More money stuff…

Hello all, how’s everyone? I’m very sorry for the silence… Since my television excitement (and it really was exciting, thank you to everyone for the good feedback), I’ve been busy doing paid work (thank you, editors) and wading through my finances.

Last week I discovered that Barclays has introduced new fees which mean I am now paying £3 a day for my giant overdraft. That’s £92 a month. The good news is that a) I actually noticed this  – before I wouldn’t have been looking at my statements and that b) – it’s yet another wake up call.

Mum also pointed out, quite rightly, that I would spend that on coffee most day without even thinking about it. She’s right. So the trips to the coffee shop have stopped. So has eating out and drinking out. I had cut down but it’s not been enough. I am not going to buy another overpriced gastro-pub burger until I’m out of this hole. There, that’s my public promise.

My friend Claire sat down and took me through my expenses this weekend – asking me how much I spend on travel, food, phone, going out – I had no idea for any of it. I know my phone bills have got high again despite having changed tariffs during my money month in Feb, I need to call them to find out why. That’s my next job after putting up this post. Then second call is to Barclays to see if there are any ways to reduce those charges, then the credit card peeps to see if anything can be done about the mega interest I pay.

Then… well, then I just need to start earning some more money.  I look back at this last year and it’s been fantastic but it was like I went into a little naval gazing bubble. I have not done nearly enough paid work which is why I’m still in two massive overdrafts and facing an ever-growing credit card bill. I also owe my family money. It’s stressing me out.

I’ve spent a good part of the last few weeks berating myself, crying and waking up in the middle of the night but the truth is that I had to push it to this stage to learn the lessons I need to learn about money.

When I started this year I had no idea what a huge thing money is for me – and actually it isn’t even that connected with how much of it I have or don’t have. Even when I was working hard and earning good money I never saved, I was always overdrawn and I was always worried. I am scared of handling money and have always felt out of control with it. It’s not like I was out buying Prada handbags every day – I just blew it on rubbish, all the time.

Kate Northrup’s book, Money A Love Story, gave me a good sense of how I got that way – in terms of how money was in our house growing up – but it takes longer than a month to undo a life time of habits. Money isn’t just a matter of spending, it goes so deep.

A few more things I’ve realised over the last month:

a) I use money as a way of avoiding confrontation or difficult conversations – if I think someone is unhappy, with me in particular, or even in general – my first instinct is to buy them something to fix it. This is cowardice and the easy way out – and ultimately not helpful.

b) I use money as a way of people pleasing/over-compensating – the other week I found myself buying lunch for a new friend. It was ridiculous for me to insist on paying, given my current situation, and even when I was handing over my card and wondering if it would be accepted, I was thinking ‘why are you doing this?’. I wanted her to like me, I wanted to be nice.  But you don’t need to pay for stuff in order to be nice. I am nice (mostly).

c) I have always thought that people who don’t actively throw their money around in the same way are mean but I really don’t think that anymore. Because of the way I’ve thrown my money around I am now in a situation where I am relying on friends and family more than I should be. That’s not right. When it comes to money I play the ‘poor me’ card, I want someone else to sweep in and sort it out. I have been irresponsible and immature.

d)I have thought that coffees and eating out are just a staple of life – almost like they come free, don’t count. Which is ridiculous, of course. I will pay £30 for a dinner and think nothing of it, but I will think carefully about paying £30 for a top.

My friend Rebecca (who has taught me so much this year about being generous while respecting money) says that this is like the moment in a Nick Hornby book when the man has his moment of realisation that actually he’s been an immature d*ckhead all this life (she didn’t put it like that) and he has to grow up. I guess that’s true. I just wish I didn’t have to go through the painful bit and could skip to the happy ending. Actually do Nick Hornby books have happy endings? I can’t remember.

Anyway there is no choice now but to feel the pain and sort it.

So off I go to phone Barclays, and EE and to have a few more tears and cups of tea (made at home).

But before I go I’d like to ‘practice gratitude’.

I don’t have it in me to get into another self-help book this month but I think gratitude will be my loose theme for August. As I’ve mentioned, this is one of the biggest components of all self-help books – especially at the moment. Some of you have probably seen that great exercise on Facebook , which encourages you to list 3 things you’re grateful for every day.

Self-help tells you that you have to appreciate what you’ve got before anything more comes your way – and I’ve been doing the opposite the last few weeks. I’ve been focussing on what I don’t have and how I’ve messed up. This is a really negative way to approach things – and is self-defeating. Despite the mess I’ve created I have more than a million blessings to count – today I’d like to say thanks to Rebecca, to Claire, to Sheila, to my lovely colleagues who give me work and weirdly, thanks for this mess which I really hope will change the way I am with money, once and for all.


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