I said I would share any revelations with you and although these are not quite revelations, here are some observations and ideas about dealing with finance.
Make it easy on yourself
I am using a book that I stole from my sister as a starting point. It begins with tracking your incomings and outgoings for the last year and as I have been doing this for a while already it was quite fun to restructure the information in a new way. Using an existing plan and starting with something easy can help form a new habit in the beginning. You can build up your financial muscles before you get into the hard stuff.
Money talks can be tricky
What begins as a simple question can turn into a long emotional discussion when it comes to cash. Money itself cannot hurt you and neither can the stuff you’ve bought with it (most of the time), but when working out what you have, what you need and what you really want, the process can become confusing and painful. You can’t make every decision in one sitting and you won’t be able to solve everything in that hour. Take your time, do something else and come back to it later.
But, if something is literally on your mind and keeping you awake at night it’s probably time to act.
Consult the pros
Not sure how much insurance you need? Want to know how this decision will affect your tax bracket? Don’t understand how you make the payment if you don’t have a credit card? Just call and ask. The people on the phone want to help you; it is literally their job. If it’s a call centre make yourself a cup of tea before you call. It will give you something to do while you are on hold.
Consult the amateurs
Got a friend with a great wardrobe who eats out four times a week on your salary? Ask what their secret is. They might have great tips on spending and saving or perhaps they confess massive credit card bills. Either way it’s useful; you learn something or you get a reality check.
Do this before you are ready. It’s great to do some prep and set a budget, and even better to get out there and look at stuff with an open mind. Maybe your budget can only replace and you really want to upgrade. Maybe prices have changed since you last shopped for a mobile in the 2001 (that was over 10 years ago by the way). Maybe you really need to try that product on before you commit - sit in it, on it, under it.
Keeping it real and unreal
Real: Have you looked at more than one option? Do you really need it? Can you afford the repayments and still eat?
Unreal: Does the product make you feel a bit like you’re living the life you always wanted? Will doing this give you a lovely feeling of security? Does it give you a creepy feeling to deal with that company?
Humans are so clever they don’t even know it; sometimes your brain can’t keep up, so if you get a feeling about something just take some more time to think it over. Your brain will catch up with you eventually and let you know why you thought that salesman was untrustworthy.
If someone said to you ‘You can have a 10% discount if you ask this question.’ you would probably do it right? Then do it! Just ask for a better deal.
We have to buy a new mattress. Yawn. My clever sister suggested we buy some new bedding when we buy the mattress. Duh – best idea ever! If you have to sort out something boring incorporate a little reward into it. If we can’t stretch to bedding we’ll probably buy a new plant for 2.99, which is just as nice.
What have I actually been doing?
Admin – checking receipts & statements, paying bills etc.
Researching a big purchase – out in the world and online
Organising all the associated admin that went along with the big purchase
Also, I cheated and spent some of my hour on other things – cleaning and being creative. Plus I had quite a lot of help along the way…
Which leads me to my final suggestion.
We all have different strengths and weaknesses – exploit them! Some people love listing stuff to sell on websites, some people love trying to get the best price, some people are better at wading through the details. Ask people if they’ll help you out or trade with you. If you live with someone try to divide a bit of the work, it can feel surprisingly good to make progress together…
Co-founder, The Clean Sheet