Tag Archives: life

How To Worry Less About Money: 3 things I took away

How to worry less about money - book review NZ Muse

The most refreshing thing about How To Worry Less About Money is the author’s unflinching observation of how money affects relationships. In this book, John Armstrong relates this back to his own marriage.

“My own experience is that money worries can cause terrible conflicts in relationships. I fear I have damaged Helen’s life by not making more money. And there are stylistic clashes: I like being lavish; she’s much more restrained. For instance, I like the idea of going to fancy restaurants; she prefers the modest family-run place round the corner, or chicken soup at home. (And this is all the harder to deal with because our earnings point in the opposite directions to these personal tastes).”
Well, I’m the Helen in my life, and I can vouch for the fact that I have felt resentful many a time. I wish that weren’t true, but I am human, and perhaps not always a very good one. This is us, down to a T, especially the incongruence between tastes and earnings.  I would be curious to hear Helen’s viewpoint.

Money and marriage

Armstrong points out that in the world of Jane Austen, having enough money is taken very seriously (and rightly so!) as a necessary condition of happy marriage. Money reduces the fragility of a relationship, and makes people more relaxed. Money buys luxury, privacy and  stimulation. Money is for some people an aphrodisiac.

All of these things resonate so hard (perhaps not exactly the last one, but financial stress is a huge turn off and therefore lack of money is definitely a turn off).

Alas, there are no true solutions offered up, despite the practical promise offered in the title. This is a philosophical read about how we think about money, relate to it, the space it occupies in our minds and lives.

It’s a book about money worries, as opposed to money troubles.

Money troubles vs money worries

Money troubles, Armstrong contends, are urgent. They call for direct action and can only be resolved in one of two ways: either you gain access to more money or you go without something else.

Money worries, conversely, are about imagination and motions, not just what is happening now. Money worries often say more about the worrier than the world. They’re about what’s going on in your head not just in your bank account.

The meaning of money

When you strip money right back to the fundamentals, it is just a resource – a means of exchange.

“In other words money is an instrument … Ultimately the task in life is to translate efforts and activities that are inherently worthwhile into possessions and experiences that are themselves of lasting and true value.

“That is the ideal money cycle. Our relationship with money becomes unhealthy when we remove it from this cycle. That happens when we stop seeing money as potential possessions and experiences – but rather see possessions and experiences as potential money.”

We’re all bombarded these days with the reminder to DO WHAT YOU LOVE. Armstrong acknowledges that we need to make enough money to meet our needs and we also need to do things that help us make sense of who we are and contribute to collective good.

You can escape by not caring about meaning. And you can escape by not caring about having much money.  But a lot of people care about both.”

* * *

If you know roughly what to expect going in, this is a great read. I related to so much of it, I was constantly nodding along and found myself bookmarking what seemed like every other page.

If you’ve read it, what did you think?

Compromise where you can – and where you can’t, don’t

Compromise where you can - and where you can't, don't

Who would’ve thought that the latest Captain America movie could spawn such wisdom?

To live in this world is to compromise. And to be in a relationship is to compromise.

I kept reaching my limit … or so I thought.

And then I would push through. Just a little longer, I would think. Surely things will change. This can’t continue indefinitely.

For better and for worse, right?

But when something or someone is the sole source of your stress and there is no sign of it changing – it’s time to reevaluate. Be kind to yourself, first and foremost.

You may not know where your true limits lie. I know I didn’t. And that epiphany may wind up coming from elsewhere.

In my case, I was physically falling apart – in rather obvious ways. That’s when I knew I had to draw a line. That was something I could not compromise on.

Listen to your body, because it doesn’t lie.

I may have had to learn the hard way, but now I know where I can and cannot compromise.

Financial privileges I have (and haven’t) had

FINANCIAL PRIVILEGES I HAVE HAD

It’s so easy to get caught up in focusing on what we don’t have. (Guilty as charged, on a daily basis!)

