• Productive worrying vs pointless spiralling: How I stop myself from freaking out about money

    how to stop worrying about money

     

    $&@*!!!!

    That was my reaction a few weeks ago when the first pay day of the year arrived … and I hadn’t been paid.

    My mind immediately went into overdrive.

    Where was the money?
    Was it just delayed due to the New Year public holidays?
    Had it not been processed by the finance team?
    What if I wasn’t going to get paid at all?
    What would this mean for cashflow for the next week, and the week after, and the week after, and the week after? I’d have to tap into savings, maybe take some from the house renovation fund …

    And so on and so forth. Straight into the worst case scenario and all the disastrous consequences.

    It’s so easy to spiral – but I managed to take a deep breath before spinning totally out of control and reassess.

    I had enough in that account to pay the mortgage – priority numero uno.

    Cash savings elsewhere would tide me over for all the other expenses.

    And that was all I truly needed to think about right then and there.

    No use immediately jumping to catastrophic conclusions and getting lost down the paths of endless what ifs.

    Worrying isn’t always a bad thing, if you know when to stop

    There’s the productive kind that leads to making contingency plans.

    But then there’s needless stressing. It’s like picking a scab.

    It serves no purpose whatsoever – aside, perhaps, from giving your mind something to do. And the only possible result is that you make yourself feel worse and worse as it drives you into a frenzy of fear and self pity (you know exactly what I’m talking about).

    That’s unhelpful, unhealthy, and it’s something I’ve worked hard to cut out.

    It doesn’t sound like much, but I was super proud of myself for catching myself in the act and nipping it in the bud.

    Happy ending! The money came through sometime between then and the next time I checked back – which I refrained from doing until the next day. All that fretting would have been for nothing.

    The urge to scratch that itch was strong, but every time I stamp it down it gets a little easier.

    Another example: several months ago I got a letter from the owner/landlord of the neighbouring property. They wanted to put up a new fence … and their estimate was over $6,000, or $3,000 for my half.

    Now, a new fence is on the roadmap for us, and it’s something we wanted to get done anyway. But not just yet (the kitchen comes first) and certainly not at that price. $3k for a fence was not in the budget any time soon.

    I stressed out majorly about this. Raged, worried, spent ages researching the law and our obligations. Wrote back outlining my viewpoint and countering their proposal (which boiled down to, we do not currently have the funds or desire to do this right now).

    Then it was just a matter of waiting. Time enough for me to review the situation with a clearer mind and reassure myself that even if this were to go ahead, I could absorb the expense. Sure, it would make a massive dent in my savings and postpone our kitchen project for who knows how long … but it wouldn’t ruin me.

    Time passed and no response came, so: crisis averted. We can tackle the fence later when we’re in a position to do so.

    And that was a huge exercise in resetting my emotional reactions, and a big leap forward for me. In fact, I think it was my biggest breakthrough in terms of stopping the spiral before it went too far.

    Rewiring your mind

    Since then, I’ve taught myself to allow less and less time to freak the fuck out, and more quickly move on to considering the options, and accepting the possible outcomes.

    Overwriting that thought pattern takes time, just like building any muscle or habit. Developing the self awareness and self control so that you can catch yourself before the worrying stops being productive and crosses over into self flagellation.

    You’ve got to be able to recognise when you’re heading down that path, and make the choice to break the cycle right there.

    It’ll do wonders for your happiness. Seriously, learning to not let my scarcity mindset drag me down is probably my favourite life hack ever.

  • Do the right thing, dammit (even if it’s not the easy thing)

    WHY IT PAYS TO DO THE RIGHT THING

    The right thing and the easy thing are never the same.

    Ain’t that the truth?

     

    Thing is, taking the easy way out will often backfire. Laziness, procrastination, whatever you want to call it … sometimes it comes back to bite you square on the butt.

    And I don’t know about you, but very few things annoy me quite as much as putting things off for later only for it to come back and cost me later.

    How laziness can be expensive, in two case studies:

    Example A: The oil leak

    Our car boot has been home to a spear (as in spearfishing) for awhile – it’s just been kicking around in there since a mate left it there.

    Then we bought some oil for the car, since it’s about due for a service. Left that in the boot too, until a few days later when T went to retrieve it …

    Cue oil leak. The dang spear pierced the bottom of the oil bottle and about 80% of the contents leaked, seeping into the boot carpeting and down into the spare tyre alcove (at least the cap didn’t come off, a gushing flood would have been SO much worse).

