Category Archives: Untangling Ideas

Follow the Money

We’ve all watched and enjoyed mysteries, and one of the tried-and-true adages of a mystery is: Follow the Money.  In the case of a mystery it has to do with motive.  But where else does Follow the Money ring true?

Actually, Follow The Money applies almost anywhere.  In most instances, money is reflective, not causative.  It points to the issues and problems.  It marks and reports them.  It doesn’t create them.

Wait, what?!  Money doesn’t create problems?  No, it doesn’t.  What we choose to do or not do with money creates the problems, not the actual money itself.  Money doesn’t have free will or volition.  It goes where you tell it to.  It gets used and spent and earned and saved strictly by the actions of people.

All money can really do is tell you what happened.

And it does a really good job of that.  And it certainly does it in more circumstances than we tend to initially realize.  Let’s look at where money talks and tells.

Business:  This one is pretty obvious.  Looking at a company’s financial statements tells you what’s going on in the company.  The way I look at those statements goes deeper than just the sales and expenses though.

For me, the money in a company tells me where the people issues are.  If all the employees in one department are complaining about not being paid enough, that tells me something.  It tells me something is going on in that department that needs to be addressed.  The money is reflective.  If people aren’t paying the company on time, that says something too; it may be about the invoices going out too late, about the product not being right, or about a lax follow-up procedure.

The money can be talking about a lot of different things, but it is certainly reflecting information.

Personal: I also think money is reflective in our personal lives.  What does your money say about you?  Where do you spend it?  What kind of attention do you pay to it?  What is it reflecting?  If you really look at your money, you can learn a lot.

I once worked with someone who said they had money all over the house, tucked here and there.  They didn’t really know where it was.  They didn’t know how much they had.  That’s a reflection of this person’s money perspective.  The fact that the money is all over, and not “organized” is reflective of something.  Follow that money mystery and you’ll get somewhere interesting, somewhere important.

Sometimes following the personal money leads to some pretty predictable places.  The money might go toward a collection, it might go for a child’s education, it might go for a car.  It is most likely to reflect the person’s interests and passions.  It also will reflect the person’s money prejudices—those beliefs they fund without even knowing it.  It might go to buy everything “on sale” because that’s just what you are supposed to do.  Or it might buy jewelry because it makes you feel good.  Where ever it goes, there’s some meaning or symbolism behind it.

Remember, money isn’t about money—it’s about our sense of worth.  What we spend it on is reflective of how we see ourselves and our world.  It reflects our values, passions and dreams.

I think we can learn a lot about people by looking at different aspects of their lives.  Think about it: Look in someone’s refrigerator, what does it tell you?  Lots of weird sauces, or is there just a six pack and a cold pizza?  Reflective, right?  Money is the same way.  So, spend some time noticing what your money is telling you.  Where do you spend it?  What do you do with it?  Where do you keep it? How do those actions sometimes reflect things you hadn’t realized before?  You can learn a lot. Just follow the money.

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

Want to chat about what your money might be trying to tell you? Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or leave a comment.

Donning the Mantle

How do you get ‘ready’ for work?  What do you do to prepare yourself to give a presentation?  Or to have a challenging conversation?  How do you don the mantle of your career?

I got intrigued with some of the creative ways we do this while reading a recent blog by my friend, Rachel Boehm. In The Clothes Make the Man she talked about the subtle messages our clothes send to others and ourselves.  Part of her sharing was this great story about how she felt more strong and capable when wearing high heels, so she donned some to plunge into fixing the clogged kitchen sink.  The heels helped her get the job done!

What we wear doesn’t just send signals to others, it helps us ‘don the mantle’, doesn’t it?  We take on the authority of the position.  We step into it.

Of course all this is metaphor.  The symbols help us ‘stand’ in the role.  No wonder It’s often about shoes and feet.  It sure was for Dorothy—from following the yellow brick road to clicking the heels of her ruby slippers together.  We feel different in flip-flops than heels.

