Bad With Money
4th January 2017
Happy new year, comrades!
How is 2017 beginning for you? We are home this week, on holidays together, with nowhere to be and nothing on the books. It’s fabulous. Keith is building a new grey-water pipe, which means he is ringing in the new year covered in sludge and smelling like a tarts arsehole, and I am systematically making my way through every room in the house; sorting, spring-cleaning and decluttering. We are busy in the best way, and spending lots of down time too, reading, watching movies and playing Bananagrams.
I miss writing here, and inspired by Kate, I think I will try and write once a week in this space, to decant some of my thoughts onto the page and sort them out. Like Joan Didion, ‘I don’t know what I think until I write it down’.
Today I thought I’d explore something that makes my toes curl and my heart race. If I had testicles, this subject would make them retreat into my body.
I am bad with money.
This is shameful and humiliating, and I have always been like this.
I sabotage myself constantly. I am frugal - I menu plan, I shop at the op-shop, I don’t buy much ‘stuff’. But the part of me that is thoughtful and careful with money is constantly undermined by the other part of my brain that is weird and anxious about it and so avoids thinking about it as much as possible. Which makes me on the one hand careful, and on the other hand, utterly unaware of where the money is going.
As in, I make careful lists and then buy the sparkly things as they appear before me, like a child.
As in, I think about and plan my shopping and then never check my change or keep track of things in process.
As in, my actions make my plans a waste of time and energy.
Self-sabotage! What fun!
I open up to this failing to you guys in the hope that there are some of you that feel the same. Are you bad with money? Are you good with money? How does one get from one persona to the other? This is one of my great intentions for 2017: to improve on this aspect of life.
Being bad with money is childlike and infantilising. It upsets me because I am good at managing the complex family life of work and kids. I can handle it, I like it, and I actually pretty rarely drop the ball even though I definitely play up the parts where I stuff up (which are frequent) for comedy purposes.
But this inability to keep track of my financial life blocks me; it holds me in the eternal hopeless present, and it undermines my sense of achievement or agency in other aspects of life.
Keith and I had one of our finance conversations yesterday. These fun chats are the ones where my hands get shaky and my voice gets squeaky and I basically hold my breath until we can stop talking.
Lucky us, though. If I was married to me we would be in dire straits, living in a yurt somewhere and wondering what happened to our superannuation paperwork. Keith, however, is a scientist, engineer and a master of all kind of nerd-craft, and has a complex spreadsheet of such matters. It is colourful and complex and looking at it makes my palms sweat.
As you can imagine, I am not at all frustrating to be married to. Over the years we have refined our systems to avoid conflict in this regard, and we largely do. But yesterday, I was baffled by ‘purchase charges’ on my bank statement and Keith lost his cool. He can’t understand my stupidity about this stuff, and I am ashamed and defensive.
The good thing is that I am not extravagant. Just a fucking idiot. So there is hope.
I’ve been looking for some advice around the place. I really like the podcast Bad With Money, by Gaby Dunn. and I tried listening to a couple of others but they are either all about investing or leap unexpectedly into bible verse, which is disconcerting. I tried watching a couple of budgeting YouTubers but they put me to sleep and have crazy eyes. Lots of people seem to be reading The Barefoot Investor. Yay or nay?
That’s me for 2017. Bad with money. Hoping to get better.