It seems such a shame that after the excitement of having a piece in the Daily Mail, receiving international interview requests (I’ve just done an email interview with a Chinese magazine!) and half a dozen dinner invitations (thanks, guys!), I now have to get back to my bank balance.
Talk about a buzz kill.
I just want to go out and drink bubbles and buy a pair of shoes to celebrate my good luck. But, of course, that’s the problem. Given half the chance I’ll go out to celebrate the fact it’s Wednesday. Which is why I’m broke.
So back to the task at hand: getting out of the £12,000 debt I’m currently in. Yup, £12,000. I didn’t know that figure until last week, when I looked at it for the first time. It was a shock.
Until now the only way I know what’s in my bank is when the cash machine WON’T let me take money out. Then I know it’s bad. Other than that, I keep spending and keep my fingers crossed.
At the end of the last post I shared the questions Kate Northrup poses in her book ‘Money – A Love Story’.
1) What’s your first money memory (it doesn’t have to be the earliest, just the first one that comes to your mind)
2) Can you see a connection between this first memory of money and the financial situation you’re in now?
The messages I’ve received from people on this are SO INTERESTING. Everyone can directly link his or her current situation to that first childhood memory. One friend says she remembers her dad saying ‘Watch the pennies and the pounds look after themselves.’ She has been meticulous about keeping track of her finances ever since. Another remembers the tooth fairy and thinking ‘YAY! Money for nothing!’ She went on to go nuts credit cards.
WHAT’S YOUR FIRST MONEY MEMORY?
My first memory of money explains a lot.
I was about nine and my dad had come from work with a jiffy bag full of cash. He wasn’t a bank robber (honest) he was a property developer and always needed cash on his sites.
My sister and I were in the living room when he walked in and threw all the cash up into the air and told us that we could keep whatever we could catch.
We scrambled around, jumping up and down to grab the £20 notes fluttering through the air. It was like a scene in a film.
But then when we’d picked all the notes, we weren’t allowed to keep them. We had to give them back. He was only teasing us (his main sport in life).
Although I have never thought about it until reading this book – I think that moment has had quite a profound effect on the way I’ve approached money all my life.
I think money is to be a) thrown around b) you never get to keep it.
I also remember feeling quite anxious as I was running around trying to catch it. Anxious that I wouldn’t catch enough or that I’d drop it.
To this day money – both having it and not having – makes me stressed. I am also incapable of keeping hold of it.
Kate encourages you to make this just one part of your MONEY LOVE STORY.
She suggests keeping a ‘money journal’ in which you write the story of how you are with money, starting with childhood and going up to current times. She suggests looking for patterns and to be really honest, without beating yourself up.
I’ve started doing it and it’s been a revelation. The real thing goes on for pages and pages and I’m still adding to it but here are some edited highlights:
MY MONEY LOVE STORY
I grew up in a house of extremes.
My dad came from nothing but was a millionaire by the time he was in his twenties.
As children there was lots of money floating around – literally. My first ever sip of alcohol was taking a swig from a crystal decanter in the back of Dad’s Bentley. There were trips to Harrods and Hamleys. Holidays to Disneyland and Europe. We went to private school.
We were rich.
But as every poor little rich girl will tell you, it wasn’t all perfect.
Even as a young child I realised a few things about money:
PEOPLE DON’T LIKE YOU IF YOU’RE RICH
I remember vividly being in London traffic in dad’s flash car and guys on the street screaming ‘Yuppie’ at us. They banged on the bonnet. I didn’t know what a Yuppie was but I could see the hate in their eyes.
MONEY MAKES YOU STAND OUT / DIFFERENT
I remember visiting my grandparents in their very normal terrace house. The people on the road came out to see dad’s car and I felt so embarrassed. I was probably about twelve and was mortified by being different.
MONEY MAKES YOU SPOILT
I couldn’t begin to tell you how many times mum made it clear to us that we were spoilt. The world we were being brought up in was a world away from her rural Irish upbringing and a world away from the poverty that dad knew as a child.