    To add insult to injury, we have a protective rubber liner that usually lives on the boot floor but had been putting off putting it back in after taking it out for a cleaning ages ago. If that had been in place, it would have been much tidier and made cleaning up a cinch.

    The damage: about $50 in oil and the subsequent cleanup.

    Example B: The water leak

    We took out part of a wall over the holidays, as part of the kitchen project. We did get an absolute steal on the labour because we know the guys, but they are legit building professionals.

    Afterward, they apparently swept a bunch of the detritus straight through the hole in the floor, under the house. I learned this too late, and was wringing my hands about it (“what about the dogs?! You KNOW they like to wander underneath the house sometimes, and they could get hurt!”)

    Alas, what was done was done.

    And then a few days later I suspected a leak. Sure enough, we have a tiny little rubber water hose running below the house – it connects the main tap to our fridge (our new fridge has a cold water dispenser built in) and in their willy nilly dumping of crap through the floor instead of disposing of it properly, must have punctured the hose.

    The damage: TBC. I’m hoping it won’t have majorly impacted our water bill, given how small the hose is and the size of the hole/leak. And I doubt that amount of water will have done much damage to the house itself. But I’m still majorly annoyed about it .

    (The fix: I faced my claustrophobia and crawled under the house to snip the hose off before the leak and cap it there to stop the flow. It SUCKED but at least now I know I can handle it, dirt and all. I still, however, refuse to try to get up into the roof … that involves putting a chair in our tiny hall closet and then squeezing through an even smaller hole to reach the roof space.)

    Laziness costs money, guys.

    Ever taken the easy route and wound up regretting it?

  • A short, sweet, 2017 highlights reel

    2017 review

    Most people did their 2017 reviews in, er, 2017. Oops.

    December was a month of two halves for me: a manic first half, and then a super chilled second half in which I had zero desire to write! Hence this extremely late recap

    Work & Money

    • Delivered some cool projects
    • Joined a nonprofit board
    • Landed a new job
    • Got great feedback 4 months in
    • Reached a milestone net worth goal

    Home (er, credit mostly to T)

    • Got the veggie garden fenced off
    • Built dog kennels
    • Finished printing and framing photos for the wall
    • Began kitchen renovation

    Fitness

    • Started using the Seven app (lightning quick workouts you can do at home)
    • Experimented with fitness tracking – testing out app + watch device for a friend’s startup employer
    • Played Frisbee for the spring season (it’s, surprisingly, freaking good exercise)
    • Played touch rugby (though  not for the full season)

    Personal

    • Continued to work on Leila’s dog-dog reactivity
    • Had several fun doggy dates
    • Went to two weddings
    • Met two friends’ new babies
    • Actually picked up my guitar a few times
    • Did a LOT of inner work on mindset, stress management, etc

    I’m impatient to see what 2018 has in store for me – I can’t wait! And I may finally be coming out of the blogging dry spell I’ve been in … for the first time in months, I’ve got ideas for new posts brewing. Happy new year indeed.

  • Ever feel like you don’t deserve your good fortune?

    When you feel like you don't deserve your good fortune

    For all the work I’ve been doing on money and mindset recently, I still struggle sometimes with it all.

    The last few years have been awesome for my income growth  and financial security.

    And yet the thought keeps rearing its head: I don’t deserve this. How long can this last?

    What I’m doing to counter these doubts:

    Reminding myself there is room to grow

    I know it’s possible to do so. Salary surveys and job listings out there prove it. As do people I’ve worked with who earn more. (Of course, this leads to another dangerous path that lies in the complete opposite direction – why don’t I already make that much?)

    Remembering that me having less doesn’t make the world a better place somehow

    The starving artist, nobility is poverty mindset dies hard, I guess. And it’s ridiculous. Me struggling would do nobody any good. I try to remember to give back by donating every month, as well as trying to somewhat regularly give blood, meet up with my mentee, and I’ve also recently joined a local nonprofit board. (Another trigger for imposter syndrome right there!)

    Reviewing how far I’ve come

    I’m horrible at tracking my accomplishments. But I recently updated my CV and LinkedIn (you don’t even want to know how long that took me) and when I’m feeling down on myself professionally, I look back at some of the stuff I’ve done for reassurance.

    How do you cope when you feel like you don’t deserve what you’ve got?

     

  • You can’t always force things to happen on your timeline

    You can't force life to happen on your timeline

    All in good time.

    Things happen when they’re meant to.

    Make a plan, the universe laughs.