For some of us it’s a conscious act.  Long ago in the ’80s I had a co-worker named Martha.  Part of her job as the Finance Manager in that company was to make collection calls.  Trust me, that can be a daunting thing for both parties on the call.  The way she gathered her personal power to make those calls was by wearing her pearls.

What we are really doing with all this is both making a declaration, and gathering talents and strengths together.  The shoes, or jewelry, or whatever just help to remind us.  Additionally by using them, seeing them, feeling them we open those neural pathways in our brains where all the positive association around them live.

I take my maternal grandmother with me everywhere I go in the form of a ring that was hers.  As I do that I bring her qualities to life in me—things like fortitude, kindness, and even poise—which I need more of!  When I’m doing a talk or presentation my other grandmother brings her feisty, fearless self to me.  Together the talismans and ancestors all support us.

What do you don to set the tone and take up the mantle?

Oh, and just for grins, what talisman or item of clothing or jewelry might help you uncover and rely on a part of you that would be more helpful and effective with money?  And please, don’t make it a green eye shade… that would likely have the opposite effect!

I invite you to become even more conscious of this idea of creating intention through symbols that serve you.

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

I’d love to hear what item works well for you.  Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or leave a comment.

The Mystery Bet

In September of 1943, at the tender age of 18, my dad was drafted. At that point, my Grandmother, Dossie, started a Scrap Book.  She wrote about what was happening and gathered telegrams, letters, newspaper clippings—all sorts of information. Dossie was not exactly ‘organized’.  She was a dynamic, wonderful whirlwind of a woman, who had a quirky nature.  Often the description on the back of a family photo read something like “all of us“—which was true, but not necessarily helpful.

Even the book’s history is intriguing.  Apparently the book and all the accompanying bits of paper, photos, and such were in a cardboard box.  Early in my parents marriage, my mother started to throw out the box.  To ‘make up’ for this egregious error, she took the whole mess to be ‘laminated’.  That’s good news and bad news.  The laminator paid little attention to chronology and backs of pages.  I’ve tried several times to ‘fix’ it, and it’s determined to stay a bit chaotic… but then it is about the most chaotic thing to ever happen to my dad and his family.

He ended up in the Army Air Corps, serving as a tail gunner on a B17.  On December 7, 1944 his plane was shot down after a bombing run over Germany.  Parachuting out, he was eventually turned over by Hitler Youth who found him hiding in an elderly woman’s basement.  He ended up in the Stalag Luft 1 POW camp in Northern Germany.  The camp was liberated on May 1, 1945.  My dad weighed 110 lbs.

I’m just giving you the basics.  There are many stories to tell about his time in the war, and also about how it was for my family back home.  What I really wanted to write about today is this fascinating tidbit I recently found in the book.  And guess what?  It’s about money!

On May 20, 1945 my dad wrote a letter home.  It was his first letter since being liberated, and most of it was a recap starting with his being shot down.  I think the reason for the rehash is that this was the first letter that he was able to write that was only censored by Americans, and not his captors.

At the end of the letter he wrote: Deposit  $100.00 in the Wyoming Loan and Trust for I lost a bet and wrote a check on that bank.  All My Love, AC ‘Slug’ Stone”  My first response to this was to laugh out loud!  It’s so my dad.

Here he is, a young man of 20, who has only been ‘free’ nine days, and he wants to make sure he honors a debt!  Amazing, and yet perfect.

So back in those days you could literally write a check on a cocktail napkin.  Who knows, the one he wrote may have been on one!  He wanted to make sure that his check didn’t bounce.  It’s impressive.

And here’s the check.  It was actually cashed at the bank on July 12, 1945 so it took some time.  It’s a counter check.  Just a blank typed form with the information hand written in.  This is not the original check, it’s the bank making up a check for their records.  The signatures are also not original.

