A Money Coach in Canada

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My World Vision child’s progress reports

My investment statements

My monthly strata meeting minutes

My bank statements

All these and more I want to keep for a few years. But I’m so not a filing cabinet with files person. That’s just a lot of real estate and doesn’t fit my digital understanding of the world.

Staples gave me a new fetish that serves me well: 13-pocket accordian files. These aren’t just the meh brown ones any more. They come in all kinds of nice looks. I choose ones which are partly transparent with distinctive coloured trim.

I have one for each year which then contains all the statements mentioned above in its appropriate section, clearly labelled (handwritten. I’m not THAT much of a keener).

This accomplishes a couple key things for me.

1. Whenever one of the statements comes in I know exactly where to put it. No more mental friction trying to figure out where to put it.
2. Whenever I need something I know where to get it.

In addition to those key functions, I also find them aesthetically pleasing. They are “lite”. They exude “organized” without exuding “office”. And they take up just a discreet bit of shelf space.

So. How to declutter your finances? Try that system for yourself if you don’t currently have a place for your statements.

Photo Credit: Kasaa

We should set aside money for RRSPs.

We should not have any debt.

We should have and stick to a budget.

We should be saving our money.

We should care more about managing our finances.

and then there’s real life.

Look. There is no Law Of The Universe out there that we are breaking when we don’t have it all together with our money. There is no “guilty” verdict hanging over you, or anybody. Really. If you are not saving, if you are in debt, if you are overspending, you are not guilty of anything.

Having a bunch of Shoulds in our heads about our money usually just creates a sense of failure. This is not helpful! It does not inspire us! And it incorrectly positions us in relationship to money. It makes money our taskmaster rather than vice-versa. (It can also be deadly on relationships if one partner has a set of shoulds that they believe apply to the other partner as well!)

This particular pattern of distorted thinking is pervasive when it comes to managing money. It’s time to declutter our minds of the shoulds!

Here’s how.

Next time you find yourself feeling guilty or tense about how you’re handling your money, ask yourself what internal should you are not living up to. Then remind yourself there is no law. There is no standard. So where did the should come from? Only you can answer that. Explore it a little.

Replace that should with weighing your various options about how to handle your money in that particular area. For example, rather than I should save more for retirement your options available could include:

  • Having a nest egg (or a bigger one) for when I retire would feel good and I’d probably be really glad I had it when the time comes.  But living life fully right now feels better.   So I am giving myself permission to carry on as I am.
  • I really wish I could put aside more for my retirement.  However, I am setting aside the amount that is workable in my current situation which includes paying down my mortgage, getting my kids through school, and paying off my student loan.  When it makes sense, given my overall financial picture, I will increase more.
  • If I do not set aside anything for my retirement, things could get pretty ugly at that time.  I know that.   Just because I’m not doing anything about it doesn’t make me a bad person.  It will probably bite me in the ass but that still doesn’t mean I’m a bad person.
  • When I really think about it, I would actually like to save more for my retirement.  I could increase my contributions by $50/$100/$500 a month.

Last, do a simple bait-and-switch.  Next time you have a should change it to a could. That is a word that is full of possibility.    I could set aside more for retirement.  I could be out of debt.  I could have and stick to a budget.  I could….

ps – If you’d like to get more involved with your money, pop over to my biz website, Your Money by Design. It’s still in beta and I have a whole lot of users testing it but you’re welcome to join in at this point!  Because it’s still in beta it’s no charge – that will change for folks who start after May 2011, so dive in now!

photo credit:  416Style

Hands up if you often misplace financial mail (statements, bills, flyers that you are actually interested in) because you don’t have a place to put it. It may end up with the kids’ artwork or it may end up in some other stack but it doesn’t end up someplace where it will get dealt with in a timely manner.

I used to attempt to file items right away but that meant later remembering I had to deal with it, then pulling it out again and besides, it was just a hassle sometimes to file it on the spot.

Here’s what’s been working for me for the past couple years.

