One of the biggest hurdles we face when it comes to our finances is, well, actually facing them. For example, your credit card statement. Can you face it?
How often do you actually look at your credit card statement? If you’re like most of us, you probably never look at it.
Why not? It’s important, right? It’s likely the method you use to buy almost everything. So wouldn’t it be important to check in on a list of everything you’ve bought? Make sure there’s no fraud or errors? Make sure you know when it’s due, how much is due, and how to pay it on time so you avoid late fees?
Um, well. Yes, it is important, but it also kinda sucks. Who wants to see a list of all the dumb things you’ve wasted money on things you’ve bought, or face how much life really costs?
What if you find that you’re spending too much? What if you realize you can’t afford your lifestyle? What if you think that buying the Deluxe Super Sea Monkey Kit was stupid, and you judge yourself? What if you’re filled with regret for that impulsive walk through Target and the subsequent $100 that evaporated?
What if it means you need to change your ways?
What if it doesn’t?
You see, reading a credit card statement is NOT simply reading a list of purchases.
It’s really a list of all the things you’ve done wrong and should feel ashamed of. Each purchase comes with a judgement. (did you really need that? You’re so wasteful! Why did you buy that?) each purchase fills you with shame. Each purchase hurts. Even if you have the money. Each purchase is scary— what if you don’t have enough? What if you run out of money? What if that last avocado toast was the tipping point between a happy life and dying alone in the gutter?
And the fees— evidence of your mistakes—mistakes that cost you money— what a guilt trip!
Now it’s easy to see why no one would ever want to read that. Just a light list of all the horrible things you’ve done wrong in this last 30 day period. Great. Let me grab a coffee and pull up a seat for that— like, NEVER!
Notice that I said this list is scary even if you have the money? Yep. Even if you didn’t overspend or “do anything wrong”, things like this trigger our money emotions.
And that’s why they’re so helpful.
Wait, wha? How is this pain and suffering helpful?
Well, it’s helpful because the emotions you feel in response to money issues are incredibly useful guides that help you identify the thoughts you tell yourself about money: the thoughts that become your beliefs about money.
So what? What difference does it make what I believe about money?
What you believe about money is everything— your beliefs shape all of your behavior, your thoughts and your feelings about money— your beliefs affect how you behave with your money, and your behavior determines your outcome: wealth? struggle? it’s up to you.
Your beliefs are the tipping point between a happy life and dying alone in the gutter.
Not to be dramatic.
Facing your finances— reading your credit card statement, and getting your financial ducks in a row in general— is something we all know we’re supposed to do. We want to do it. But we just don’t.
And that’s because it’s not as simple as opening the dang mail and reading a list of purchases. Or clicking a link and scrolling said list. It’s an emotional barrage of bullshit that we have to plow through every time we check it, and you know what? No thanks. Easier to keep our heads in the sand.
Which just makes it harder to do. And so we never do it.
What’s so bad about that? Just constant, simmering, low-grade dread about our money sitch that fuels an endless river of anxiety. NBD.
You gotta do it— you gotta face your finances. And here’s how:
I challenge you to a 7-Day Credit Card Challenge.
This simple exercise will:
-Identify your money emotions, so you can
-Discover what you’re thinking and telling yourself about money, so you can
-Identify your money beliefs and
It’s exposure therapy for your wallet phobia. (AKA valantiophobia)
What do we do when we’re afraid of something? We avoid it. Exposure therapy teaches you how to stop avoiding it.
This challenge helps you in two other ways: with logistics and mystery.
In order to complete this challenge you’ll have to know the name of your credit card & bank, the website URL, your login info (user name and password), and how to navigate the website. (I recommend going to paperless statements, unless you strongly prefer the paper method.) Knowing this info and having ready access to it removes a barrier to working with your money.
The veil will be lifted— no longer will your credit card activity be shrouded in secrecy. When things come out of the shadows, they’re not scary anymore. No more surprise fees, and because you’ve figured out the emotional stuff, no more guilt trip if there is one.
By the end of this challenge:
-Emotionally: you’ll de-escalate reading your credit card statement from an emotional shame-a-thon to actually just reading a list of purchases, which are just numbers, which don’t cause feelings.
-Logistically: you’ll know exactly how to access your credit card information, thus removing a hurdle to working with your finances.
-Mystery: there will be no mystery when it comes to your spending, so it can’t be scary anymore.
Are you ready?
Ok, here’s how it works:
Each day, for the next 7 days, login to your credit card account and read your credit card transaction list online. In a note on your phone, jot down the feelings that come to mind each day.
You don’t have to do a debt plan, or major personal finance overhaul. Just check your card transactions list once a day for 7 days, and make a little note of your feelings. At the end of 7 days, read through the list of feelings for each day and see how it changes. Ask yourself, what am I thinking that makes me feel this way? Question yourself— are these thoughts helpful or hurtful? Can I change them to something more useful?
As you go, you’ll find that your dread and anxiety turn to boredom. You’ll go from, “Open my credit card? I’d rather shit twice and die*.” to “Open my credit card, ok. NBD. Whatever.” You’ll get used to it. It will feel easy. Dull, even. Like, whatever. We are aiming for the emotional equivalent of brushing your teeth.
Once it’s easy to look at your credit card statement—because you’re not judging yourself, and you know how to do it— you may find that you’re motivated to take action:
-Call and have a late fee removed
-Figure out how to address any unpaid debt & make a plan
-List your credit card access information in a spreadsheet, so you know exactly how to find it quickly.
-Put your other credit cards in the spreadsheet too. Start to get organized.
You don’t have to take these actions to benefit from this challenge. By completing the challenge, you’ll have begun the number one most important thing necessary to make the biggest changes in your personal finances: you’ll have identified what you’re really thinking & believing about money. This is the first step in changing how you behave with money.
Let me know if you do the challenge in the comments below, or contact me here to tell me all about it. Let me know how it went, even if you didn’t finish, or you hated it or you tried even one day of it. No matter what happens, it’s all super valuable information that you can use to learn about your money beliefs.
*a la Molly Ringwald in 16 Candles