford this, but should I?”.

There are some common spending traps that we should be conscious of in life. We would do well to notice, pause and reflect on these … before we get out our wallets.

Emotional spending

Maybe most spending is emotional. We have a vision of our lives that we’re trying to fulfill. To look a certain way, present a certain way, create a certain story about ourselves.

But there is also a particular type of emotional spending that’s a response to a situation. It’s called retail therapy, and it’s bullshit.

Therapy is a positive process that makes you face your feelings and deal with them. Shopping is just avoiding those feelings.

Spending to soothe your pain – or at least delay it – is a trap.

(I’m not saying I haven’t done it, but I will say I have I ended up with poorly fitting outfits.)

Solution? Process your emotions, rather than avoiding them. Call a friend, go for a run, hit the gym (my personal favourite). Maybe even go to real therapy (seriously – it’s great – I wrote about it here).

Mindless/lazy spending

This is my hobby horse, so get ready for a rant.

If you’re spending fifty bucks a week buying lunch, because you can’t haul your arse into a supermarket, then it’s time to reassess your life choices.

It’s not about having time, it’s about having priorities.  I’m not saying you need to spend hours in the kitchen every night. Commit a short period of time to even the most half-hearted food prep, and you’ll thank yourself. (I gotchu fam – tips here and here).

Same goes for spending too much at the pub/cocktail bar, because it’s a habit and your friends do it and you can’t think of anything else to do that’s cheaper or more satisfying.

Look, everyone likes a night out, but if it’s your default, then maybe have think about the habits you’re forming.

Solution: Work out where your downfall is, and how much time or effort you need to fix it. It may be less than you think.

Routine spending

It’s easy to think something is necessary because you do it a lot. But it just means you’ve set your baseline at a particular level: regular salon sessions, eyelash extensions, getting your hair done every six weeks, or whatever recurring cost has become part of your routine.

I was convinced that one-on-one coaching every week was definitely necessary and justified. But having stopped it this year, it turns out, it’s not. I love my coach, but do I have other financial priorities right now? Yes. (Am I a good enough powerlifter to justify the cost of coaching? No)

Solution: I’m not saying you shouldn’t treat yourself. I’m saying to think about what you have normalised in your life, and whether it’s serving you well.

Social-pressure spending

The social pressure of money is a real thing.

People don’t like to say ‘I can’t afford that’. There’s a perceived shame in noting the lofty financial expectations people place on others.

So you either find money for things, or whack it on credit cards.

Hen’s weekend that’s gonna cost 300 bucks? Suck it up and pay.

Friday night drinks that cost $50 a round? Deal with it.

Group birthday present for $100 each? Sign me up.

And before you know it, the budget is blown.

Solution: Generosity is good, but you don’t have to get on board the crazy-cost-train every time you’re asked. If you have a financial goal you’re working to, make it known. “Sorry, I’ve got some aggressive savings goals for my house deposit. Can we look at some other options, or I will do my own thing”.

Real friends will be chill about that. Shallow friends can eat a bag of dicks.

Set yourself up for success

Look, I know this stuff isn’t always easy. The first step is being clear on your goals – it’s easier to say no if you know the reason. I highly recommend working on your goals (here) and mindful spending manifesto (here).

Then you’ll be set up for success when it comes to saying no, or not today, or not ever.

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