While dad wanted to give us everything he could, she could see that we had no idea how privileged we were. She was right, of course – but I learned to feel guilty and bad about the money we had.
But the money didn’t last.
When I was in my late teens, dad’s failing health combined with the 1990s recession meant that the money started to dry up quite spectacularly. By the time we were in our twenties, everything was gone – the house, the business, everything. I won’t go into details, because it’s not just my story to tell, but it was a traumatic time.
Here’s what I learned about NOT having money:
NOT HAVING MONEY IS STRESSFUL
Anyone who’s been there knows that losing your house and not being able to pay bills affects absolutely everything and is terrifying.
MONEY ISN’T EVERYTHING
But on the other hand when the worst actually happens, everyone survives and actually, the world doesn’t end.
NOT HAVING MONEY MAKES YOU A BETTER PESON
Mum maintains that my two sisters and I wouldn’t have worked so hard or done so well in our careers if there had been lots of money. She also says that we’ve turned out nicer people for it. She might be right but we’ll never know.
So there you go. Some snippets of my money story. So how has it affected me?
MY VIEWS OF MONEY NOW
I’ve always worked hard and earned money – but when I have it, I do my best to blow it. I’m not out buying Gucci handbags, I fritter it away on coffees, dinners, drinks, blow dries, shoes, jumpers, taxis. I’m careless with money and disrespectful. It’s as if I don’t want it.
I have recreated the same boom bust cycle we grew up with. As a freelancer my earnings are erratic. As soon as I get a cheque I’m out celebrating, living it up, but then a week later I’m broke and stressed. I’m on a knife-edge all the time. I’ve taken away my security.
When I feel fat and ugly and not good enough (feelings I had through most of my twenties) I buy clothes in the hope that they will make me feel better.
I feel guilty or uncomfortable about having more than other people. I believe that meanness and cheapness is one of the most unattractive qualities in someone – which is why I’m (too) quick to buy the first round or shout dinner.
Deep down I think that people won’t like you, will resent you, or feel jealous of you if you have money.
I think it’s both boring and greedy to be concerned by money – in my head I live in some sort of dream world where money doesn’t matter, but of course it does. I treat money like it’s beneath me.
I haven’t grown up when it comes to money. I am scared of taking the responsibility of it, I want someone else to fix it for me.
I also play the victim with money – I don’t look after it then I play ‘poor me’ when I’m ‘broke’ or ‘can’t afford it.’ I’ve borrowed money from friends and my sister to get me out of scrapes – which isn’t fair to them.
Finally – and this comes back to that moment when dad wouldn’t let us keep the cash and also when they lost everything, I believe that money comes and goes, so don’t get attached to it, look after it, or make plans with it.
Looking at all this stuff explains a lot. For the first time in my life I understand why I am the way I am around money. At the crux, I think, is a guilt around having money when other people don’t and also an immaturity. I’m waiting for someone (a man) to sweep in and sort it out (this is known as the Prince Charming effect).
Strangely, given that I’ve spent my whole life avoiding thinking about these things, it wasn’t that painful to do. Well, it was – but in a good way. It’s been cathartic.
Kate says to think of ways of looking at your story and realising (as Susan Jeffers said in Feel the Fear) that it all happened perfectly.
So for example, I can see that I wasted so much money but I’ve been generous with it too. I’ve also has brilliant fun along the way. And I wouldn’t be sitting here writing an unpaid blog if I was sensible with money! I’d be out earning a living! But I’m so glad and lucky to be sitting here doing this.
But it’s also time so start a new relationship money now, time to grow up. And for once, I’m not saying that in a way to beat myself up – just saying it because for the first time in my life I’m ready.
Bank statements, here I come. We’re about to become intimately acquainted. I’m expecting tears.
WHAT’S YOUR MONEY LOVE STORY?
- Be honest but don’t beat yourself up.
- If it makes you feel sad or angry, that’s OK – ‘you can’t feel it to heal it.’
- Look for patterns. Practice forgiveness.