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  • Financial fear – the struggle is real, but there’s a solution

    how to conquer financial fears forever

     

    I once heard Brooke Castillo state on a podcast episode that one reason for her success is her willingness to face unpleasant emotions. To feel any feeling.

    My immediate reaction was something like What? What a load of BS. Seriously?!

    But I couldn’t stop thinking about that statement. And over the next few days I just started to observe myself more. How I dealt with things. How I coped. How I reacted.

    And, well, I discovered that I did not in fact want to feel anything uncomfortable. I actively avoided it. I ran from them, instead of running at them and facing them head on. I wanted to do anything but front up.

    Embracing discomfort is not something that comes naturally to the human mind. One place this shows up a lot for me is fear.

    Financial fear is a big one. Living in a state of constant tension and low-level panic SUCKS and takes a toll. Fear of losing an income source, of some financial disaster striking, of the unknown in general… Feeling afraid about money on the regular is no fun.

    That’s why dissecting and combating fears is part of the last module (Fuel the Future) in my course, Money Groove.

    Some people don’t like to imagine the worst-case scenario, but I’m the kind who needs to confront my worst fears rather than hide from them. Naming and voicing them has a magical shrinking power. Out in the cleansing light of day, they lose their shadowy strength.

    This is true for most fears, I’ve found. When we do, then we can start to ask questions like “Has it happened before? What are the odds of it happening? What would I do then?”

    In lots of cases, the catastrophes we’ve conjured up in our lizard brains are over-exaggerated. They’ve never occurred. Nor are they likely to. Sure, anything CAN happen. But that doesn’t mean they will.

    And yes, it’s good to prepare. To have contingency plans.

    And then, we need to release. To let go. To relax.

    Our hypotheses are often way off. We can’t predict things. We’re wired to focus on the negatives. To anticipate risks. To stay wary, watchful, on guard. Which doesn’t necessarily serve us well in today’s world when danger is less mortal and more perceived; less about tigers and tsunamis out there and more about the spinning out inside our heads.

    We have to recognise we’ve done all we can, and trust. Otherwise, all the fun quickly drains out of life.

     

     

  • Feeling guilty? Channel it into productive action instead

    HOW TO TURN GUILT INTO MORE PRODUCTIVE ACTION

     

    Something I often struggle with is guilt. Feeling guilty that I’m objectively much better off than most of the population on earth. For all the privileges I have been endowed and all I have now – especially after the past few years. And then… feeling guilty on the flipside for wanting even more. For still aspiring to bigger and better. Dreaming, desiring.

    It’s a weird tug of war. It’s a weird middle ground. But I know I’m not alone in this. These are all totally natural feelings.

    In fact, we dive into guilt a few times in Money Groove – guilt over spending (even when you can totally afford it, and got plenty of value out of something!) and guilt over wanting more when objectively, you’re way better off than so many others in the world and yet you still desire more. These aren’t things we can just sweep under the rug or brush away. They’ll just keep on popping up and coming back.

    Here’s what I DO know. Here’s what I have to remind myself of, over and over again.

    It does nobody else any good for me to struggle. There’s no upside or benefit or prize to not having what I want, to playing martyr.

    It’s not a zero sum game. How poorly or well I do doesn’t change anything for anyone else.

    If you aren’t making enough to live well … worrying about making ends meet … how can you possibly ever achieve your full potential? Particularly when inflation continues to balloon and push up the prices of EVERYTHING constantly?

    In taking care of myself first and flourishing, I can then turn around and help others. Simply: when you have enough to take care of your own needs, you can look to help to solve those bigger problems. But you gotta handle things at home first.

    Take that guilt and turn it into fuel and momentum instead.

  • 2 simple ways to combat money stress and recentre yourself

    2 simple ways to combat money stress

    If you’re in a reasonably stable position but still generally fretting about savings or debt on a daily basis …  that constant low hum of money stress is exhausting.  

    I’ve learned the hard way that if all your mental energy is expended on immediate money worries and needs from day-to-day, you won’t have any left over to actually plan for the future, make good strategic decisions and focus on moving forward. If you’re anything like me, this spills over into other areas of your life like work (leading to underperforming) and relationships (leading to isolation).

