My Biggest Money A-ha Moment

fin_lit_carnival_2014Happy Wednesday, everyone!  If you don’t know, April is Financial Literacy Awareness Month, and the lovely Shannon at The Heavy Purse is hosting a carnival on financial literacy and bloggers’ biggest money a-ha moment.  If you’re not familiar with Shannon’s writing (though who in the personal finance subculture isn’t?), she’s a CFP who not only talks about the importance of financial literacy and setting long-term financial goals, but aims to teach her readers about the root of financial problems and methods to manage it. I have learned so much from her posts, and at the risk of being the biggest brown noser on the block, I attribute a significant a-ha moment due to one of her posts.

When I finally resolved to kick my debt to the curb in early 2013, I turned to personal finance blogs for methods, support, and encouragement.  Knowing that people ‘out there’ shared a common goal was a huge motivator for me, since it gave me an outlet to relate to others that I wouldn’t normally have in real life.  It was also eye-opening as there are a ton of blogs and great information out there on the different methods to attack debt, whether it be the strategies behind the snowball vs. avalanche methods, setting a budget, creating a money envelope system, etc.  While all this information was extremely useful in the implementation of my goal, it still felt something missing.  I recall reading a couple of blogs that stated that financial goals and emotions don’t, or rather shouldn’t, mix, and that seemed a bit puzzling to me.  However, since these bloggers obviously had their financial stuff together, I figured if I needed to also get to their level, that I had to learn to extract the emotion out of anything related to finance.

That’s when I came across Shannon’s blog, in particular this post.  She essentially states that money is emotional, but understanding the emotions behind spending or not spending is where you can truly gain financial freedom.  Once I read that post, a few things started to gel with me during this particular ‘a-ha’ moment.  First of all, that the simple acknowledgement of what I was experiencing was really validating, especially coming from a finance expert.  Also, it kind of felt like it was one of these things that seemed to float around in my head, but doesn’t truly click until someone says it in a coherent and understandable way.  It isn’t so much that I had to deny or stop these emotions from occurring, but rather recognize and work through them before acting impulsively.  It might seem really logical to some like my Spock-like husband (and I say that in the most endearing way possible!), but for me it takes some practice.

The biggest take-away from it, though, was when she talked about emotional spending and identifying your triggers.  While I knew that I had a history of overspending because of my emotions, whether it was because I was happy because I got a new job and I “deserved” it or sad because of a break up, I didn’t really make an effort to acknowledge these triggers as the reason behind my bad financial habits.  However, after some practice on identifying these spending triggers, I was also able to identify other emotional triggers when it came to debt repayment, whether it was feeling anxious about ‘missing out’ with friends’ outings or just from debt repayment burnout.  Once I was able to identify these debt repayment triggers, I was then able to figure out the reasons behind these emotions, as well as talked myself through it since I knew my long term goals were more important than these fleeting emotions.  It took some time, but recognizing these emotions and, basically, troubleshooting them was definitely helpful in completing my debt repayment goal.

Even though I no longer have debt, I do understand that being able to identify financial triggers will most likely always play a role in my life.  Whether it’s catching myself falling back into emotional spending (it happens, though infrequently) or, most recently, feeling skittish about now putting all those debt repayments into investing due to the risk involved, at least I’m aware of the emotions that come into play, and take steps to resolve them by realizing how these actions affect my long term goals.  And for me, that’s become a pretty important step in my experience to become more financially literate.

Be sure to check out Shannon’s Carnival on Financial Literacy Awareness – I’m grateful to be a part of this carnival, as well as excited to read about others’ a-ha moments (see what I mean – emotional about everything, I am 😉 ).



37 thoughts on “My Biggest Money A-ha Moment

  1. Thanks for sharing your story. I can certainly identify with emotional spending as that is what got me into a lot of trouble. I would spend when I was angry or feeling down, all in an attempt to make myself feel better. It took me some time to recognize that patter of behavior and that it was destructive.

    • It took some time for me, as well, and I agree that it’s really destructive (especially when you look at your balances). I’m happy to hear that you’ve recognized your patterns, as well, it’s definitely helped in correcting my choices!

  2. Great post and lots of truth. For me this whole journey is emotional. When I first decided to get a grip of my spending on credit, I had to really look into myself and where my problem was coming from and it turned out I’d picked up my attitude to borrowing from my mum. I looked at where I wanted to be in the future and what I want and paying off my debt is the only way to get me there. But even that process is emotional, it’s difficult working long and hard hours to just hand it all over to pay debts. However, there’s a finish line and I can see it.

