What's Your Excuse? Break Down Your Money Barriers
Why You Feel That Way
Think about it. There are many things you like about money. I'm willing to bet you enjoy spending it, earning it and having it. You probably rely on the security that comes with it—having enough of an extra stash to fix the car if it hits the skids—and chances are you take advantage of the opportunities money affords you as well. So it's not money you hate—but what is it?
It could be the effect money sometimes has on people. Perhaps you had a very close friend who came into a load of money and all of a sudden had a slew of new friends, took up golf, spent her free time at "the club" and had no time for you. It could be that your parents argued about money—even divorced over money. Or, you've been in a relationship where finances were a big cause of strife.
But more likely, what you hate is the work involved in managing money and how inadequate or pressured or stressed-out trying to perform those tasks makes you feel. Many of us feel intimidated, overwhelmed and infantile when facing the prospect of coming up with a game plan for our money that will get us from point A to point B. Even going through our credit card statements to see if all the charges detailed are actually ours can send us over the edge. It makes us feel out of control. For 73 percent of Americans, money is the number one cause of stress.
When we say we can't deal with it, or we can't handle it, or it's overwhelming, the it is more specific than money. The it in that sentence is math. We're saying we don't like numbers, can't deal with numbers, can't handle numbers. The numbers overwhelm us.
How to Get Over It
You not only can learn how to handle numbers and handle your own money, but you must learn how to handle numbers and handle your own money. But let's get one thing straight: When it comes to doing math in the adult world, there will not be any final exams. You don't need to have the answers precisely right. You don't need to use particular formulas. And you don't need to show your work, so by all means, use a calculator and whatever shortcuts you find helpful. That means rounding numbers up and down to make them more manageable and estimating amounts to come up with a ballpark figure. Just be sure you estimate up, not down, so you know you have enough of a cushion in your credit line or sufficient cash in your wallet.
I'm also a huge fan of banking online and personal finance software programs. These programs make it easy to input your financial information by asking you questions in plain English. The setup may seem tedious, but once you're up and running, using finance software is a piece of cake. And you'll actually save time in the long run—particularly if you start paying your bills online.
What else can you do quickly, cheaply and easily?
- Save some. Start by putting 3 percent of every paycheck into a savings account. If that's easy enough, try 5 percent, then 10.
- Spend some. Buying things you can't afford isn't going to make you happy, but setting a goal for yourself—a dream vacation, membership at a new yoga center—and then taking the necessary steps to achieve that goal will produce a feeling of satisfaction.
- Give some away. But before you do, make sure that you'll be donating wisely. Take the time to do at least cursory research with the website Guidestar.org to make sure at least 70 percent of the money donated to an organization goes to achieve its underlying mission.
Next: "But my husband does that"