The question on everybody’s lips is how can we make the best money decisions and what is the secret? One of the biggest problems we have is our own money blocks and money habits – and yes everybody has them! So what are they and how can they affect us?
My name is Catherine Morgan and I’m an emotional spender.
When my son, Thomas, was five weeks old he was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis. I was told that I might lose him. It was an awful time but it wasn’t until Thomas came out of hospital that the enormity of it really hit me. I became incredibly anxious and I started overspending. I’d go clothes shopping and was constantly buying stuff online. I was spending money that I didn’t have on my credit card and going into overdraft every month.
I remember when I was young my dad used to take me into the building society to put a bit of money into an account for me each month. Then one day, the £3,000 that had been saved, was gone. I was shocked and only later found out that dad had withdrawn the money because he was struggling financially. That triggered a need to spend money as soon as I had it. When I got my first-part time job – picking asparagus on a farm – I thought, ‘Oh my Gosh, if I don’t spend this money quickly someone else is going to spend it for me.’
I was lucky. I’m a financial expert so I was able to recognise what was happening and change my behaviour around money before I got into serious debt. But not everyone’s that fortunate.
How is our relationship with money formed?
When it comes to money, there is more to it than just making money or saving money. The relationship we have with money is often formed from our experiences, our belief systems or attitudes, our family, peers and the media. We wrote about the impact of Consumerism in an earlier post. Our money personality can be formed very early on in childhood. Looking back at our past can really help to unravel our money blocks and our attitude towards money.
Why is it so important?
Every time we think about money, we are operating from our belief systems. But very few people take time to think about these lessons and what they teach us about money. Have you every considered why some very intelligent professionals make bad financial decisions? The secret – addressing your emotional roots with money.
Our early memories of money can have a huge impact on how we feel about money. It could be as simple as your parents telling you money ‘doesn’t grow on trees’ or maybe you experience your parents fighting about money, so now you think money is evil. These money messages are related to negative emotions like shame, fear, grief, guilt or anger, which are all unconscious of course and the only way to become aware of these money messages is by consciously addressing what these messages were for you.
Having shared my own story, I asked other money experts in the UK Money bloggers community their earliest experience of money. Here is what they said:
The UK Money Bloggers
Helen at The Complaining Cow’s earliest memory of money were the Cheltenham and Gloucester money boxes. She explained that “they had a grid thing along the top once the money went in so that you could not take it out like any other money box. That made one save!” She also explained that she was bought up to not spend what you don’t have. How interesting, particularly in consideration of how children in the 21st century are used to having instant gratification with the likes of Amazon prime.
One of Emma Maslin, The Money Whisperers, earliest memories were the Natwest pigs.
Emma Bradley from Mums Savvy Savings replied to Emma that she is super jealous of Emma’s pigs as she remembers always wanting them! These cute little pigs are currently listed on Ebay in excess of £100. But Emma is not ready to give up these little treasures yet saying, “it won’t make me a millionaire overnight!”
Sara Williams from Debt Camel remembers taking half of her pocket money into a collection at school after the Aberfan disaster. What a wonderful act of kindness and I love how the emotional memory remains with Sara to this day.
Lynn James from Mrs MummyPenny recalls opening up her Bradford and Bingley account and getting her passbook. “I used to love counting up my pennies and taking them into the branch and watching my balance grow. I think it was hand written in the early days too.” This early memory has meant that for most (except the last 12 months) of her adult life, “I have had savings/investments/a fall back fund.” Lynn is now back on track after some serious debt repayment focus.
Some more money block stories
Faith Archer from muchmorewithless remembers spending her 10p a week pocket money on penny sweets. The week that her money increased to 20p, she goes on to explain, “I had extravagant plans including a sherbert dib dab. I still remember the feeling of resentment when my Dad said I could only spend 10p on sweets and had to save the other half. I have continued saving though!”
Eileen Adamson from yourmoneysorted remembers “taking my wee blue TSB book into primary school and paying my money into it each week. I remember loving seeing my bank balance rise each week. I am still a saver all these years later, so it obviously had some impact on me.”
Jane Berry from shoestringcottage explains that her earliest memory of money was learning about decimalisation in the 1970’s! She mourned the loss of the threepenny bit! She feels that the lessons she had around this new money made her appreciate its value. She’s shares that shockingly “it is the only form of financial education I ever remember from school.”
