April 8, 2018
I remember the days when I used to hold my breath as I'd swipe my debit card at the grocery store. "Please let there be enough money, please let there be enough money," I'd chant over in over in my head. An inaudible sigh of relief would always exit my body once I saw the words "transaction approved," gratefully bypassing the awful embarrassment that would have transcended for holding up the line of people behind me to scrounge up another card.
Those are some of my worst memories. They happened in the same days where I would essentially put one hand over my eyes as I'd log into my bank account to see what damage I had done. Fear and shame would loom over me as the page loaded. Some days I'd look at the number and think "oh...well that's not TOO Bad," but other days I'd burst into tears.
I hated feeling this way so I'd very often just avoid my bank account altogether, practicing the ignorance is bliss mentality, knowing full and well that ignorance in this case was just making things much much worse. The reality of the situation was that I had absolutely no idea where all my money was going each month. When I would log into my account it was simply to look at the bottomline number to know how much money I had left to stretch for the month.
I was terrified to even begin trying to figure out where it was all going. I knew it was bad and I did not want to sit with the uncomfortableness of looking at my impulsive spending habits dead in the face. But eventually the jig was up and one day I was forced to look at my bank account head on and guess what happened?
Exactly no one died.
Sure it was painful, at first, to analyze my spending habits and look squarely at exactly how many times I swiped my card at Target in a month's time. It was a lot like ripping off a bandaid (or like getting your legs waxed...a little more intense than a bandaid.) It was super painful in the moment but then the pain subsided and I could begin to see a bit more clearly. I began to understand where I was overspending (eating out/Target) and where I needed to allot more money (groceries, actual necessities.) It was messy and clunky and made me question a lot of my habits but it was a necessary step to begin to get in control of my finances.
The fact of the matter is that money is a really vulnerable subject. Our relationship with money is often indicative of deeper insecurities that we have and it is hard to take a deep dive into what those might be. For me, there was constant shame because I was "terrible with money." I never had enough because I was always spending it all quickly and with very little care. Once the end of the month came I'd barely be scraping by. I didn't know how to get in control of it or even where to start, but once I took the scary first step of confronting my bank account, my mindset around money began to shift. It hasn't always been easy, but it has been so worth the journey and the confidence.
Now with an active monthly budget, instead of avoiding my account altogether, I am able to log in with confidence and know that I won't see some kind of terrible catastrophe. I still log in at least once a week to keep an eye on things which is another crucial part of the financial journey. There is just no more need for the shame and fear and that is what staying in control is all about.
(PS - while facing your bank account is the first step, setting up a realistic budget is the second. I've got a free budget template that can help you get on the right money track. Click the picture below to snag it!)