Bad with Money

I am horrible with money. I’ve never had a savings account of my own as an adult, my credit score is embarrassing and every month is a jigsaw puzzle of moving spare change around to pay bills on time.

This isn’t because I’m poor, I know I’m still wildly privileged in many ways. This problem isn’t anyone’s fault but my own–I don’t want to come across like I’m looking for sympathy. It’s just that my self control is basically nil when it comes to spending.

I don’t need sympathy. I need a muzzle.

The idea of being good with money is fascinating to me. I have huge internet crushes on some Canadian personal finance and minimalism bloggers. I’ve been fascinated with the concept of minimalism for a year or two now. I even enjoy making budgets, I just can never seem to stick to them for more than a couple of weeks.

I’ve finally reached the point where I’m bored and annoyed with my own bad money habits. I don’t want to keep hearing the same tired narratives over and over again. I don’t want to keep clawing my from paycheck to paycheck.

What’s fascinating and terrifying about unpacking my money baggage is that spending is so tied up into every aspect of my life.

Drinks and meals with friends. Fees to enter state parks or rent tubes for floating down rivers. Paying bills to live on my own and run a business.

It’s also in all of my social media feeds. Buy our beautiful, sustainably made fashion. Hire us to provide you with a service you crave. Purchase a worthwhile resource or tool. Support us on Patreon.

I don’t begrudge anyone their hustle. I get it, I’m right in the mix with them. Everyone needs to make a living.

It’s not anyone’s fault that I can’t control my spending. In fact, it’s more of a compliment than anything that I am over eager to support the businesses that I do spend money at.

However, something’s got to give.

The easiest way to describe it is like discovering you’re intolerant to something. Like dairy or gluten. Eating bagels for breakfast every day for a week will make me break out or bloat like a balloon. If I eat an entire pint of ice cream, I’ll be doubled over in pain for a solid 3 hours.

That’s just my body trying to protect itself.

So I’ve considered reframing the language I use around spending to a mild allergy or intolerance.

“Thanks for the offer, but I have a spending problem so I have to decline.”

“That sounds lovely but do you have spending-free options?”

“Wish I could, but my budget doesn’t react well to non-budgeted purchases.”

There are a few courses and challenges I’m considering taking on to give myself some guidance in making big changes to my spending habits, but I’ll cover those in another post.

I feel like it’s important for me to mention that I’m lucky enough to have very marketable skills and work in a lucrative freelancing space with clients who truly value my work. I want to respect that kind of rare working relationship but shaping up my spending habits.

Here’s the point in the post where I remind you that I don’t have any answers. I just feel like this is something that is too difficult to articulate in real time, this feeling of not ever wanting to say no to people because of money.

If you’re interested, this is the short list of new things I’m trying to start curbing my spending:

  • I got a library card. This not only gives me somewhere to go that isn’t a coffee shop to work, but it also gives me access to books, DVDs and audiobooks that I would otherwise spend money on.
  • I’m making space in my life for previously abandoned pursuits. Reading, video games (that I own but have not finished), drawing and painting. Using up the resources with skills that I already have seems like a pretty noble pursuit at this point.
  • I’m going to be more active, but not just by working out. I want to keep hunting for springs and going for hikes. (Admittedly, a bike and an Eno hammock are on my list of planned purchases.)
  • If I cannot find something I want (also often heard as “need”) secondhand at a thrift store or online or at a yard sale, I’m not going to buy it.

When I think about all of the time and money I’ve spent consuming, I have to face the fact that I could have spent the time and money creating or at the very least experiencing.

I don’t regret the time or money I spend with family or friends, that’s for damn sure. But being more intentional with how I spend that time and money is really worth the extra logistical effort on my part.

The truth is that I’m scared of missing out on anything or having people take my decisions to spend less personally.

But really, what good am I doing anyone if I’m spending myself out of the lifestyle that lets me support local businesses or creatives that I admire?

This is just the beginning of a longer exploration of my relationship to spending and consumer culture, with the hopes of delving into some useful ways to dismantle the toxic patterns I’ve established for myself.