For example:

  • I left home young – no cellphone, no computer, no car, just some clothes, books and my guitar – and became financially independent at 17
  • I don’t work in an industry known for being lucrative and my skills skew more creative, less practical
  • I don’t have an equal financial partner; our relationship has spanned multiple bouts of unemployment/underemployment that add up to probably tens of thousands spent supporting us solely on my income

But I’ve also had so many financial privileges in my life. I don’t know where I would be without these things today.

Let’s see:

I grew up in a financially stable home

I never wanted for anything. I have financially savvy parents and money was never a taboo topic. I came away with an understanding of the importance of saving, and I  was encouraged to focus on the future and think about career paths.

I received a full tuition scholarship

My merit scholarship paid for my university fees. Between the student allowance and paid work, I was able to cover my living costs and graduated basically debt-free. Otherwise, 12 cents out of every dollar I earn today would be going toward student loan repayments.

I’ve never been unemployed

Despite entering the workforce during the GFC, I have always been employed. The work I do also aligns well with freelancing/side hustling.

The stockmarket has been kind to me so far

It even helped me with my house deposit. I never intended to use that money for a down payment – it was invested for the long term originally – but it worked out well.

I’ve benefited from family support

This ties back in to my first point, too. My parents looked after me during my separation, offered help with the purchase of my house and were in a position to lend me money towards it so I could buy something decent.

What financial privileges have you had?

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich, Disease Called Debt and Frugal in SA

How getting a dog changed my life

Getting a dog changed my life

It’s safe to say that getting a dog was very high on the agenda after buying a house. (A refresher: NZ is heinously pet unfriendly when it comes to renting – “No pets and no smokers” reads basically every rental listing ever.)

I had no idea how to choose a dog, really. I wanted to adopt pretty much every single dog listed for adoption on TradeMe, and once at the SPCA, it was just as tough. Heartbreaking, really (I may have gotten a bit teary.) Especially the older ones.

This little lass was just over a year old and had been awaiting adoption for many months. Her previous family lived in government housing and couldn’t keep her.

She’s super affectionate, very alert and aware. She has to sniff ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING and find out what you’re up to.

She’s also a bit of a chewer, although hopefully that will fade with age.

She settled in quite quickly, I thought, but a coworker said it would probably take time. And indeed, a couple months in she’s suddenly started to REALLY play with her toys properly – in particular the first two I ever got her – and it warms my heart.

Also, turns out that talking out loud to something that doesn’t talk back isn’t as unnatural as I thought it would be.

Owning a dog has forced/taught me to be:

Tidier

I’ve always struggled with neatness. I have some Type A tendencies that I tap into in order to combat my core messiness and keep on top of life, but organised chaos tends to be how I roll. Now I’m learning to shut doors, put things away, and this dovetails nicely with home ownership as I can now finally store stuff away and know that’s how it’s going to be as long as I want it that way. I’m not much for decor, but practical solutions I can get behind … and home storage is my new addiction. Basket, shelves, hooks, racks … I want them all!

More active

It’s always a struggle, especially in winter. We live near some great parks and tracks, luckily, and often run into other friendly dogs along the way.

Patient

I’m not a naturally patient person. But I know I need to lead calmly by example and focus on positive reinforcement. While she’s quite well behaved there’s room to improve (and I have lots to learn too) and we’re just about to start obedience classes!




She brings me so much joy. I look forward to seeing her at the end of every day, and it makes me want to rush home. Sometimes she’s a pain in the ass; for a couple of dark days early on I was afraid we’d bitten off more than we could chew, that she’d never calm down and be manageable. But I wouldn’t give her up for the world.

Leaving saved my marriage

How an ultimatum saved my marriage

I have never really believed in ultimatums.

But there were no other options left.

If the price of stability and a home was being alone, I realised I would take that deal in a heartbeat. See also: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

You need to set your own boundaries; decide:

what you want and need

what you can and cannot accept

what you expect and deserve

It isn’t selfish to put your own oxygen mask on first. To stay true to your own goals. To refuse to  allow someone else to derail your dreams and hold you back.

The end of 2015 was a low, low point for us. I think we both found ourselves disappointed in one another, to varying degrees.