    Worrying intensely about not having enough often distracts you from actually doing anything about it. Wallowing is easy; taking steps to solve the problem is harder.

    Don’t let those feelings overwhelm you!

    Here are two things I try to bring it back to…

    Concrete actions

    What can you do about it right now?

    What would you do if the Terrible Thing came to pass? And then what? And what next? And after that?

    See, you’ve probably got Plans A-D right there, stepped out already.

    Within reason.

    Contingency plans are important, don’t get me wrong. But when you’re too wrapped up in concerns about what could go wrong rather than considering what could potentially go right; if you do the same things and continue the same thought patterns – you’ll find yourself spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

    Fear is a constant companion to me. And rather than letting it steer, I relegate it to the backseat. In the passenger seat, I’d much rather have someone more upbeat.

    Your BEST case scenario

    What if it worked? What if this had legs? What if this were to fly?

    Think better thoughts. Ask better questions. Actively replace those gloomy visions with visions of your ideal outcome instead.

    What if it all went so right?

    A positive, future-oriented approach does wonders for your emotional state.

    And that starts with getting a handle on your fears and your thoughts.

    The thing is, our hypotheses are often way off. We can’t predict things. But we just can’t help ourselves, can we? Our brains are wired to focus on negative. Anticipate risk. Keep us on guard and safe. Which doesn’t serve us well in today’s world; a world where danger is less about mortal risk out there, and more about what we perceive inside our heads.

    And that is never truer than when it comes to money.

    But these two habits can go a long way to curbing the drama of money stress.

    (Liked this? Then you’ll probably love Money Groove, my digital course designed to guide you toward finding your own financial groove and slaying those money demons.)

     

  • 3 ways to feel better about your money NOW

    3 WAYS TO FEEL BETTER ABOUT MONEY NOW

    For so many years, I had mostly negative feelings about money. There was never enough. Progress was always so slow. Stuff always cropped up. I had so much fear, scarcity, and resentment. Basically all my thoughts about money fell into one of those buckets.

    And all my interactions with money were basically the same. I’d get paid once or twice a month, but have to spend money on many more days per month. It’s hard to feel positive and abundant when you’re mostly focused on the money constantly leaving.

    Making more has given me breathing room. Space to step back, rethink and re-examine my relationship with money and how I handle it. I can see now that I could have changed a few things back then that would have helped. It wouldn’t have changed the bottom line, but it would have done wonders for my mental wellness. (I do credit myself for stepping back from the PF world years ago when things were super tight and I knew that reading and obsessing about money was doing me no good.)

    There are always things we can do to start feeling better about money right now, though.

    When paying bills…

    Imagine that money coming in instead. Landing in your account.

    (The power company is gonna get its due. That’s not changing. But what if you played around with how you think about this?)

    I used to resent paying bills. Now I try to flip that around, and feel grateful for having the money to easily pay the bills. I have that luxury now. That might be a stretch for you. Just try imagining that money coming to you instead.

    Hat tip to Denise Duffield Thomas for inspiring this one. I heard her hack for filling up at the petrol station  – as the number ticks up on screen, imagine that is your bank balance going up – and then adapted this to use anytime I paid bills

    Transfer money to savings as often as possible

    Sometimes quantity does reign supreme. It’s the psychological effect (like debt snowball vs avalanche). Lots of small wins = a big mental boost.

    Especially if things are tight. Transferring just $5 can be really meaningful.

    We’re always telling ourselves stories. This is one way to start changing your story to one where you CAN and DO save money. You’re a saver. Even if $5 or $10 doesn’t feel like much and might not feel worthwhile, it’s symbolic.

    That’s how habits are built. We start small. We stay consistent.

    Give when you can

    It feels amazing to give. Truly. I used to be sceptical. Having beats giving any day! Why would I want to do that?

    Then I started doing it. Being someone who’s generous is not an identity I ever aspired to or related to. I just never saw myself that way. But as I’ve become more able to, I’ve increased my giving back. Turns out I like it. It makes me feel amazing about money.

    I’d bet that the same would be true for you. Make a donation next time you’re feeling blah about money and see how you feel afterwards.

    If you liked this, you’ll probably love Money Groove, my self-paced digital course all about finding your own financial groove – it’ll be right up your alley.

     

     

  • “Money doesn’t buy happiness” – GTFO with your BS!

