Here’s the thing. You can read every personal finance book and learn every budgeting trick and cut up your credit cards and decide you’re really going to commit this time, but if you’ve never examined why you treat money the way you treat it, you’ll always end up back where you started.
This is the first step. Take this quiz to figure out what money personality you are!
- If you were stranded on a desert island with 9 other people, what role would you most likely take on?
- the person who reminds everyone that everything is going to be all right if you just work together
- the person who asks if the person next to them is going to eat their share of the food
- the person who helps organize where everyone is going to be sleeping and rations the food and water supply
- the person who reminds everyone that they’re STRANDED on a desert island, why are we so CALM about this?
- the person who turns everything into a joke anytime someone tries to remind them about being stranded on an island
- the person who has the nicest looking camp area because you spent the first two weeks bartering and trading your stuff for other people’s
- if you could invest in one of the companies below, which would it be?
- First Solar – solar energy is so great for the planet!
- Starbucks – if by invest, you mean buy a mocha frap every day, then I am one of their biggest investors!
- Johnson & Johnson – big company with slow and steady growth that pays a nice dividend
- um, do I have to invest in a company? I’m not really comfortable with that.
- I dunno, you pick for me!
- Twitter – just went public, totally undervalued right now because Wall Street just doesn’t understand social media. They thought the same thing when facebook went public too.
- When you think about money, how does it make you feel?
- I think people think about money too much and look where we are as a society because of it.
- Like I can finally check out that sample sale
- I feel like it’s really something you shouldn’t squander
- Ugh, I think about it all the time – do I ever have enough? What happens if I lose it all? What if I’m doing something wrong? What if I miss a bill?
- I feel like I want to curl into the fetal position and rock back and forth until I don’t have to think about it anymore.
- It makes me feel AMAZING!
- if you had money invested in the stock market and the market suddenly took a plunge, what would you do?
- It’s just money, I only invested in the first place because I was helping out a friend.
- Take out all the money and go shopping – no risk there!
- I know the market has its ups and downs, so I would continue to add money based on the schedule I came up with a year ago and try not to panic.
- Oh. Em. Gee. Sell everything and move it all to cash! I should have never put money in the market in the first place.
- The market took a what, now? I have money in the stock market? When did I do that?
- Buy low sell high right? Time to buy buy buy!
- you find $100 in the street, what do you do with it?
- take all your friends out to dinner since you already donated to your favorite charity that month
- go on a shopping spree
- put it in your savings account
- look around and wonder who could have dropped it – they must be freaking out about it!
- stuff it in your pocket and keep walking. find it in the laundry a few weeks later
- buy web hosting space, start a blog, and make a ton of money from it
Which one are you? Are you:
Mostly A’s – The Money Monk
Mostly B’s – The Spender
Mostly C’s – The Saver
Mostly D’s – The Worrier
Mostly E’s – The Avoider
Mostly F’s – The Amasser
So really, why does it matter that you figure out which one you are?
When I was a little girl, I used to watch my mom work at her desk in our living room. It was a big, mysterious, off-limits part of the house and my brother and I were nervous about looking through those drawers for a pair of scissors, even if we had permission. A few nights a week, my mom would fill out some forms, write some checks, and lick envelopes closed. She then pulled out her stamp book and her personalized address stamper (like this nifty one to my left here – remember these??) and and stamped and stamped each envelope. They were finally filed in some sort of outgoing mail bin.
I eventually learned that what my mom was doing was paying our bills. She rarely missed one and on the off chance that she did (it was more like she put a 2 instead of a 3 on a check), you can bet she was on the phone, asking–no demanding–that the company give her a pass and reverse any extra charges. Her track record spoke for itself, she even kept tracks of an extra money of every earning of her stocks.
The sacred desk was my mom’s command center for keeping the house finances in order and to this day, I think of that desk when a payment notification comes through my gmail. I’ve developed my own system–look at bill, mark as unread, pay by the next paycheck, check mint.com to make sure it goes in and out of the appropriate accounts–and a number of my friends have been witness to my own demands to speak to the supervisor of the Amex rep on the phone.
I am a Saver because of my mom. Which also means I feel guilty anytime I spend money on something I think she would think was frivolous. Which also means I sometimes resent that feeling and buy a $140 coat I like, just because I can because I’m a grown-up, so there. Which also means I again feel guilty for buying the coat and don’t buy clothes for the next six months, even though the hems are coming out of half my skirts.
Recognizing and finding the root of your own money habits and patterns is the first step to figuring out what you want to change about them. It will take some time to uncover everything. I’m still working on it myself.
So, which one are you? Are you:
A. The Money Monk: Money has always been a dirty word for you. You don’t know why (or maybe you do), but you have an aversion to having it and judge people’s character based on how they feel about it, and often, how much of it they have. You probably don’t own a lot of things and make just enough to get by, sometimes relying on others’ kindness and flexibility to help you get by. When you do have a windfall, you always have an itch to get rid of it as quickly as possible.
Money Monk Small Step: This is going to sound really corny, but I want you to pull out a piece of paper and write down what you would do if you suddenly had $1 million. Would you give it all away? Would you save any for yourself? How much would you save for yourself?
B. The Spender: Maybe you’re into having the latest and greatest, maybe you’re just always surprised at how much that trip to Walgreens actually ended up costing. Either way, you simply lose track of how much money you have on hand and what you end up spending it on.
Spender Small Step: Awareness of your spending is going to be the first step. Sign up for mint.com and pull in your bank account and credit card transactions. Try to use debit and credit for a week and take a look at Mint to see where the money went.
Was there anything that you forgot you bought? Do this again for another week with a little more cognizance of your spending.
C. The Saver: You’re big on having money put away for that proverbial rainy day. You relish in finding the best deal and will take the extra time to find something cheaper. You know how to do without and often the guilt of spending money doesn’t feel like it’s worth the thing you bought in the first place.
Saver Small Step: Set aside about 5-10% of your income (either mentally or physically) as a guilt-free spending account and find a day to use the money buying whatever strikes your fancy. I’ve done it and it feels really good.
D. The Worrier: You’re always concerned about your money, no matter how much you have. You spend your time wondering if you have enough and think about how much you should have by now. You never feel settled in your finances and you keep very close tabs on your inflows and outflows. Every bill is checked meticulously and every letter and email is filed carefully so you don’t miss a thing. (Hopefully.)
Worrier Small Step: Pick one regular, fixed bill (like a garbage bill or cable bill) and put it on auto bill pay. You can still check the statement, but let someone–or something–else take care of the rest. You don’t have to have a hand in every little thing to still be in control of it.
E. The Avoider: There is a stack of unopened envelopes somewhere in your house with your name on it. Thinking about money is so stressful, you’d rather not deal with it right now. Or even tomorrow or the next day. You never know how much money is in your bank account, you hope to remember to pay the minimums on your credit cards, and you keep meaning to open your mail but always get distracted.
Avoider Small Step: Take 1-2 hours one day and open ALL your mail, even your junk mail. Sort the pile of things you have to take care of (pay a bill, check a box, whatever) and put them aside. Give yourself a day. The following day, go through the pile and sort in order of priority. Take care of the most important thing first. Spend the rest of the week going through the pile, in order of priority.
F. The Amasser: You think money makes the world go round and you want to go around the most times. The bottom line you want to know in most situations is what’s in it for you. It’s not that money’s the most important thing to you, it’s just that you have no trouble acknowledging that having a lot of it is very important to you. You have a tendency to want to be the best and have the best.
Amasser Small Step: Donate one hour of your time somewhere or to someone. Check out volunteermatch.org if you don’t already have something in mind.