Tag: psychology

Are We There Yet? Persistent Gender Differences In Careers And Money

Are We There Yet? Persistent Gender Differences In Careers And Money

We achieved gender equality when women could vote and work, so we no longer need feminism. Right? Looking into the history of women and money in Canada, and many other countries, it’s easy to feel like we’ve come a long way – and we have. Legislation […]

Credit Scores Aren’t Financial Report Cards

Credit Scores Aren’t Financial Report Cards

Have you ever received one of these letters from a bank? “Congratulations on being a responsible credit user! We’d like to offer you an increase on your credit limit. We appreciate your business and hope you enjoy this extra purchasing power!” Now, to me that […]

Things I Missed When I Quit Shopping

Things I Missed When I Quit Shopping

The novelty of trends and designs

The time between unwrapping a perfect object and its first sign of wear, entropy in action

The marking of occasions and milestones

The feel of soft fabrics running through my fingers

The thrill of completing a task that only a list maker could truly appreciate

The expression of personality

The lights and sounds and subtle scents of new beginnings

The distraction from difficult moments

The not-so-casual conversation with strangers paid to make me feel good about myself

The sense of control in a life that felt out of it

Shopping isn’t just a stereotypically frivolous activity that we shame women for enjoying. It’s a complex web of sensations and neurotransmitters. How we feel can be as important as what we buy. When we try to overcome an unhealthy relationship with spending simply by stopping, we remove a source of fulfillment and a coping mechanism from our lives.

Unsustainable at best, destructive at worst.

You deserve to feel all of those things – pleasure, joy, accomplishment, celebration, originality, excitement, distraction, confidence, novelty, control.

Find them wherever you can, in ways that aren’t accompanied by the guilt and anxiety that overspending can be.

Visit a museum or art gallery and lose yourself in the expression

Create something with your hands

Take a walk outside and touch the space around you

Clean and care for the things you already own

Learn a skill that ignites you and puts you off balance

Volunteer and be a force for change

Strengthen relationships with people who lift you up

Speak to a therapist about your closely-held insecurities

Do something you’ve been afraid to

Carve out time and space for yourself, violently if necessary

If you just like to shop  – embrace that too.

In a world that questions our every step, walking confidently in your own direction is its own act of self-love.

You Can Do Anything For 30 Minutes

You Can Do Anything For 30 Minutes

On Monday last week I decided that I would be going to the gym at 6AM. It wasn’t something I’d extensively planned. It wasn’t a ‘new year, new me’ move. It wasn’t even a habit I intended on creating. I just wanted to go to […]

Treat Yo Self

Treat Yo Self

I’ve tried many different spending challenges over the years – not buying clothing for a year, setting up a budget for specific categories, not eating out for 100 days, aiming for a certain number of $0 spend days every month. I can’t argue with the […]

The Worst That Could Happen

The Worst That Could Happen

In some ways, the most enjoyable moments of our life are when we haven’t started yet. We haven’t added up the debt we owe, we haven’t calculated how long it will take to pay it off, we haven’t started saving or investing. All we know is that we will do it at some point in the future.. maybe tomorrow, or the tomorrow after that.

Instead of starting down the chaotic path of change, we continue to pour our energies into our romanticized shadow self, the aspirational self that we’ve curated over time out of the qualities we admire in others.

This avatar is so close to perfection that we become intimidated by the herculean effort that it would take to transform ourselves into them. We compare our current selves to our ideal selves and begin to think about all of the perfect steps that would need to happen along the way.

Rather than attempting the impossibility that is perfection, what if we considered a more mundane path? What if we just started now, in the midst of all our flaws, with our most insidious habits at their peak?

What’s the worst that could happen?

If we set aside the details and just took action, without considering every angle and without learning the theory behind every strategy, what’s the worst that could happen?

We’d feel overwhelmed, embarrassed, judged. We’d feel like we were missing out, or that we were failures.

Don’t we already feel all of these things? Staring down our dreams while we preemptively micromanage without making a single, tangible move to achieve them is overwhelming. It is embarrassing to reflect on the same resolutions, year after year, without ever meeting them. We do feel judged for our lack of evolution, and our inability to progress. We are missing out, and we will continue to miss out, because we haven’t prepared for our present or our future. We do feel like failures when we aren’t living up to our potential.

The worst that could happen? We shouldn’t even be worried about it. We’re there, right now. Ignoring our finances and delaying our freedom is the worst thing that could happen.

