How do you relate to money? Perhaps your personal finances are like a distant cousin you barely think about – or a troubling stranger you avoid. Or maybe money feels like your enemy, frustrates you, and seldom does what you want.
According to a survey by NerdWallet last year, 31% of Americans said they worry when they think about the current state of their personal finances.
That sounds exhausting. What if you thought of money as your boyfriend instead? A more positive relationship can help you feel more secure and get the most out of your money.
Addie McHale, a Denver-based Certified Financial Planner, shares the following tips on how to make friends with your money.
“You can start these things today,” she says. “You don’t even have to pull out a calculator.”
Give your time and attention
If you’ve ever grown apart from someone, you know friendship takes work. It’s important that you take your time and not scroll Instagram while you’re supposed to be listening.
So spend some meaningful time with your money. Schedule check-ins to review your past expenses. Hop into your retirement account to monitor its progress. Look at the debt that you are paying back.
McHale, who is also the founder of the financial services business Moneyfull, says that “miracles happen” when her customers start looking after their money and taking action. You are gaining momentum, she says.
For example, if you spend time tracking your expenses, you can see ways to reduce costs. You make these cuts, and now you’ve saved your money. Next, find where to put the extra money. Look here, you’re investing, contributing to a savings goal, or putting more emphasis on paying off debt – all because you took the time to scan your expenses.
Take an interest
You know the friend you know everything about – their birthday, a drink of your choice, feelings for their mother? You know the stuff because you cared about it and learned it.
The same goes for your friendship with money. As well as devoting time and attention to your finances, make an effort to learn more. Look for articles and books about money, discuss them with friends and family, or seek professional advice, for example from a financial advisor.
McHale recommends trying a money podcast. “There are many ways to learn it and incorporate it into your life very easily,” she says. “Anyone can listen to a podcast while they’re outside.”
Of course you want more money. McHale points out that society often takes the view that “you should never have enough and always buy more, more, more”. But she says, “We have to get off the train and start appreciating what we have.”
Think about what your money allowed you. Or, appreciate yourself for trying to better understand your finances. Or, follow McHale’s advice: “Get in the habit of saying, ‘What am I thankful for today?'”
No, this gratitude isn’t going to make you rich, but it will help you build a more positive relationship with money. It’s like associating your friend with their warmth and thoughtfulness rather than their perpetual delay.
DON’T TALK SMACK
Good friends don’t say mean things to each other. Likewise, saying more positive words about money can help to improve your attitude towards it.
“Pay attention to the language we use for money, because it naturally has to do with our thoughts,” says McHale.
For example, listen to phrases like “I’m terrible about money” or “I don’t care about money”. These types of words can act like crutches. When you are poor with money, why should you try to improve your finances? Why save for retirement if you don’t care?
If you’re unfamiliar with personal finance, consider rephrasing it to say, “I don’t get this, but I’ll take small steps to learn more,” says McHale.
Also aim for a stronger language. Instead of saying that you can’t afford something, McHale suggests saying that you choose not to spend your money.
Let go of the verdict
Any friend who has confided in you likely expected a zone of no judgment. Treat yourself to the same compassion and try to let go of money shame.
McHale suggests that some people are not friends with their money because “it’s an emotional issue that they want to avoid”. But she adds: “If we come from a more neutral place, we may be able to drop some of our luggage.”
Try to be more analytical and less emotional with money by allowing times to review your finances when you are feeling calm and level-headed.
PREPARE TO FORGIVE
“If you’ve ever had a fight with a friend, you know the importance of grace and let things go,” says McHale. Money friendships are also made. Finance can be difficult to understand so you are likely to make mistakes.
You might miss out on bill payments or overdrafts, or run into debt. Beating yourself up is unproductive and can lead to resentment and avoidance.
“You have to forgive yourself past or current mishaps and mistakes,” says McHale. “It doesn’t mean to tolerate, but to accept it and learn from it and move on.”
Laura McMullen is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: email@example.com. Twitter: @lauraemcmullen.