     

    Only two types of people say this. Those who have more than enough money, or those who don’t have it and never will.

    This is what I’ve observed, over and over.

    I remember engaging in discussion once with someone who has been broke as hell and now does very well for themselves. She busted out this BS line – and threw something in about health (they always do, don’t they?!).

    Come on. Really. She totally failed to acknowledge how different it would have been if she had been struck down with that health situation in her younger, poorer days.

    It’s not just about the direct costs of care. It’s also about the fact that when you’re in lower paying, less stable jobs, you don’t tend to have as much leave, you might not get paid leave or have the option to take an extended absence, you might not have trauma/income insurance, you might not be able to work flexibly, all those surrounding factors play into your health experience.

    Clearly, this line drives me batshit crazy.

    Let’s be real. All things being equal, anyone would rather have the money.

    But why? What makes people spout this line that is so out of touch with reality? Have they truly forgotten what it’s like (obviously the silver spoon rich may never have known anything but privilege)? And more importantly, what’s the underlying emotion driving it?

    I suspect it might be guilt. For being comfortable, having more than others. Downplaying the status they’ve achieved (heck, it’s easy enough to get rid of money if you REALLY don’t want it!)

    At the other end of the spectrum, the motivation is probably clearer. Defensiveness, defeatism, despair. If you know you’re never going to have money, why even think about what it would be like? Why aspire to it? I don’t want it anyway. It wouldn’t make a difference. Reverse psyching yourself out, driven by envy. Proactively adapting your expectations or downgrading your desires to compensate.

    As someone in the middle – not broke, not rich – I struggle with both. Absolutely I experience envy of those with more. I also feel guilt about being better off than many (especially during pandemic times – the exacerbation of inequality is just terrifying).

    Nonetheless. Ultimately, neither serves me. Getting mired in either of those states just holds me back from my full potential.

    The truth is, the more I make the more good I can do and the more I can give back. The more I AM doing and giving back. Making bigger and bigger donations as time goes on feels freaking amazing. Hell, I can see why people might even aspire to become VCs.

  • Money always needs a purpose. What’s yours?

    your money needs a purpose

     

    Every dollar has a job. That’s the principle behind a budget. If you don’t have a purpose in mind for your money, you’re not going to have it for long.

    Likewise, without a concrete goal, it’s hard to bring in more money.

    For me, at least, I can’t seem to just make more for the sake of it. I need a reason. Whether it’s clearing a debt, saving for a SPECIFIC thing, taking a trip … there needs to be an end goal that I can visualise and focus on.

    I’ve had a lot of big goals that I had no idea how I was going to accomplish. But I did – every single time. Whether it was a round-the-world trip or buying a house, I had to take a leap of faith and trust that my strategy would see me through.

    I’ve been amazed, over and over, by what I can accomplish by simply DECIDING to achieve it. Once I put aside the doubts and what-ifs and just mentally commit to making it happen. Trusting that it’s possible. It’s often about letting go of attachment to a specific outcome, roadmap, or timeline. The pieces usually start to fall into place after that.

    It’s not magical thinking; it’s about locking in an intention, knowing that I’m capable of getting there, even I didn’t have every detail ironed out, and letting things flow from there. And when they do? I’m 100% positioned to capitalise on them and run with it.

    What about you? Does having a specific money goal to reach help accelerate your financial momentum?

  • 3 times insurance totally saved me in the last year

    3 TIMES INSURANCE CAME THROUGH FOR ME

     

    I’ve had a lot of reasons to be thankful for insurance over the past year. When insurance companies come through on claims, it’s so worth it.

    Getting a new (used) car through insurance

    Even though it’s a slight downgrade – a slightly older model, where the lights and wipers don’t automatically turn on/off when it gets dark/rains. Still well worth it. The old car had a few major issues after faithfully serving for many years – and then there was an accident that resulted in insurance writing it off entirely.

    Getting a new shed through house insurance

    Last year, the shed down in the back corner of the yard caught fire in the night. (It’s still unclear why. The best working theory is stray sparks from the neighbours, who often BBQ just on the other side of the fence from the shed.) It’s just lucky it’s situated so far away from the main house.