There is also an intriguing piece in the way he made the request.  It was a simple request, with little explanation.  Which tells me (of course I kinda know this about my dad) that him making a bet was not a remarkable thing. Yet this was a large bet.  $100 in 1945 was a major chunk of change.  I did a bit of exploring and discovered that it would be about a $1,395 bet today.  Yipes!

So here’s this 20-year-old kid, who has just been freed from a terrifying experience.  I’m sure there were times he thought he’d never make it out of the camp.  With all that, top of his list is honoring his bet?  I can’t think of a clearer representation of what I mean when I say that Money is Reflective.

And here’s the kicker.  There is no record as to what he bet on. It will forever remain a mystery.  Trust me, if I do end up in some future existence where I get to see him again, one of my first questions will now be:  “What DID you bet on, Dad?”  

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

How is your money reflective?  Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or leave a comment.

Is It Money’s Fault?

We sure act like it is.  And we’ve been of that opinion for centuries.  Money, in and of itself, is somehow bad and evil.  And yet, is it really?

I did a bit of digging for biblical verses about money.  There are quite a few.  Timothy, who got tagged with the ‘Money is the root of all evil’ thing actually said:  ‘For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.’  That’s a bit different, isn’t it?  Mostly the biblical references about money are really about what people do—or don’t do—with it.

Money, being that it’s actually just a ‘place holder’ of value, has gone through all sorts of changes throughout the ages.  It’s been made of gold, paper, and now just numbers in the air.   It has had kings and presidents on it, slogans about trusting in God, and pictures of monuments.  It has been a symbol of all sorts of things—worthiness, power, ego, generosity, security, endurance—actually a never-ending list.  It’s never-ending because all of it is made up.

Money has the value we give it.  Whether it be the bigger bit of the ‘Economy’ or your own personal money, it’s all stuff we make up.  It was initially a good idea: Rather than trading hay for a goat, and then the goat for cloth, and then the cloth for wheat, it was much easier to use a token with a value assigned to it.  It started as a stand in for value.  We now have attached a ton of meaning to the symbol of money that is just what we, and our culture has laid on it—not the actual Truth.

Money inherently has no value, or opinion, or goal.  It only has the value we assign it.  Notice that the value of the dollar moves and shifts?  Money reflects the shift.  Money doesn’t actually cause the shift.  People set a value.

We say we want a house in this neighborhood, or a job that pays that, or a car that has this.  Money reflects what we care about, what we want, what’s important to us.

Okay, by now you may be thinking:  “Why does all this stuff Shell’s often saying—about money being what she call ‘reflective’ not ‘causative’—matter?”  It matters because the way you think and feel about money has a direct effect on you!  If you believe that rich people are bad, you will make sure not to become one.  You are constantly telling and training your brain what to believe, all the time, every time you think or speak.

I have seen this over and over again.  I’ve experienced it myself.  Those words you use with yourself have power, and your brain will take them as Truth, and protect you from letting them ‘hurt’ you.  The ONLY thing that is true about money is that it reflects what you choose to think about it and do with it.   

What do you think and feel about money?  Really, answer that question.  It’s important, because money will reflect those thoughts back to you.  If down deep you think it’s a big struggle and you can never win at it, you will be right!

Changing that thinking isn’t easy.  You and the entire planet have been making up things about money forever.  However there is an easy way to start the process.   Get clear on what you actually, deep down, believe about money.  What are those statements that  just pop into your head about it?  Like ‘it doesn’t grow on trees!’  What does that even mean to you?   The first step is always to acknowledge the problem.

Once you get clear on those deep-seated beliefs, the next questions to ponder are:  “What is the cost of that belief?  What am I missing by thinking that way?  How could this be different?”

Changing the way you think about money may be the best gift you ever give yourself.  Give it a try!  Maybe you’ll find out that it’s not really money’s fault afterall.

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

Want to chat about changing your money thinking?  Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or leave a comment.