    Looking back, Big Life Things have happened for me when I least expected them. Often, when I’d given up entirely on them.

    Not when I was pushing, pushing, pushing.

    Not when I was fixated on them.

    Not when I was desperate.

    Much like with writing, which for me flows best not when I try to force it; but when I relax, when I’m in the right frame of mind, when the environment and circumstances are right.

    And likewise, life is funny that way. It’s always worked itself out, just not necessarily in the ways I imagined or within the timeframe I anticipated.

    It sounds woo-woo – but I’m getting more and more into the realm of woo, and liking it, with age. I’m appreciating the power of mindset, and the importance of getting into flow and alignment wherever possible.

    So this is a public commitment to myself.

    I have established my goal; now I must stop obsessing, and let it come to me when the time and circumstances are right. I’ve done my part, laid the foundations, and will continue to do my thing to make sure I’m worthy of it, and ready to identify and receive it when it appears.

    Patience, humility, and a whole lot more patience.

  • On knockbacks and building up career confidence

    Confidence and career

    It’s funny how certain things can shake your confidence to the core.

    For example, in my professional career, I’ve never interviewed for a job I didn’t get.

    (I definitely DON’T count my history of part-time jobs while studying … it’s ridiculous how hard I tried to get a retail job and could never break out of hospo/customer service. But in the end I managed to crack the office admin market, and that suited me WAYYY better.)

    So when a coworker at a previous job offhandedly mentioned that I wasn’t the first choice candidate to get that role, I had a bit of an internal meltdown. It all worked out, she assured me, for the best, because I was a great fit for the position. The preferred applicant had terrible references, while mine were glowing, which sealed the deal and led to an offer.

    I put my streak down to the fact that although I’ve never had a 5-year plan or 10-year plan (or hell, any plan beyond about 6 months to a year, tops) when I HAVE set my sights on the next step, I’ve had a pretty good idea of what I wanted.

    But I still suffer terribly from impostor syndrome. Clearly I know my shit to some degree, or I wouldn’t be where I am today. And yet most of the time I still feel like I don’t belong. Particularly as my personality is all kinds of wrong for the professional working world and its open plan offices: introverted, highly sensitive, a slow burner rather than an on-your-feet thinker, someone who needs a maker’s schedule rather than a manager’s schedule.

    Although it’s a long, slow work in progress, I am finally shoring up my own confidence, independent of external factors. If that conversation were to happen today, I honestly think that would flow right past me. I mean that, for real.

    Let’s take my reactions to a couple of recent situations.

    One involved harsh criticism of something I worked on, voiced by someone much higher up the food chain than me. Once upon a time that would have devastated and humiliated me, and probably kept me up at nights in a furious tangle for days after. Instead, I was cool as a freaking cucumber throughout. I felt hardly any emotion at all. I had utter faith in the work and no doubts whatsoever. This was a view shared by and backed up by several other people – I promise it wasn’t a case of me having blinkers on or being precious about the whole thing.

    Another had nothing to do with me but was one of those cases where it fell to me to straighten things out. This had me secondguessing myself a few times, I admit. And I have never been the type of person to say “I am 100% sure that…” But I was, in fact, certain of this particular fact, and I stated this out loud. This was for a minor, tiny thing really … but mustering the courage to draw that line was a huge deal for me. And I was right.

    Confidence – it hurts when it gets chipped away in big chunks, but it builds back up again over time without you even noticing.

  • The least feminist post I’ll ever write

    The least feminist post I'll ever write - On being a female breadwinner and having a family
    After a spate of breakups, I don’t believe there are any couples left in my regular IRL circle with a clear female breadwinner. Just me. It’s a lonely place to be.

    One couple previously had a disparity, but have now equalled out, or close to it. Unsurprisingly, they are both happy about this, as it takes the financial pressure off her when it comes to having a family (particularly, god forbid, if pregnancy turned out to be difficult healthwise) which is now officially in the works! They’re working toward him getting a well-paying job so she can stay home with kids like she hopes to.

    Every other couple has fallen apart – and money has been a factor for at least some, and possibly all of them. It’s such a common thread, I don’t think it’s a coincidence. There were elements of them supporting, enabling and being taken advantage of by their partners. Okay, maybe that’s a bit harsh; let’s say in every case, the dudes failed to step up and pull their own weight.

    There’s also one woman I am acquainted with, who I thought might be a bit of a role model in that regard. There’s a loose parallel in our career paths and we both make more than our partner, but she’s about a decade older with kids. Yay, right? Unfortunately that illusion has been gradually shattered for me, as it’s becoming clearer that he doesn’t seem to contribute his fair share in any aspect of the relationship. And thus, theirs is not one I aspire to emulate.

