This week we have a special guest post by Onicia Muller. When I set out with Breaking the Piggy Bank, I intended it to create an open discussion about money and ourselves. Onicia’s guest post continues the discussion we began last week with my post about Financial Literacy Basics: Habits Between Pay Dates.
Money and Emotions: Planning for Financial Emotional Pitfalls
During my final year of college, I found myself paying for a 3-bedroom apartment, 2 maxed out credit cards, overdue rent and utilities. Under our parents’ advice, my two sisters and I mixed finances so we could live in a nice apartment away from city distractions that most students faced. We coexisted mostly in harmony and our apartment was cheaper than each of us renting a room in a student flat.
Unfortunately, while away for study abroad and internships, my sisters and I fell out of touch and we neglected our bills. Since I was the only one physically in the building the following year, I had to take on all the bills or face eviction and debt collectors.
The Pig’s recent post on habits in between pay dates reminded me of some habits I developed to cope during that time.
When I confessed to my mom about my financial burden, I explained that I thought I couldn’t even afford a soda. She said, “Everyone deserves candy. Breaking your budget for one candy bar is not a crime. Don’t feel guilty.”
The two habits I then developed were changing when I opened my bills and when I did grocery shopping.
See no evil … until I’m ready
Most bills aren’t surprises. Even so, companies give you a reasonable amount of time to pay them. Instead of reacting I became proactive.
New rule: DON’T check the mail between Friday and Sunday. It’s very unlikely there’s a pending payment due within three days. So, chill out, ignore the mailbox, and enjoy the weekend.
Not letting bills interrupt my weekend reduced emotional spikes and therefore impulse purchases.
When I did check my mail, I didn’t open letters until I was ready to pay them (usually Thursday morning). To calm my nerves, I wrote (and still do) “seen” and the date on the envelope. Later, I wrote the “seen” and “paid” dates near the amount. These are things that I still do.
I was now in control and strong enough to face my financial demons. Now I needed to find a healthy way to reward myself.
Rediscovering joy for shopping
When you’re poor, spending money on ‘responsible’ things isn’t fun. My triggers (opening bills, meeting a school deadline, and prematurely celebrating booking a temp gig) were mostly under control, but I needed some retail therapy.
Impulse purchases on clothes or candy temporarily made me feel better. However, the guilt that followed was not worth it. Instead of hitting the vending machine or ordering takeout every time I had an emotional spike, I changed how I did groceries.
I changed my shopping day from whenever to Thursday nights. We had three grocery stores within walking distance from each other, so I kind of got into meal prep and couponing. Nothing serious, I already and a thesis and bills to worry about.
As a reward for buying “real food” on discount, I felt confident adding value pack candy to my shopping list. I could now easily afford 1-2 sweet treats PER DAY without breaking the piggy bank 😉 .
Now, watch the magic.
It’s Friday (the weekend), my bills are paid, I have snacks and real food in the fridge, and I’m not being bullied by my mailbox. If I want, I could pack a lunch and chill in the city or parks and not waste money at fast food places. During the week, instead of hitting the vending machine for $1.25 Snickers because something stressed me out, I just reach into my backpack for one that cost about $0.50 because past me purchased in bulk. High five!
Wealth management skills getting better. Emotional triggers handled. Sweet Tooth secured. Feeling more positive about life.
What are your financial emotional pitfalls and what habits can you develop to avoid them?