Playing with Virtual Money

It’s summer!  Time to be a bit more playful.  Personally I’ve been doing more playing and less blogging.  How about  a way for you to ‘play’ with your money this summer that is fun, whimsical, and doesn’t actually spend any of it … because it’s virtual?

It’s my twist of the Prosperity Game, which has been around for years—so long that there are apps and even printed checks you can buy to play the game.  None of that is actually needed to play the game.  All you need is some place to track what’s happening , like a journal.

It’s a game you play with yourself by spending virtual money everyday.  You start with $100 and double it each day ($100, $200, $400, $800, etc).  One of the rules is that you have to spend all the money each day.  Sometimes people want to save up for something, but that’s not necessary.  Since it doubles every day you will be close to spending a million a day in just two weeks ($819,200)  Another rule is that  you have to spend it on yourself.  You can take people with you on trips, or the like, but you must spend the money on yourself.  The point is to explore and clarify your relationship and thoughts about money—not just give it away. While playing the game you will shop, make lists, spend imaginary money on imaginary things.  I suggest you don’t get tied up in the fiddly bits of things like sales tax.  Rounding off is fine.  It’s not about record keeping!  No actual money is used.

It’s a very interesting game.  Over the years, I’ve encouraged many of my clients to play this game.  It does several intriguing things.  One thing it does is pretty effectively show you where your “money ceiling” is.  Your “money ceiling” is the amount of money you just can’t understand—the amount that is beyond your personal limit.  It’s a good thing to know.  If you approach your money ceiling without knowing where it is, it can suddenly open up and sweep you away.

The game also helps you reframe your ideas of:

  • What is expensive
  • What is cheap
  • The value of things
  • What you really want
  • How much stuff you can handle

All very intriguing concepts to play with and understand.

Okay, now that you know the basics of how the game works, let’s look at the part of the game that I’m most intrigued with. Your brain actually thinks it is real money.  Your head doesn’t know the difference between your spending the money virtually or in reality.  I know this by personal experience.

When I played first this game, I lived in a house where the washing machine drained into a deep sink.  It was a very old, very heavy sink with a small drain.  I had a furry spaniel dog, Decaf, who contributed lots of hair to the laundry, and frequently that hair would come out of the washer hose in a way that would plug the sink, and cause it to overflow on to the floor.  Not a fun thing to clean up.

Naturally, early in playing the money game I decided to “pay” some of my virtual money to get that sink fixed.  Yipee!  Problem solved.  About a week later I did some laundry, and the sink overflowed.  There I was, standing in water, with my hands on my hips saying “Damn it!  I paid to get that sink fixed and it’s overflowing!” and then it struck me.  I had paid to get the sink fixed with virtual money!  It wasn’t really fixed.

Other people I know have had similar experiences with this game.  One person offered to loan a friend $25,000 until it occurred to her that it was virtual money she was offering.

I learned a bunch of other things playing the game.  Some of my ideas of what was ‘expensive’ and what was ‘cheap’ shifted.  And then there was the place where I just felt overwhelmed.  The place where I had hit my money ceiling.  A very good thing to know.  I suggest that you play at least one day past that place, because just beyond that point often lurks some really amazing dreams.

The real point is that your thoughts about money are fluid and can change.  That’s good news.  You can change your money thinking.  You can provide some different experiences of money for your brain, even virtual ones, and your brain will accept them as real even when they aren’t.  That’s good news.  It’s also odd news.  It would seem  to be telling us that it’s important that you pay attention to the messages that you send your brain about money, wouldn’t it?

How about playing this money game to explore what’s going on in your head around money, and learn about some new possibilities.  At the very least it’s a bit of a fun summer lark!

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

I’d love to hear how the game worked for you. Give me a call at  503-258-1630 or leave a comment.  Happy spending!

What You Say About Money Matters

Remember that now-old, computer adage: Garbage In, Garbage Out (GIGO)?  It’s even more crucial when we apply it to our thoughts.  Our brains put like thoughts together in neural pathways.  All our thoughts about any particular thing get connected together.