It was an opportunity to reevaluate our priorities (or, for me at least, to reinforce mine and validate my decision), and have the space to take a step back and reflect.

Sometimes, you gotta burn things down if there’s going to be any hope of rebuilding them again.

Should you leave your unemployed partner?

Should you leave a chronically unemployed partner?

You are not a terrible person if you’re thinking of leaving a chronically underemployed/unemployed partner. We only get one life, and you’re allowed to put your own interests first. Love is lovely … but so is peace of mind and financial security. In some circumstances it might be blindingly obvious whether to stay or go. But in others it’s not – this one’s for you. (For the record: While things seem to be back on track, I’m keeping things separate so that they’re easy to untangle again if needed.)

How did I know I couldn’t keep going?

When I asked myself, is this relationship adding net value to my life? I could no longer say yes.

For all the good, the bad outweighed it, and had been for a long time.

Nobody knows all the gory details. They don’t need to. Honestly, I could have coped with it all – as long as he had a full time job. But all those things, combined with zero income … different story. Especially given the fact that going separate ways would render him eligible for unemployment benefits.

It is damn hard to tell where supporting becomes enabling, and being taken advantage of.

I am far from blameless. I made mistakes. There are many things I could have done better. And I’m much wiser for it.

I held on too long. Then I came to a crossroads.

I could keep being passive. And I would almost certainly wind up bitter and drained. Probably having a breakdown and having to take time off work – ironically, the only thing keeping us afloat financially, not to mention the only good thing in my life.

Or I could cut my losses. Put myself first for once. Heal from the toll of two years of uncertainty and stress.

Life was exhausting. Going from carrying the weight of two people to just me – it was infinitely lighter. I can’t quantify the relief I felt; I slept like a baby those first few nights after leaving.

There was second-guessing, of course. There always is. But after months of internal back-and-forth, I knew it was the right call. I’d done so much soul searching and so much reading, in pursuit of the answer.

What it boils down to, is that the discussions in these three threads hit me like a ton of bricks. Realising that we might never be financially stable  together. And I simply could not live that way.

It’s so important to have a financially responsible partner.

It takes two. You cannot do it all yourself. And nor should you.

Love and trying isn’t enough.

Love is not willingness to live in a cardboard box together.

Love is doing whatever it takes to not get to that point.

Link love (powered by stew and strolls)

NZ Muse link loveI think I need to accept that life just never gets easier. Yes, you become stronger and smarter but as your resilience grows, so do the hurdles. Gone are the days of high-school-sized issues and injustices. It doesn’t seem fair, but them’s the breaks.

Women are awesome. My closest IRL friends may be male, and have been incredible supports when I needed it, but there are some things they will simply never understand. From crushes in long term relationships to emotional labour and pulling your financial weight, female friends get the gender dynamics that my dudes don’t.

I’m very passionate about the state of the housing market and the huge effects it has on people’s lives – mostly from a quite personal angle, but also at a more macro, societal level.  A spirited conversation about this at our weekly all staff meeting about this very topic and what it all means for New Zealanders – especially in retirement – got me quite fired up and reaffirms that I’m in the right place (both at work and at home). It’s incredible how much difference it makes being free of the “emotional and financial challenges of renting”, as it was put.

This week’s links

A great post on household division of labour and finances when the woman earns more (because things do not always fall neatly along the lines of High Earning Busy Spouse and Low Earning But With Lots of Flexibility Spouse)

Sherry sums up some thoughts on the circular logic of early retirement/financial independence more eloquently than I ever could have

Sometimes, YOU’RE the rich friend

A couple of  things about poverty

How important is job satisfaction, really?

Graduating beyond frugal habits 

You’re making life harder for yourself

What does money mean to you?

Sometimes less is just less – minimalism within reason, guys

Hopes and dreams? No thanks, I’m too old for that crap

Sometime I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast

Hope is a cruel thing.

I understand that sometimes it’s needed in order to survive. When there’s nothing else at all to pull you through.

But I’m not a fan of it at all.

I like sure things. Certainty. Probably because there’s been a distinct drought of that good stuff lately.