    • Thank you so much, DBC! I can totally relate to the frustration with working all those hours only to go towards repayment, but I agree visualizing the finish line is really motivating! So happy for you for recognizing your spending patterns and keeping yourself motivated – I’ll have to check out your blog, but I hope you are making wonderful progress! Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Thanks for sharing an awesome story, Anna. I too had LOTS of work to do on curbing emotional spending by figuring out my triggers. Isn’t it wonderful to have identified the issue, though, and have an attack plan in place? Woohoo! 🙂

    • Yes, it’s definitely both enlightening and encouraging to identify those triggers and patterns. I still fall back into it occasionally (and often think ‘what the heck was I thinking??’), but it’s all a work in progress. I hope you have a wonderful rest of the week, Laurie!! 🙂

  4. Thanks for sharing your story today. I think almost everyone has triggers maybe not related to finance but to something. It’s important to recognize them like you mention and do something about it. Sometimes being mindful of our actions, thoughts etc is very important to achieving goals in life. Have a great day. Mr.CBB

    • I completely agree, Mr. CBB, keeping myself in check about being mindful has helped incredibly. I’m definitely not ‘there’ yet in terms of completely mastering this, but it’s become at least easier throughout this past year. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. I think it seems women in particular are emotional spenders, and it is so important to get to the why of why you are spending. So proud of your journey, and the fact that we are friends IRL now because of this thing in common called blogging!

    • I know, right – B can just think about a situation and have no emotional investment, whereas I’m completely different and think about my feelings, but others’ feelings, sometimes to a fault (and flattery, like I’m sure I’m not going to be missed THAT much if I don’t attend something. ;)). I’m so glad that we’re RL friends, too!! So can’t wait for next week! 🙂

  6. It is amazing how emotional money is, and I was definitely like you with tons of emotional triggers. And even though, I have had my “A-ha” moment, I still feel emotional triggers, it’s just that now I am better prepared to handle them when they arise.

    • Yes, I couldn’t have said it better, Shannon – I still experience them, it’s just a matter of not succumbing to them every darn time. My success rate could still use some improving, but I can at least see some changes! Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Thanks for sharing your story and Shannon’s post…that was before my blogging days so I hadn’t read it. It really is true that money is very often emotional…I think it can be true for men as well as for women. I never got into credit card debt, but I do remember buying things when I was feeling a little down, thinking that whatever I was buying would cheer me up. It’s important to understand what triggers our spending habits. Glad you got your Aha moment and that you completed your debt payment

    • Thanks so much, Andrew! Isn’t it amazing how sometimes you think you’ll feel better if you do something, but it only really delays that feeling since it’s just a mask. For some reason, it kinda makes me feel better that someone as financially responsible as you experiences these moments, as well – that’s great that you haven’t gone in debt over it! I hope to never get back into it, as well.

  8. Totally understand about the whole “emotional spending” thing! It is such a difficult habit to break and because one can’t get rid of emotions and all the entanglements that come with them, it is easy to slide back into old ways.

    Great post, Anna!

    • Thanks Mackenzie! I agree, I think it can be way easier to just fall back into old habits, and sometimes I do, but I’m getting better at catching them. I’m glad you’ve broken the habit, as well!

  9. Ah… teacher’s pet–brownie points for you, Anna! No, seriously – thank you so much for your kind words. They truly made my day. I am honored that I was able to help you have an a-ha moment and help you better handle your emotions when they urge you to spend. Money is emotional and so many people are unaware of how they are letting their emotions drive their spending habits. There is nothing wrong with emotions – I definitely want to feel! – but I also want to be control of my spending. I often find that when people recognize the role their emotions play and learn their triggers – it is so much easier for them to get their spending under control and actually achieve the things they want. Thank you so much for participating in the Financial Literacy Awareness Carnival – I truly appreciate it!

    • It was my pleasure, Shannon, I actually don’t think I’ve ever mentioned how much that post in particular has affected me, so thank you for that! I agree that before, due to both financial illiteracy and personal unawareness, I would just mindlessly spend. While I haven’t fully mastered literacy, and think awareness is a lifelong process, I’m glad that I finally have some basic working knowledge, thanks to you and the PF community!