It’s really quite fascinating.  For example it’s kind of like a bunch of cupboards.  When you open the door to the cupboard there are all the goodies in there.  Until you open the door you don’t actually think about what’s in there.  For example, most of us have a cupboard we could call “Friends from childhood” — we don’t open in very often, but when we do we can see a bunch of people in it.  Just think of the name of one kid you knew. Got ’em?  Okay, now as you remember them the cupboard door opens wider and you can see more kids in there.

It’s a pretty cool system, and I think there is no coincidence that in many ways computers are structured in a similar fashion.  Even though we may not have had all the brain science worked out when computers were invented, the style and method of our thinking influenced the design.

Okay, so what on earth does that have to do with money and what you say about it?  The short answer is EVERYTHING!

What you focus on is what you create.  You gather more and more fodder to support your position, and all that fodder makes the ‘cupboard’ bigger and bigger.

What exactly do you say about money? We know that the odds are your parents said things like:

  • Money doesn’t grow on trees
  • You’ll have to work really hard to make any
  • There’s never enough of it

The irony is that because they believed that, they proved it — with one small but important caveat.  See the use of the ‘enough’ word?  Our brain pays no attention to the ‘never’ in that sentence.  What it does do is focus on creating the enough word.  The problem is enough is a ‘scarcity’ word.  Think about it.  One way or another there was always ‘enough’ — just enough.

The quantity of scarcity thoughts in the “money cupboard” in most of our heads is huge.  That neural pathway is jam-packed with examples, reinforcement, fodder.  Conversely, the money thought cupboard around the idea of plenty, or lots, is a tiny little cupboard from perhaps a doll house.

The result being that when it comes to money, just like when it comes to other thoughts and ideas, we reinforce what we have always reinforced.  We are at the very least in the habit of thinking that way.

Changing that thinking, and thus the results you create, is both hard and easy.  It’s as easy as being conscious of what you say and think about money, and changing from an ‘enough/scarcity’ to a ‘plenty/lots’ conversation.   And that is also hard to do, mostly because it’s a very ingrained habit.

My suggestion is to institute a counter-balancing method.  Start by being easy with yourself.  Don’t give yourself a hard time when you use that scarcity word.  And when you use it, and notice it, then immediately replace it with a more abundant word.  At the very least balance it with a counter-balance statement.  For example: “I never make enough money, except when I do!”  It can actually be an amusing thing to do.

The reason that all this is so important is that you can’t actually create the abundance or security you want to get past ‘scarcity’ or ‘enough-ness’ until you can believe it’s possible.  And you cannot be in ‘plenty land’ as long as you keep reinforcing the neural pathway that is a massive cupboard filled with scarcity thinking.

Here’s an example that might help.  Did you take a foreign language in school?  I took French.  Most classes focused on you speaking the foreign language, right? We didn’t try to learn French by speaking English.  That just wouldn’t work.  And I found when I went to France on a trip, the longer I was there, the easier it was for me to understand the language.  I had even started to think in French by the end of the trip.  What was happening is that the French ‘cupboard’ was getting filled. 

It’s the same with your money thinking and beliefs.  You can change it, and it’s a simple and as hard as learning to do anything different.  Remember, when it comes to money, what you say about it does matter!

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

If you’d like to some support in changing what you say about money give me a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com.

Money Self-Talk

Did you happen to see this quote on Facebook?  Being taught to avoid talking about politics and religion has led to a lack of understanding of politics and religion.  What we should have been taught was how to have a civil conversation about a difficult topic.’

You probably won’t be surprised that my brain went right to:  ‘…and when it comes to money, it’s an even more taboo topic!’  Mostly we don’t even talk about that we don’t talk about it, and the aforementioned ‘lack of understanding’ around money is monumental.  I truly do think it’s the MOST taboo topic on the planet.