Start today, in all of your imperfect glory. Do one tiny, simple, achievable thing, and do it today. Sit down and write out all of your debt balances today. Open your bills today. Do a written budget today. Check out one personal finance book from the library today. Listen to one money podcast episode today. Calculate your debt free date today. Sell one thing today. Move $10 to your savings account today.

Don’t think about the implications of this one thing, or the emotions around this one thing, or the future actions that this one thing will set in motion. You can do more later, if you want, but don’t think about later. Focus on that one hurdle, and accomplish it now.

What’s the best that could happen?

If the worst thing that could happen is already upon us, what about the best thing that could happen?

You finally face an intimidating number and feel proud that you’ve made the first step. You put aside the past and begin to forgive yourself. You start to gain momentum, even with that one simple action, and feel like you have a future ahead. It won’t be perfect, and it won’t be easy, but at least it will be real.

The Zero Dollar Clothing Year

The Zero Dollar Clothing Year

I’m a fan of experiments, particularly ones that test boundaries and challenge complacency. In the past I’ve hit step targets and weight loss milestones (decent), skipped eating meals out for 100 days (manageable), and waited to purchase a new cell phone for a week after […]

My Heisenberg Moment

My Heisenberg Moment

Facing a desperate situation – a six figure student loan debt with no six figure income – I did what many graduates do at first.. I ignored it. I decreased my spending enough to make slightly more than the minimum payments. In some months I […]

Everything I’m Not

Everything I’m Not

Labels are tools that help us make sense of the world, and the links we create between and among us. These defined categories are one of the ways we cultivate belonging, but they’re also one of the ways we promote othering. When we mentally classify individuals or groups as ‘us,’ we automatically create the opposing classification – ‘not one of us.’ We use labels to connect with like-minded people, to justify or explain our own actions, or to provide support or criticism for someone else’s behavior.

Ironically, there is often a segment of followers of a labelled movement or philosophy who take the concept further than their leaders. If you fail to obey a rule or structure to the letter, you risk the strict adherents popping out from nowhere to enlighten you. I’ve probably done this many times myself – it’s a natural reaction in a species built on community. We somehow feel moved to defend the practices of an individual we’ve never met, clarifying their gospel for the masses. We do this even though the leader of the movement likely wouldn’t feel the need to defend themselves or their philosophy personally. We do this even though we might be missing the main purpose behind the movement while we debate the minutiae. Only now am I realizing how bizarre that sounds!

I’ve never followed any particular philosophy or method completely, so I often find myself saying things like “I’m not a minimalist, but I think it’s important to reconsider the value we place on our possessions.” These caveats help to preemptively steer the conversation away from any unnecessary, off-topic tangents, albeit limiting the usefulness of labels. I’m fine with adding a little human complexity to my interactions, so let’s talk about everything I’m not.

If you happen to identify with any of the following labels, I’m not criticizing you in any way by any stretch of the imagination. I just want you to know that it’s okay to admire someone and not strictly apply every component of their philosophy to your own life. You are not any less of a person if you’re more turtle intense than gazelle intense, or if you want to retire early but not that early, or if you’re only sort of a minimalist. If you’ve found a plan that works for you in its entirety, awesome! If you’ve modified that plan to fit your objectives and desires, fantastic!

I’m Not A..

Gazelle

Dave Ramsey coined the phrase gazelle intensity after reading Proverbs 6:4–5, “Give no sleep to your eyes, nor slumber to your eyelids. Deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, and like a bird from the hand of the fowler.” Basically, the way to get out of debt is to realize that a CHEETAH IS CHASING YOU and then run like crazy in the other direction.

I get that the cheetah is chasing me, but I can’t run at a sprint for years before I finally stop to catch my breath. Dave Ramsey’s plan works for many people, and the average person is debt free (excluding mortgage debt) in 18-24 months while maintaining a high level of intensity. My debt will take significantly longer than 24 months to finish, and the risk of abandoning a debt payoff plan is higher on an extended timeline. Long term deprivation can lead to attrition, so I’m careful to keep my motivation high.

Instead of starting with the gazelle mindset, I’m gradually building my intensity over time. I’m not giving up absolutely everything, but I’ve increased my payments to the point that my debt payoff timeline will be reduced from 11 years down to 4-5. Decreasing my spending more wouldn’t reduce my timeline significantly, but it would increase the likelihood of debt payoff fatigue that could lead to abandoning the plan altogether.

