Finance Globe

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7 minutes reading time (1455 words)

NDYL, Part 5A: Relapse Recovery

I’m on stage, speaking to a huge crowd of people I’ve never met before about a subject far outside my comfort zone, and I’m naked. I cannot see my audience members’ faces or hear their voices, so I can’t read their reactions. I can’t tell if they’ve even heard a single word I’ve said . . .

I’ve just described a dream most of us have had (or some variation of it) at some time in our lives. For me, however, this one’s not a dream. No matter how hard I click my ruby red heels together, I’m not going to wake up to Auntie Em’s sweet soothing voice, her hand holding mine. This is my reality.

I’d like to assume you understand I’m not literally standing naked in an auditorium, but, given the circumstances I’ve illustrated above, I guess I shouldn’t assume anything. I don’t know you. I can’t see or hear your reaction. Therefore, I can’t assume anything about you. I certainly can’t assume that you are benefiting at all from watching me fumble my way through this budgeting process. For all I know, you gave up on me 3 posts ago and only stopped to check this one out because you saw the word “naked” in the intro.

If you read last month’s NDYL column you might have some idea of what I’m referring to when I say, effectively, I feel naked. Then again, I know I shouldn’t assume. Hey, have you heard the joke about why a-s-s-u-m-e is spelled the way it is? If not, can enlighten you. But I digress. For regular readers who need a refresher on last month’s column (because you have a life), and for those of you reading my column for the very first time I present the following recap.

Previously on “Nickel and Dime Yourself to Life” . . . I freaked out a little because we allowed a windfall to distract us from following our budget, then I turned into my mother for a moment and closed my advice section with the classic hypocrite’s mantra, “do as I say, not as I do.”

And, currently on “Nickel and Dime Yourself to Life” . . . I’m freaking out over letting you see me freak out last month, so much that it’s taken me twice as long as usual to figure out what I’m going to say in this column. Many of those hours I’ve spent just staring at the blinking cursor on my computer screen as I second guess what I’ve written (and third guess and fourth . . . and so on, ad nauseum). It’s almost as bad as when I tried to get this series started. Remember? I wrote and rewrote endlessly because I was paralyzed by fear over not having the right credentials and not being knowledgeable enough to write anything that could be useful to anyone seeking advice on managing their personal finances. Remember? Oh, yeah. That’s right. I know. You have a life.

And there you have it. That’s what all this “naked” talk is about. I freaked out in front of you and now I’m feeling a bit overexposed. Hello? Is anybody out there? Somebody, please let me know what you’re thinking, lest I be forced to a**-u-me things that may or may not be true, or worse, freak out and start talking to myself (which is kinda what this feels like sometimes anyway).

All kidding aside, I want this series to be more than just me blabbering on about my money troubles, occasionally tattling on my husband and overusing the word “freak.” I want it to be helpful to you. The only way I can tell if that’s happening is for you to let me know. Anyway, in my perfect dream world, I’d hoped there’d be more of a back and forth exchange between you and me, allies supporting each other through a sometimes bumpy process of getting financially healthy. But at this point, I’d be happy to get any feedback at all, good or bad.

I realize some of you can’t comment because you’re not members, but did you know joining the Finance Globe community is totally free? Anyway, don’t be afraid to speak up if you don’t like something. Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m incredibly hard on myself, much harder than you could ever be. So go on, take your best shot. I can handle it. I know all too well that I’m not perfect. I just don’t know how perfect you, my audience, expect me to be.

Now that we’ve gotten that bit of housekeeping out of the way, let’s get on with the task at hand. That is, the rollout of NDYL 2.0, the relapse recovery discussion I promised. Contrary to the impression I gave last month, things are not as bad as I made them out to be. Yes, I freaked out, but it wasn’t all for no reason. We did stop following our budget for over a month, and we haven’t saved as much or as often as we’d planned. However, we’re still coming out ahead week after week. And that is leaps and bounds better than where we were over 3 months ago when we started this whole thing. I honestly think we would have stuck to our spending plan had we not received all that bonus money. So establishing a solid habit of saving is where the real work begins.

It begins with one of our infamous family finance trials. Frustrated at a perceived lack of cooperation, I proceeded to badger the witness. To which he, frustrated at the perceived incessant nagging shouted, “I’m done talking about the budget! I know what I’m supposed to do!” I don’t remember if I said it out loud, but I remember exactly what I was thinking. “Then, why don’t you do it?!” And later, in a moment of raw candor, “Then, why don’t I do it?” Why do we keep overspending even though we both clearly understand we need to save?

Whoever said “knowledge is power” grossly oversimplified things. It’s not for lack of knowledge that we’ve failed to save as much as we should. We are both reasonably intelligent human beings. We know what we’re doing wrong and what we need to do to make things right. I could read budgeting tips until my eyeballs pop out and Mr. F. gets so frustrated by my constant attempts to shove those tips down his throat that he chucks my poor displaced eyeballs at my head, but that wouldn’t stop us from losing control like we did last month. Just as plucking the tops of dandelions will not make them go away, focusing on money issues will not solve our money problems. We’ve got to dig deep and get to the root.

A recent Forbes magazine article entitled “Four Psychological Tricks That Can Banish Bad Money Habits” confirms that our inability to save money is not ultimately about money. The root cause of our savings shortcomings lies within our psychological make-up. Actually, it’s in our DNA. Scientists have discovered that some of us—only 25%--are born savers and the rest of us are genetically coded to fritter away our funds then whine about it on blogs. Apparently, there’s such a thing as a self-control gene. Not having it could provide the perfect excuse to give up and wallow in self-pity. Hey, it’s not our fault we nickeled and dimed away over $1000 last month instead of putting it in our emergency fund. Our bum genes made us do it.

But wait! There’s more. Science has also found that, in the age old Nature vs. Nurture games, the odds are ever in Nurture’s favor when it comes to money management. The aforementioned Forbes article goes on to explain how we can override our pre-programmed propensity to spend by using four psychological tricks.

I’d like to say much more about the Four Tricks here, but the 11th hour looms. As I write this sentence it’s November 30 and I’m only hours away from breaking my commitment to give you monthly reports. I’m also keenly aware that I’ve given you fodder for a “You’re too long-winded” comment. “Be careful what you wish for,” right? Therefore, I shall now close my virtual piehole and this NDYL episode with a promise to finish what I started. Early next month I’ll follow up with my interpretation of the Four Tricks and how they’re helping us get back on track, along with some tips for saving money in this season rife with temptations to overspend. In the meantime you can Google the Forbes article. It’s definitely worth a read.

To be continued . . .

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Saturday, 19 June 2021

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