And the person we talk to the least about money is actually ourself.  Sure we have money conversations in our head.  Most often they are rants about what we are doing wrong — judgements of our short comings.  These aren’t actual conversations where we listen — really listen — to what we are saying about money.  This is unexplored money self-talk.

The important thing here, is that what we say is what we believe.  Our internal dialog rules our brain.  If the primary belief we have is that money is this awful, scary stuff that we can’t actually get a handle on and don’t understand, we will make that the truth and act accordingly.

A large part of my job is to really hear what people are saying, both out loud and in their heads.  I try to clue in on when I hear someone using internal and external language-based judgement, criticism, and just not feeling good about ourselves.  Some of the words that we use around money that tip me off to this are: enough, earned, value, deserve, frugal, broke, wasteful.  Other words that strike even deeper show how we judge what we are doing —  how we  ‘should’, ‘must’, ‘have to’, and ‘got to’.  It’s often pretty subtle stuff.  And I’m pretty much all over my clients, encouraging them to thinking in terms of ‘wanting’ or ‘choosing’ to do things instead of all those other options.

The real reason for that is that coming from that more self-directed positive place is just plain more effective.  All that negative nattering distracts us from the task at hand, and that limits our abilities.

How about you find a way to have a couple of heart-to-heart money conversations with yourself?  I know it sounds a bit ‘out there’ but why not?  Tune in and notice when you say a negative thing about yourself, about you and money, even about your expectations of what is possible in your life.  Why not start by making a simple list of your self-talk phrases and then noting if they are positive, negative, or even neutral.

What’s going on there in your head?  You can absolutely shift it.  You can learn new words and hold new ideas.  You even can learn to ‘correct’ yourself when you say something like, “I’ll never make it!”  You can choose to follow it with “…unless, of course, I do!

There is a bit of sneaky science behind this idea.  It’s all about neural pathways.  The ones that get more use get stronger, the ones with little use diminish.  You get to choose.  What are you reinforcing?  See what you can learn about what you really say about money.  And how, with just a bit of noticing and language focus, you can change your money thinking — really, you can!

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

If you’d like to some support in hearing your internal messages and making these change give me a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com.

Surviving SPAM – A Lot!

I’d really love for this to just be a bad Jeopardy category title — unfortunately it’s not!  It’s more a hard-won cautionary tale.

By now we ALL are up to our butts in daily SPAM, phishing, and other nasty email stuff.  I actually tracked it, and in February I received over 3000 emails that exemplify this.  Yes, my spam filter goodies caught many of them, and I am now I am also adept at using ‘ignore’ and ‘junk’, not just ‘delete.’

Today’s story is a more twisted tale about my receiving lots of unwanted email.  It’s about being inundated with ‘blog comments’ that aren’t comments.  They are sales pitches, weird things, and some were even in cyrillic!  This all started in January, and frankly it was driving me nuts!

I contacted my techno/puter genius and he came up with a solution to solve the problem.  It was all about having people ‘sign in’ to the blog before leaving a comment, thus avoiding the robotic messy spammers.  I would still maintain control on accepting their ‘membership’ in the blog, and approving their posts.  I thought all was good…little did I know!

I didn’t really notice that I hadn’t had any sign-ups or comments until someone emailed me directly with a comment and mentioned that they couldn’t figure out how to leave a comment on the blog.  Our next step was to include some language that we thought would clarify the process.  After that I asked a couple of trusted friends to try it out.  They got mired and stuck in it.  Ouch!

Only then did I remember a very crucial thing — to not make it hard for fans or clients to engage with me!  I’ve had some past experience in having clients irritated with me, when technology beyond my control wasn’t ‘friendly’, and certainly didn’t want to repeat that in any way!

It was about this time that I remembered that I had leapt in to the ‘apparent’ issue without really getting to the core problem first.  We all do that, we are trained to do that.  I remember when I was first exposed to working in a company, that the ‘rule’ was to not bring a problem to your manager without also having a solution for it.  Old habits die hard, and even though I now know better, the pressure of being uber spammed had me ‘regress under stress’, and my puter person had taken that stress at face value.  Oops!