When finance mail comes in, I have a special bin (NO NOT THE GARBAGE! A CLASSY LEATHER SERIOUS-BUSINESS-LOOKING BIN!). It’s easily accessible (I’m fierce about that. And absolutely nothing else goes in it) but tucked out of sight in a closet. I just toss it the money related mail in the bin, perhaps opening it or perhaps not depending on what it is. Then during my money-management times I pull the bin out onto my desk and go through it properly.

So, your weekend warrior challenge to declutter your finances: If you don’t have a similarly easy, functioning way to handle your money related mail, try out my system for yourself.

If you have other ways of managing effectively, I’d love to here them!

Photo Credit: SnakemanRob

Friends, It’s been quite a week. Still renewing my mortgage. Renovations well underway. Keeping a close eye as my beta testers proceed testing my new online money coaching program. And trying to pull together a blogcamp up here in Yellowknife. #tiredjustthinkingaboutit

But never fear. Others are doing the heavy lifting on how to live luxuriously yet frugally.

You should check them out…

Karen posted a super-simple way to make floating candles. Don’t worry! You don’t have to actually make the candles! You just … adapt them.

Learn to make your own pizza dough, just like an Italian. Does this not look seriously therapeutic?

Keep an eye on the iTunes 99¢ movies. Know what’s available right now? Twilight, that’s what. Oh, c’mon. Don’t be so snobby. Punch Drunk Love then, maybe? Or The September Issue?

Or then again, skip silly Hollywood movies. They’ve got nothin’, nothin’! on a top drawer radio show out of Chicago called This American Life. It’ll make you want to gather the family ’round, call in the dog, light the fire and then lean back in a leather easy-chair, guaranteed.

Readers: are you doing anything wonderful this weekend that’s also still frugal?

Photo credit: Dale Chumbley

If so, I can assure you you’re in good company. It’s not something I’ve ever had to deal with myself, but lots of my clients have. And it’s very specific – a fear that when they are old, they will not have enough to meet their basic needs. That they will end up eating cat food or trudging around with a shopping cart, living in abject poverty. It’s time to declutter your mind from this kind of thinking about your financial future!

These fears are a form of distorted thinking and this one is called Catastrophizing.

It can take two forms.

One occurs when something negative or unpleasant happens to you financially (say, you go into debt, or you don’t get a raise, or you overspend) and your mind quickly exaggerates that into worst case scenarios: I’ll never get out of debt so I’ll get kicked out of my home, I’m never going to have enough in my RRSP/pension so I’m going to have to work ’til I die, I can’t handle money and won’t have any left when I’m old.

Another occurs when you hear bad news about the economy, or someone who really is facing severely difficult times. Your imagination runs wild and you envision all kinds of horrible circumstances for yourself in the future: If they were a decent, middle-class person and that happened to them it could happen to me! The economy is going to collapse and I’m going to lose everything too!

The effects can be crippling – you feel doomed before you even try to ensure your old-age is reasonably secure! You lose sleep, you may suffer full-blown anxiety attacks, and you may divert energy towards a panic-driven reaction to a future that hasn’t even happened yet. It’s exhausing!

If you are prone to catastrophizing, here are some steps you can take to help.

1. Name it as catastrophizing. Pause your imagination, and remind yourself that it is a known phenomena and it is distorted thinking.

2. Ground yourself in the present. Take several deep, slow breaths. Feel your feet on the ground and your hands by your sides and your head on your shoulders. Take note of your surroundings – the sounds, the smells, the people around you. Bring yourself fully back to your present, which is where you belong.

3. Ask yourself silly questions –> Did I inherit a crystal ball? –> Is it true that everything I think is going to happen always happens? Do I have that super-power and someone forgot to tell me? –> Should I call CNN and tell them what is going to happen? Of course, ask these questions with a gentle affection for yourself!

This is the second of our financial decluttering series which focuses on our messy thinking. Last week we explored the distorted thinking pattern called filtering. Check it out if you are prone to thinking the worst of yourself and your finances rather than appropriately acknowledging the good aspects of you and your money. And come back next week for ideas on combatting another form of distorted thinking.

photo credit: AnnieGreenSprings

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