I listen to Dave Ramsey’s podcast for 3 hours every weekday on my commute, and have been making bigger and bigger payments on my debt.. but I’m not a gazelle.

[Dave has so many haters it’s almost comical. Too religious, not religious enough; too harsh, not harsh enough. It’s tough to argue with those debt free screams though – he’s helped millions of people get out of terrible financial situations and start building wealth.]

Mustachian

Mr. Money Mustache is all about Financial Freedom Through Badassity, showing us that it is in fact possible to not be stuck in a 9-5 job for our entire adult lives. He’s one of the original voices in the early retirement world, and I’ve been a major fan of his ever since I stumbled on his blog. MMM was my introduction to the idea that working until age 65 was a choice, not an inevitability, and that one concept has completely changed my life.

I can’t say I’ve been entirely faithful to the ways of the mustache though. I don’t ride my bicycle nearly enough, for one thing. I also often buy items new rather than combing through the thrift store. I still go out to eat occasionally, I still buy expensive electronics like video games and smart phones, and I still purchase tickets for events and concerts. I have a massive amount of student loan debt, but I’m not treating it like the hair on fire emergency that it is.

Instead, I cut back on the things that weren’t as important to me and started to gradually increase my payments over the past year – from $1,300/month minimum payments in 2016 to an average this year of $2,800/month.

Despite my extravagant (by mustachian standards) spending, I’m still planning to retire in my early 40s. Could I cut back everything to the bare minimum and retire in my late 30s? Absolutely. The fact that I plan to only reduce the length of my career by 20 years and not 25 might be a point of contention for some, but it’s a compromise that works well for me personally. I’m not forcing anyone else to work 5 extra years to afford the things I choose to purchase, so no worries there.

I’ve read Mr Money Mustache’s blog from start to finish, and changed my lifestyle enough to shave (pun intended) 20 years off of my working life.. but I’m not a mustachian. I’m a spendypants consumer who could use a punch in the face.

[Ironically, I’ve also been criticized for calling out the comparison game in the early retirement community and encouraging contentment instead of competing for the highest savings rate (maybe I missed something, but isn’t contentment the underlying thread of mustachianism?). I’m not too worried about routinely failing to live up to the mustachian ideal though. It seems like a relatively unachievable target given that MMM himself gets hate from his own readers about not being mustachian enough.. on a forum that started because of his blog. He doesn’t let the detractors impact him though, which is pretty mustachian in itself. The whole thing is almost too meta for me.]

Minimalist

The Minimalists left their corporate careers at age 30 to live meaningful lives with less stuff and more of the important things: time, passion, experiences, growth, contribution, and contentment.

I’ve downsized many of my possessions over the years, even cutting out entire categories like hair tools and nail polish. As The Minimalists often say, minimalism is about only owning items that add value to your life. I think I’ve reached that point, or if not I’m close to it.

I still have an abundance of possessions though, and I still attach emotional value to them. Does a real minimalist keep decorative boxes and multiple copies of the same book? Do I fit in even though I own way more than 100 things? Probably not, according to many self-proclaimed minimalists out there.

I’ve read the blog and the books, listened to the podcast, watched the documentary, attended the live shows, and put many of their methods into practice.. but I’m not a minimalist. I’m a slightly more conscious consumer with slightly less stuff.

[Minimalism has been criticized as a movement for privileged white men with no children, despite the presence of minimalists of all backgrounds, genders, and procreation stances. There are endless forum threads dedicated to agonizing over lists of possessions, and shaming anyone who owns one superfluous item. Once again, finding contentment is a surprisingly controversial topic!]

If I’m not a gazelle, a mustachian, or a minimalist.. What am I?

I guess I’m just a regular person, trying to live my best life on my own terms. Aren’t we all?

Each of these movements is simply a path to one very important destination: freedom. On each path we’re informed by some overzealous followers that we should step exactly where they tell us. Even though so much time has passed that it’s impossible to see where the first person to walk this path stepped. Even though the path is so worn that there are clearly multiple tracks to follow. Even though there’s enough space along the path to forge our own way.

I can’t help but think that by socially enforcing these rigid boundaries, we’re alienating those we could be helping. Does everyone have to fit our perfectly constructed boxes or forever live in a Pinocchio-like state where they’re not real until they conform? Isn’t conformity the construct that most of these movements were opposing in the first place?