As I got back to the core issue, which was making it easy for real people to leave a comment, the clouds started to part.

There was a fundamental flaw in my initial interpretation of the flood of spamsters fussing on my blog.  I thought it was because of the huge increase in this stuff I was experiencing everywhere.  I was wrong.  Turns out that a handy app/plugin named Akismet was the culprit. I knew I had this and assumed it was something that was free for everybody…after all, I’ve had the website for a while now.  And on WordPress it said that the software was ‘up to date’.  What I finally discovered, with the brilliant insight of my tech person, was that the software was up to date, but the license wasn’t!  Really!  Yipes!  God forbid that should be made clear to those of us that don’t speak fluent programmer-gab!

Makes sense though, everything went whacking in January.  It probably was when the previous license expired or a free trial ended.  And then all hell broke loose.  And near as I can tell no one ever notified me that I had it on a trial, or that the trial period or license had expired.

So now things are all good.  You don’t have to ‘join’ anything to leave a message.  No passwords for commenters.  No confusion for my readers.  I have paid for a year of magic Akismet.  It is catching and marking as SPAM about 20 ‘comments’ a day from the bad guys…yippee!

It cost some money, took way too much time, disrupted some clients, and probably caused some general consternation that I don’t even know about for some people.

Sometimes, I must admit, I do wonder if all this ‘progress’ is really worth it?  And in hindsight, I do appreciate the reminder — or perhaps we should call it “swift kick in the arse”— to dig deeper around what the issue really is before I leap into a solution!

Ka’ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

If you’d like to kvetch about SPAM give me a call  503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com

Do Budgets Drive You Batty?

The typical answer to that question is an emphatic YES, THEY DO!  Many times in a presentation I have  asked: “How many of you have created a budget?” — most of the hands in the room go up.  Then I ask: “After you created the budget , how many of you actually ever looked at it again?” — almost all of the hands in the room go down!  My guess is that, as one of my ‘followers’, creating and using budgets isn’t your favorite method of managing your money?  Okay, maybe I understated that: You probably think of a budget as a form of torture, right?  You are not alone!

Before I get into exploring that, just in case you are worried that I’m going to end this blog suggesting that you use or create a traditional budget, have no fear!   What I’m actually going to do is explain why budgets don’t work for you, and suggest some other options.

Budgets can and do work… for analytical types.  You know them, they are those “logic first” people, the ones who create spread sheets and data bases for fun.  They are great people.  They are historians.  They like looking at all the data and coming to conclusions.  Good for them.  If you are one of them, you probably already have and enjoy using a budget.

If you aren’t one of those analytical types, all it means is that you are not happy crunching numbers.  You might be more ‘feeling’ oriented, more emotionally based.  Or you might be more ‘in the moment’ than interested in history and trends.  If that’s the case one of the biggest problems with a budget for you is that it’s after the fact.  What I mean is that you don’t have control in the moment.  You do what you do, spend what you spend.  Then you come home and as you load your spending into the budget spreadsheet you have either succeeded or failed.  By then you don’t really remember what your thoughts or emotions were when you were making the purchase, so you feel a bit lost.  Around this point is where most people feel shame, judgement, or even some bit of failure.

And there’s the rub, the thing that makes us batty.  It feels like something happened to you that you just couldn’t control because you are looking at the event before or after, instead of when it’s actually happening.  That’s why it feels so upsetting.  You are judging your action outside of the time when the actual choice was made.  At best you have a memory of what it felt like, not a clear vision of the choice.

If you are more of a big picture, emotional and/or an in the moment person, analysis after the fact won’t actually help you change your behavior.  It may make you feel bad about it, but it doesn’t give you any insights.