  10. Awww Anna, I loved this story! I’m so proud of you for kicking that debt to the curb in less than one year and in the process able to identify your emotional triggers when it comes to finances. I’ve never really had a problem with emotional spending, it was more like I had no self-control. When I saw something I liked I had to have it right away. It’s still a struggle but I’m so happy to have some self-control now. 🙂

    • I know exactly what that feels like, GMD – it kind of felt like “oh, I need this for my collection”, never mind that my collection was massive or I didn’t even use most of it. I definitely learned the hard way, but glad that BOTH of us saw the light! 🙂

  11. I’d like to meet the human that doesn’t fall into the “I deserve this” trap every now-and-again. I certainly do! When I do splurge it tends to be for emotional reasons over anything else. But in a fortunate for my wallet and unfortunate for my waistline situation, I tend to be an over-eater more than an over-spender (another reason I love your blog).

    • Aww, love your blog, too, Erin! I agree, I’m sure at some point everyone has felt that ‘deserve’ justification at one point, so thanks for validating that! I know what you mean about over-eating (though I think you look fantastic!) – food can be pretty comforting, so I have experienced that, as well.

  12. I really enjoyed this post, Anna. I have some emotional triggers when it comes to spending, too. When my wife is away as she is now, I end up buying tons of groceries and kind of soothing my emotions with a stocked pantry, carbs and grilled meat. I spend as much at the grocery when I’m by myself as I did when she was here. But at least recognizing it gives me a fighting chance of combating it.

    • Aww, I’m sorry to hear you’ve been missing Mrs. DbF, Mr. DbF. 😦 I can certainly understand the urge to stock up in order to fill that void, but I think it’s great that you’ve acknowledged it. I can’t wait until you two finally reunite, I can’t even imagine what that must be like! 😦

  13. You and I can brown nose together, Anna. 🙂 I attribute one my biggest a-ha’s to Shannon too, although not the one I shared on my blog. When we worked together at Corporate, she always talked about joyful spending, which I thought I was doing. Mostly because even though I spent quite a bit (okay, my entire paycheck), I managed to never cross the line and go into debt. Later, I realized most of my spending didn’t make me feel good or joyful. I bought a lot of stuff because I was bored. Or because I could. And most of the stuff meant nothing to me and definitely didn’t bring me any joy. I have gotten much better a joyful spending, thanks to Shannon. My emotions definitely drive my spending but I am more of an emotional eater than spender. Neither are good for me! Ack!

    • Haha, sweet, so I’m not the only brown noser – another reason why I love the PF community. 😉 I agree about mindlessly spending for the flimsy reason of ‘just because.’ I’m glad that you’ve recognized those patterns and now lean more towards joyful spending! I can relate to the emotional eating, as well – that tends to be a double edged sword, you know? In some respect, eating should be enjoyed, but in another, it’s challenging when the most indulgent are often the most caloric. I think it’s a trickier thing to balance, and I’m not there yet, either. But, I’m very proud of you for your progress that you’ve written about! 🙂

  14. Thanks for sharing. Money is so emotional, I can’t even imagine anyone trying to explain spending and debt and money mistakes any other way. Sure some people get into a financial mess for non-emotional reasons (medical debt comes to mind). But once you have debt it’s incredibly emotional. Not to mention how many people get into debt because they’re trying to spend their way to happiness.

    • I can definitely agree with that, KK, while some of my debt couldn’t be ‘helped’ so to speak, most consumer debt for sure did because I was in denial of so many things. It’s just a matter of processing them and letting the feelings ‘ride out,’ though it’s at times more challenging done than said.

  15. Spending and debt definitely have an emotional root! It’s good to know your spending triggers and what fuels you down that path. So glad you are here and that you get so much from PF blogs. It’s a great community!

    • I completely agree, Melanie, PF community is great and so supportive! So glad that I have found you, as your story is so inspiring to so many!

    • I couldn’t agree more, Holly! Sometimes just becoming aware takes time to recognize, as well as understanding how to process it! So glad to hear you’re no longer an emotional spender!

  16. I’m definitely an emotional spender, and that’s partly how I got a lot of my debt…which then made me miserable, and wanting to spend more… I am still trying to get my head around a lot of my triggers. I had the same reason for joining the PF community, because of the support, tips, and just the sense of accountability. I love it.

    • I agree with trying to wrap my head around some triggers – it’s still an ongoing process, and it was a reason behind a lot of my consumer debt, as well. I love the sense of accountability, as well, and finding awesome people like you! 🙂

  17. Shannon is so awesome! And you are, too! I’m so glad you entered the PF blogosphere. Posts like hers influenced you. And your posts influence others. (Negotiate on wedding dresses, anyone?) It’s a beautiful cycle, and I’m happy you’re a part of it.

  18. Pingback: Diamonds in the Rough Roundup 4/18/14 - The Broke Professional

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