    Home insurance covered the shed replacement. Because the old one was an ancient, falling-down structure full of asbestos, they replaced it with a metal kitset shed. The whole painful process took six months from lodging the claim to completion of the shed – but it’s done! The new shed is infinitely more usable, too.

    Getting Spud minor surgery through health insurance

    Spud has always had a lot of issues with noisy breathing, reflux, his sinuses, nosebleeds, and constant colds/coughs. (Weirdly, no ear infections, as far as I can tell. Either that, or he’s such a trooper he just doesn’t let on.) A couple ENT visits and an X-ray later, we learned he has enlarged adenoids. After taking a wait-and-see approach for a couple more months, we went the surgical route. The operation took less than an hour and went super smoothly. Way better than expected! The difference was instant. Turns out that airway was more than 50% blocked by those supersized adenoids. It was, of course, quite scary to contemplate upfront. Now, I wish we could have done it earlier. Oversized adenoids is another fairly common thing, it turns out. This has been a huge step on my own personal journey, away from putting up with whatever life hands you, not making a fuss, powering through.

    It’s not the first time we’ve gone to a specialist, having given up on the general care system. I’ve talked before about Spud’s food intolerances. He’s sensitive to half of the top 8 allergens. I’m grateful that he does not have severe instant reactions, but intolerances are a real pain. They’re hard to pin down and others don’t take you seriously. Babies and toddlers can’t communicate! Using a mix of scientific observation and tracking, and my intuition, I was finally able to identify the trouble ingredients (dairy, nuts, fish and seafood). I may not have hard proof, but I completely believe in my conclusions and totally stand by them.

    The first specialist was sceptical. Some symptoms Spud presented are not typical by medical gospel. However, shitloads of anecdotal evidence in online communities and private groups say otherwise. And all our experiences count for something in my eyes. Anyway, we finally got prescribed hypoallergenic formula – and that changed everything.

    But we still struggled with some bad eczema flareups. So we went to the most recommended paediatric dermatologist. “It’s quite bad, you know,” she observed. No shit. But not bad enough for a GP to care. So she gave us a routine to follow – with very specific descriptions of how much cream to apply on specific days – and it worked a treat.

    Have you been getting your money’s worth (or at least, peace of mind) from your insurance?

  • 5 no-regrets purchases that make life with a toddler WAY easier

    5 NO REGRET PURCHASES - that make life with a toddler way better

    Voila! A list of things that are making life way better (affiliate links below). Because toddlers are hard work.

    In comparison, it feels like we needed so many more baby products when he was younger (here were my top must-haves when Spud was little.)

    I got sick of hoisting Spud up to wash his hands. A  bamboo step stool has now taken up permanent residence at the bathroom basin. Most importantly, it has saved my arms and back, and many splashes…

     

    With two dogs and a toddler around, the floors are in a constant state of disarray (emergency, even?). A dustpan and brush sometimes feel inadequate and it’s not always convenient or practical to whip out the vacuum constantly. Enter the BISSELL manual sweeper! It’s like a contained broom and it’s a godsend. The carpet sweeper ‘vacuums’ up carpet nicely, controlling pet hair, and it does a reasonable job of hard floors too. There are a lot fewer crumbs in my life now and I’m much happier for it.

     

    It’s not uncommon to see railway tracks chalked all over our driveway and the footpath outside our house, all in bright colours courtesy of Crayola sidewalk chalk. Great fun on dry days!

    Speaking of tracks, I nabbed Spud some secondhand wooden train tracks for Christmas and they were a hit. These are his fave toys at daycare. I was reluctant to double up at home, but really, he loves them – why deny him?

    The long days, short nights and 2 year sleep regression hit hard. Later, I figured out that granola for breakfast was probably causing a lot of the painful wakings (sleep and eating issues are still closely linked for Spud even at this age … and the traces of nuts in the granola were probably the culprit). As for the prolonged bedtimes, I resorted to trying chewables with magnesium to help support/encourage falling asleep. No idea if they actually helped, but now they’ve become a key part of the routine: vitamin, books, and bed.

    Next up on my wishlist? Bath crayons to keep bathtime engaging. Thankfully, you can buy anything online these days with a good internet connection (remember to shop around on broadband comparison websites). As a working parent, leisurely instore browsing is a thing of the past.

    What are you loving right now for your little ones?