A few other bloggers money habits for childhood
Lesley Negus from Thrifty Lesley recollects her earliest memory from when she was age 8. “We were on holiday on the coast and went to one of those slot machine palaces on the pier”. Lesley goes on to say, “I can’t remember how much we were given to play, but I do remember that the only machine I would play was the one where I thought I would get something back.” When we asked her what impact that had on her relationship with money, she replied, “I couldn’t, and still can’t, see the pleasure in shoving hard-earned cash into a machine to watch the pretty lights with the probability that is all you will get.”
Lee Balders at Homely Economics thinks that seeing different kinds of money from other countries and other times made him think about the difference in your money’s value based on where you are in the world and view money as an art because of its decorative aspect. “I’m still working on art about money, value and economic migration.” His experience with money came from cleaning old pre-independence coins with lime juice and salt until they got shiny. He described them as relics after Barbadian independence in 1966.
Here are a few more
Pete Chatfield’s earliest experience from Household Money Saving was being given 50 pence by his dad and “having to work out how many packs of Panini football stickers I could buy and how much change I would get. I must have been around 5 at the time.” When I asked him what impact that had on him he explained that he is subsequently very good at budgeting now, saying “I know how much money I have coming in every month, how much my bills are and what I should have left.”
Emily Rowley from A Thrifty Fox recalls her strongest memory with money was “going into WHSmiths where they had a display of Old Bear soft toys, and asking my parents if they could buy me my favourite rabbit. They said no, and to save. I diligently saved my 50p pocket money for 16 weeks – only to return to the shop and for them to have sold out.” Emily was so upset. The story has a positive ending; an ex-boyfriend found one on eBay and bought it for her birthday. Consequently, this experience means that she is more inclined to buy stuff when she sees it. She goes on to explain that “I do have a strong awareness of those ‘I must have that’ purchases. They’re rare and I rarely regret buying things.”
Sam Jefferies from Money Nest has a strong memory of money from the tender age of 5 or 6. “My parents struggled with money. It felt like a dark cloud over the family home at the time. Thankfully things always worked out in the end. This experience has made me focus on security more, be more risk averse than I should be with investments and driven me to save/earn more.”
How to turn these money messages and money blocks around
Each and every person on the planet has money blocks – yes even you! They come out in different ways. They can make us feel particularly vulnerable and believe me, even after 18 years in financial services, I have made lots of financial mistakes!
For women, money blocks can come from society and the media. Over time, it has historically been thought that it is harder for women to be successful and as a result women believe it.
Being an emotional spender, I decided to put two actions in place to stop me from making decisions about spending my money too quickly, without any time for consideration:
- Leave my online purchases in my amazon shopping basket (my vice!) for 48 hours – If I still felt I REALLY needed these items 2 days later, I would give myself permission to click through to checkout.
- To resist temptation, all my marketing emails go into a different folder – this helps me avoid spontaneous spending and I decide when is the best time to browse that folder!
This has really helped me to drastically improve my money blocks and money habits.
My 4 Top Tips
How to turn your money blocks into messages of positive affirmation:
- Change your language – Think about the language you use with money – rather than thinking ‘money is evil,’ think ‘you can still have money and be a good person.’
Be aware of your feelings – If you shop to fill a hole, think about re-routing this habit to something else. Fill this hole with a different activity. Limit the money you have available to you and carry cash rather than cards.
Commit to tracking your money – Step one is awareness. Being aware of where your money goes will help you to align this to your money values.
Forgive yourself – Forgive your financial mistakes. Nobody is perfect. Learn from them rather than beating yourself up!
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A huge thank you to all the UK money bloggers for their contributions to this post. It is wonderful to share some personal stories because I want people to feel comfortable sharing their own stories. I’m also very honest about my own money mistakes and the bad financial decisions I’ve made in the past. I think it helps others to open up and confront their own relationship with money.
Perhaps you can relate to some of these stories and feel a little more confident.
We all have money blocks in our lives. These blocks won’t necessarily go away but you can be conscious of them. Sometimes being aware of them may be enough to trigger a different action that will result in a more positive outcome. Our memories are not about preserving the past, but rather predicting the future. Now is the time to think about these blocks, release them and move forward.
What are your earliest experience of money? We would love to hear yours…
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