Every time I’ve allowed myself to dare to hope, those hopes are swiftly dashed.

“How do you people live like this? Day after day, just hoping people are gonna do what you want.”

I love this quote (by Kilgrave) from Jessica Jones. It’s stuck with me ever since.

Not so long ago, I used to be a dreamer. Now I’m the coldest, hardest, steeliest bitch. Got no time nor use for imaginings, only what is.

“The rest of us are just walking around, trying not to be disappointed with the way that our lives turned out.”

This melancholy line from Skeleton Twins (highly recommended, a solid movie with standout performances from usually comic actors) had me literally frozen in place, holding my breath as it washed over me. That is not what I want for myself. That’s what I’ve been doing for the past couple of years, and that is far, far too long.

One cannot subsist on hope alone. But finally, I’m on the very cusp of achieving something I’ve dreamed about for so long.  It’s hard to believe, and it feels so surreal.

Forgiveness is a funny beast

Snowy plants close up in field

Recent events have brought me closer to and further from various people in my life.

It’s gotten me thinking a lot about forgiveness.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve known the power of words. I can barely recall a time before I could read and write.

It’s strange, the things – actions and words alike – that I never thought I’d forgive. But looking over my shoulder, I realise that somewhere along the way, I did. It wasn’t a conscious choice.

And conversely, there’s the words that have actually stuck with me for decades and that I don’t think I’ll ever let go of. The funny thing is, I don’t think the people in question realise what impact those throwaway comments had. That’s why I’m so careful about what I say (and write).

Then there’s the things we say in emotional moments that are actually quite manipulative or malicious. We are all flawed, but it’s deeply disappointing  to see this in those closest to us.

Words matter.

While actions do speak a million louder than words, for me it’s words that actually stick in my memory, that have lasting impact, and will refer back to when the actions start to fade from memory.

There’s a lot of things I need to start to forgive and let go of, before they eat away at me.

Or failing that, in the words of Emily Yoffe, I must accept them and move on.

When life gives you lemons, buy lipstick

When life gives you lemons, buy lipstick
By: Filter Forge

Have we decided if the ‘lipstick index’ is for real, or not? (That’s the idea that people keep splurging on lipstick in times of recession – little luxuries, yo.)

Well, on a micro level at least, it’s certainly rung true for me of late. I literally never buy makeup except to replace the one lippy I wear. My annual beauty budget is probably under $200, including skincare and haircuts. But some months ago I got a weird fixation with finding this particular shade that I was absolutely convinced I needed in my life. Sort of a dark vampy red, with maybe a bit of a plum/berry twist. Along the lines of Mac Diva, for those who care.

I spent hours online in the name of research, and far too long in stores lurking around counters and fiddling with the testers. Once, a strange man even peered over my shoulder just after I stepped out of a shop – I had probably close to a dozen swatches smeared on the back of my hand and was eyeing them up in the natural light – and hissed ‘they all look the same!’

I wound up buying probably around four (that’s a massive spree for me) and now I actually wear different colours on different days, sometimes. Crazy.

And at the same time, I dug out some stuff that had been sitting around forever (throwbacks to my days of magazine freebies) like amazing pore-blurring primer powder and electric blue eyeliner (turns out to be a nice pop when you have hooded lids, or in my case, one normal and one hooded). For the first time in probably 15 years I started spending downtime at home playing with makeup for no reason other than I wanted to, even watching YouTube tutorials and stalking beauty reddits.

Related, and possibly also a  reaction to the whole forced austerity thing, I’ve almost grown a little bit of a shopping addiction – at least by my normal standards. I haven’t bought much – a dress here, a pair of pants there – but I can definitely now understand how people might get out of hand.

I think this probably stems from a deep-seated need for control. Not having it in other areas of my life, having my sphere of influence drastically reduced, has manifested itself in a new obsession with my appearance.

I’ll never ever be the kind of person who puts on a full face every day. (Or any day. My wedding being the one exception, and that wasn’t by my own hand…). Yet there’s something weirdly calming about being alone in front of a mirror, going through the ritual of making yourself feel a little more beautiful.