  • Here’s how much my maternity leave cost me

    how much my maternity leave cost me

    Can you imagine a guy telling his colleagues that the thing he’s most looking forward to in the new year is starting a family?

    I’ve seen this happen (incidentally, he a) left for another company early not long after, and b) is now expecting a baby too – but that’s by the by) and you know what, that really stunned me.

    I cannot ever, EVER imagine saying the same thing as a woman. It seems too great of a risk.

    I saw a tweet ages ago that went something like ‘in the old days, men could say they needed a raise so they could start a family”.

    I suspect if a woman were to pull that the reaction would be quite different. Even though if she was the breadwinner, she would need that raise WAY more than any dude in the equivalent situation.

    Who earns what matters. Here’s why

    For those who say it doesn’t who matter who makes more…

    • Let’s say he makes $40k.
    • She makes $80k.
    • The time she takes off results in a loss of 2/3 of the household income.

    If we reverse that….

    • He makes $80k.
    • She makes $40k.
    • The time she takes off results in a loss of 1/3 of the household income.

    I’m terrible at maths but even I can immediately see that’s there’s a huge, gaping difference there.

    Because yes, she’s going to need SOME time off to push a mini human out of her body and recover from that process … even if they elect for him to be the primary caregiver.

    I guess ironically, at some income levels this matters less. If you’re making a much higher income, your surplus makes it easier to save large amounts to cover those months you won’t be earning for.

    But for your average middle class couple, this is a pretty major consideration.

    How much my maternity leave cost me

    I was uber fortunate to have a very generous employer – the company I worked for while pregnant offers 3 months of leave at full pay.  (I’d still be there were it not for the mass layoffs that took place shortly before I was due to return to work.) That’s super rare, and they were definitely a market leader in regard to this benefit. Very few companies here offer any paid parental leave at all, much less at full pay and for that long. Most people only get the 22 weeks worth of paid government leave that clocks in at something like $480 a week post-tax, maximum.

    I wound up taking about 7.5 months off, which included the 3 months of paid parental leave, and another month of annual leave that I’d saved up.

    That meant 3.5 months of lost income from my day job, which adds up to over $15k of takehome income.

    Add to that over $3.5k in missed superannuation contributions (between my contributions and employer contributions – again, my old employer was very generous on that front) plus any gains that amount would have made in the market.

    All up, my brief (by NZ standards) parental leave meant I lost out on nearly $20k. And if I’d worked almost anywhere else, that amount would have probably doubled, as I wouldn’t have benefited from any fully-paid leave. Straight up, I wouldn’t have been able to take that much time off to stay home with Spud.

  • All the baby gear I’ve scored for free on Facebook

    All the baby gear I've scored for free on facebookLike every other human on Facebook, I have mixed feelings about social media. Particularly since managing social media has been part of my job in almost every role I’ve ever held.

    But it has been a godsend since having a baby, and here’s why.

    I’ve been the grateful recipient of so many freebies that have saved me a ton of money.

    Here’s a list of everything I can remember that I’ve received:

    • Reusable cloth nappies
    • Hanging storage racks for nappies/toys
    • Baby books
    • Bags of toys
    • A change table
    • A bouncer
    • Bedside drawers
    • Curtains – that didn’t fit and that I regifted
    • A few tins of Neocate – the biggest game changer of all. Dairy-free, amino acid formula for which there’s a high bar to get a prescription (though some doctors may be more sympathetic than others). I was then able to say to our specialist, we’ve tried a few cans and it worked wonders, please prescribe it for us. More on our feeding journey and transition to formula here.

    How to get free baby gear on Facebook? Easy. Any parent-to-be or new parent should join their local Frugal Mumma and Pay It Forward groups sooner rather than later.

    I’ve learned about free playgroups, free counselling sessions, and discounted classes on Facebook. Going to therapy is a topic for a whole other post, but I’ve been having so many breakthroughs and working through so much childhood baggage.

    On top of that, I’ve found so much value and support in various Facebook groups. The dairy-free breastfeeding group. The fussy baby group. The Sleep Store group. An NZ due date group. And more!

    Yes, I’ve wasted a lot of time scrolling aimlessly through Facebook in search of freebies, as well as more generally. But overall, it has hands-down been a net positive for me during the past year.