What will help you make better money choices is to find a way to be conscious of what you are spending—and why you are spending it—right in the moment that it is happening!  Make a list of things that often motivate your choices in the moment.  Things like:

  • Being tired, hungry
  • Feeling lonely, angry
  • Wanting something new, an emotional lift, some fun
  • Anxious to just get it done, settling for less than what you wanted

There are myriad possibilities, and you know what your go-to ones are.  Write them on a  card or note them on your phone. While you are standing in line to pay for your items, check if any of your purchases hit one of those spots?  and then make a choice to either buy it or not.  Understand what you are up to, make choices that truly work for you both in the moment and the long run.

A system like this, or my GOSH Model (which you can find on other blogs of mine) WILL help you be more conscious of your spending.  That’s what this whole budgeting thing is truly about — being conscious, aware, and purposeful in your spending.

Focus on having your spending and how you use your money reflect what you really care about. Your money will reflect your choices.

Ka’ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

If you’d like to explore just how you can let go of a budget and still have sound money practices give me a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com.

Perfection is a Money Trap

Money is one of those areas where we have all made some mistakes.

  • We have bought things that didn’t work.
  • We have spent too much money on stuff we never used.
  • We have given people presents they didn’t like.
  • We have lost money on the sale of a house
  • We have gotten “taken to the cleaners” in a divorce.
  • We have run up charges and interest on our credit cards.

And yet we are mostly still here, and kicking!

Sure some of these things were and are avoidable.  And yet they also still serve to give our Inner Critic great fodder for berating us!

There are a couple of things I want to clear up about these ‘errors in judgement‘ and ‘mistakes‘ we all make with our money.

First, you got through them !  The problems may have been messy and costly, but you survived them!  It’s one of the things I think our ancestors that went through the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl got trapped in.  They somehow missed that they made it through the troubles, and that they didn’t happen again in the same way.  We tend to practice “one trial learning” with many things.  We tend to either try and hide our head in the sand or decide it will always be like it was, and avoid getting anywhere near the part we think is scary.  We stay trapped.

The other thing I’d really like my readers to consider is the value of the messing up.  Huh, you say!  How can there be value in having gone through that terrible time, that mess?

It’s all about learning!  As humans we actually learn by making mistakes, by being imperfect.  You don’t just get on a bike and ride it the first time.  You wobble and pedal and fall off.  The same process happens a bunch in other aspects of our lives, including money.  We screw up, make mistakes, and learn.  If we don’t make mistakes we don’t learn!

But instead of accepting that we make mistakes, sometimes in order to try and avoid “errors”, we try to be — or appear to be — perfect… yipes!  Just how patient are you with yourself?  Do you keep trying to attain something close to perfection to avoid judgement?  And do you notice that most of the judgement come from your inner critic, instead of the people around you?

Many of us have this thing in our heads about trying to be ‘perfect‘.  I truly think it’s one of the traps our Inner Critics use to keep us stuck in a rut.  Somehow we think we are supposed to be perfect without practice, failing, or learning.  Instead I really like the perspective that Maya Angelou put forth:  “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

We do recover, we do persevere, and we do learn.

Money is just one of the assets that we ‘spend’ while we are learning.  Money, Time, and Energy all get spent.   And I’d like to suggest that Money is really just a reflection of the other two: Time and Energy.

Here’s the really interesting question.  How much time, energy, and maybe even money do you spend trying to be perfect, protecting the idea that you are almost perfect, or even hiding that you aren’t perfect?  What if instead of getting trapped by perfection, you actually celebrated your mistakes as ways to learn?  What if it’s really about focusing on the learning, and not beating yourself up about that mistake you made?

It’s really likely that your attempt at perfection is a reaction to some really ‘old stuff’ that actually is no longer present in your life, right?  Like avoiding being judged or lectured.

Seems to me trying to be perfect has us holding on to, and getting stuck in, our errors in judgement, instead of learning from them, perhaps laughing them off, and most certainly moving on… what say you?

Ka’ching

Shell Tain, the Untanlger

If you’d like some support letting go of trying for perfection, just give me  a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com.