    But even if you have an awesome partner in every way, who pulls their weight overall, but just HAPPENS to earn a lot less….

    Any kind of imbalance or inequality in a relationship can be tough to navigate. When it comes to money, it’s just easier if you’re roughly equal earners.

    There are the values you think you have, and then the actual feelings you have

    If I’m being honest with myself, I’d love a partner who earned as much or more than me. It’s not the outearning in itself that’s the problem; it’s the flow-on effects.

    Where it really becomes an issue is when kids come into the picture. 

    I don’t need to be looked after – but it’d be nice to have the option, you know?

    There are moments where it just feels like a rough deal all round. Not only do I have to make the bacon but bake the bun too? (Worst mixed metaphor ever. Sorry!)

    But then again, we couldn’t have predicted this; 7 years ago I thought I’d be a journalist forever and he’d work up to being a qualified tradie who’d earn the bulk of our income. How things change! And who knows what else might happen in the next couple of years?

    For now though, I think about the practicalities of eventually starting a family and am discouraged.

    The ideal would be if we both individually earned an income that would support a family, but that is not the case. The loss of my income while on parental leave reduces our income by … well, a hell of a lot more than half. And our household income is not particularly high to begin with.

    “Doesn’t that worry you?” my best friend asked me recently over lunch as we talked numbers.

    Hell yes, it does.

    Financially speaking, here’s what me being the breadwinner means if we want to start a family:

    1) I won’t be able to take a full year off (which is the norm here). Which isn’t too terrible; six months seems like a reasonable chunk to me and that would be manageable if we start planning ahead ASAP, though it’ll definitely be a stretch. I’m fairly certain I’ll be well and ready to get back to interacting with adults and doing what I’m best at by then!

    2) I won’t be able to quit my job and stay home if I change my mind. As above, I suspect I’d be itching to get back to work … but what if I’m not? I just don’t know, is all. It’s pretty unlikely though, so I’m just going to entirely ignore this possibility.

    Plus, I can’t help but worry about the off chance that something throws a spanner in the works healthwise.

    Everything might work out if everything goes to plan. But what if I have health issues in pregnancy, like some of my current and former colleagues? What if I need to give up work earlier than planned or return later than planned?




    Between biology, the work world, parental leave law (less than minimum wage for approx 4 months here), a society centuries in the making … no wonder it’s so hard to break the mould of men working and women staying home. (Not all of us aspire to entrepreneurship, remember.) It’s just not set up for it.  

    There’s the long game to consider as well, which didn’t even occur to me until a friend pointed this out to me: Add in the fact that often 1) women earn less than men do in the same job 2) have to spend more on certain things by way of being female 3) live longer and thus need more saved for retirement. Ouch.

    I don’t mean this to come off in a whiny, woe-is-me way. I feel like a bad feminist just for writing this all out (hence the title); I feel like I should be loudly and proudly proclaiming that I can and will do it all! Especially when I’ve been slammed on Facebook in the past for even daring to suggest otherwise, when I shared a link to a post that talked about how unrealistic it is to expect to have it all.

    We’ll muddle through, I’m sure. One way or another – we’ve got time to figure it out. I’ve been running some numbers here and there. But this is one financial area where I want to leave as little to chance as possible.


  • What my Asian parents taught me about money

    WHAT MY ASIAN PARENTS TAUGHT ME ABOUT MONEY

    Like all true Asian parents, mine drilled the work first, play later mentality into me.

    (Though in fairness they were nowhere near Amy Chua tiger mother levels.)

    And along with modelling delayed gratification, my Asian family also taught me a few things about money over the years that I’ve never forgotten.

    Shop the sales

    Apparently I once asked Mum, “why don’t you ever buy anything that’s not on special?”

    She is the most frugal person I know. Never overpays for anything, and knows how to get the best price on everything.

    Back when we were in primary school, I once went to the supermarket with my best friend in primary school to get snacks. We were so proud to find and buy bottles of Coke on special for 99c. Even my friend’s dad praised us for our bargain hunting ways!

    Not my mum. At their lowest price, she informed us, you could get those bottles on special for even less than that.

    She is the queen of thrift shopping and I didn’t really appreciate it until adulthood. Now I’m like, tell me all your secrets.

    Always negotiate

    We spent a lot of time at garage sales when I was a kid and I watched the master bargainers in action. Whether it was a $2 doll or a $600 TV, they would always ask for a better deal (as it turns out, basically everything is negotiable).

    Despite all that, I could barely bring myself to haggle at markets while travelling through Asia. And I think back on the times I didn’t negotiate salary and mentally kick myself.

    I get the theory, but actually doing it is a different kettle of fish.

    Needs vs wants

    Wants never masqueraded as needs in our household, not even for a second. People bleat on about how extravagant parents are with presents for their kids, but we literally didn’t get gifts. I feel like we could have done with more wants, growing up.

    (For years we didn’t have a TV – before broadband, before streaming, and so I never got to participate in conversations about last night’s TV shows at school. #firstworldproblems)

    OTOH, sometimes needs can be disguised as wants…

    Props to them for trying to pass off buying me a sleeping bag (you know, for school camp) as an early birthday present. (Spoiler: didn’t fall for it.) Even 10-year-old me knew better.

    I’ve always stood by the belief that gifts are for things you want, not things you need. That will never change.

    What did you learn from your family about money?

    Disease Called Debt
  • The 2 things I learned this year that changed my life

    2 things I learned this year that changed my lifeThe past 18 months have been a lesson in patience.

    Waiting for things to fall into place, to resolve themselves.

    Waiting on the outcomes of other people’s decisions or actions that affect me and my plans.

    Waiting and working towards building savings, investments and paying off debt.

    Waiting to see how our two adolescent rescue dogs settle in, respond to training and mature.

    Patience has never been my strong suit. As usual I find myself vacillating between extremes: am I expecting too much of the dogs, other people, the universe? Or should they really be further along by now and is this a reflection of my own suckiness? What is simply a work in progress, what will always be in flux, what is yet to come and what is just never meant to be?

    Perhaps the best question is in fact: can I ever just sit back, stop thinking and enjoy the ride? Time has shown this just isn’t in my nature, so while I can try to keep it in check, I’m always going to be a worrier.

    Especially when it comes to the living things in my care. Do those wilting herbs need more or less water? Why did that egg have a dent in it? What’s up with that paw?

    Focusing on my locus of control

    I can recite that old saying a million times:

    Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

    Actually letting go of the things I cannot control is not something I’ve really nailed. However, I’m getting closer and closer.

    On the one hand, letting go of things is frustrating; it feels like admitting defeat. On the other, it is just about the most freeing feeling on earth.

    Setting boundaries

    As I said above, letting go can feel like giving up. But it doesn’t double as an excuse for sitting back and simply throwing up your hands. Nor does it mean letting others take advantage of you along the way and dictate your path.

    That’s where boundaries come in. They are so crucial. For me, learning to let go goes hand in hand with knowing and setting limits for yourself. Otherwise it’s easy to drift, be swept away, get lost and wonder how you ended up nowhere. Sticking to healthy boundaries is vital to my self care.

    It’s been so long since I kept a journal. I switched to writing songs, and then this blog. Next year I want to return to paper. Record small wins, track bigger projects, scribble down ideas and goals and dreams and the things I’m grateful for on a regular basis.

  • 5 things I’ve learned from surviving a marriage crisis

    The best relationship advice I can give

    After more than 10 years in a generally happy union, I recently realised that – like Jon Snow – I knew nothing.

    Nothing at all.

    I once read that good marriages begin after the first gigantic crisis. When you begin again, in spite of everything, and work to make it through the anger and fear and sadness.

    Separately, the wise and inimitable Alain de Botton has said that pessimism offers a solution to a lot of the pressures around relationships. Romanticism is unhelpful, and makes a lot of what we go through in marriage seem exceptional and appalling.

    Depressing as those two paragraphs may sound, I think they ring with truth.

    There are five main things this crisis taught me. Here is what I’ve learned.

    Love is a verb

    Don’t just tell me you love me; show me through your actions.

    So many of our habits and behaviours towards our partners are manipulative

    Whether we realise it or not. Awareness is the first step.

    Do not tolerate sustained unhappiness in a relationship

    Don’t put up with it now, hoping that it will improve eventually, if you have no inkling at all for when that might be. Think about how long you could stick it out if nothing changed – a month? Six months? A year?

    Never set yourself on fire to keep someone else warm

    There is no glory in martyrdom. This isn’t a social movement; this is your life. Your happiness is what’s at stake.

    We are flawed

    All of us. So very deeply. This is something we must accept if we are to move forward.

    There it is – the best relationship advice I have to give. Have you been through a relationship crisis, and has it taught you anything new?