by HEATHER E. SCHWARTZ
Well, I did it. I got one of those zero percent APR (annual percentage rate) credit cards, transferred money from a high interest rate card onto it, and then actually paid it off before the rate offer expired. I couldn’t possibly tell you how many times I’ve attempted this in the past, only to wind up with a new maxed out credit card — and extra-high “punishment” APR — as a result. So, yeah, I’m feeling pretty proud of this accomplishment.
But proud doesn’t seem to be the right emotion here, where money is the issue. Because if I’m proud now, doesn’t that mean I ought to feel ashamed about all those other times when this method of climbing out of debt didn’t work for me? At the very least, shouldn’t I feel badly about my previous poor judgement, which led me to believe I could do it when I couldn’t?
Sorry, but I don’t. It’s taken a while to get here, but I’m not ashamed anymore of those past financial failures. I’m working on not even feeling badly about all the debt I accumulated over the years. I only wish I could have felt this empowered when I was actually sinking further and further into that debt. I wish I could have recognized that I wasn’t “bad with money” or a “bad person;” I was making certain choices along the way about the work I was willing to do and the lifestyle I was unwilling to give up. (I’m not talking about champagne on yachts or anything — I mainly wanted to be home with my kids.)
But of course, nobody feels empowered when they’re sinking into debt — and maybe empowered is another emotion that should be separated from any association with money. Obviously, money makes life easier when you have enough of it. That’s empowering. But not having money should never correlate directly to taking power away from people. Everybody has a net worth, but human value can’t be measured using this random monetary system we’ve created.
The emotion I’m landing on that feels right for money these days is gratitude. When I started working on my debt last fall, I Googled different combinations of words to search for help. I had a general sense that my lack of control in this area wasn’t entirely about a lack of actual funds, so I put in things like “your brain and money” and “attitude about money” and “money mindset.” That’s how I found Denise Duffield-Thomas, a money mindset mentor, whose theory seems to be that money is only about mindset. I guess I can sort of halfway agree with that.
Duffield-Thomas has a great story about manifesting a paid travel gig which allowed her to visit and write about honeymoon destinations with her husband for six months. It’s one of those unbelievable tales that inspires you while simultaneously feeding a simmering rage. Because you know it’s not going to happen for you that way, but you feel like you have to at least try whatever method is being pitched anyway.
So I did a couple of things she suggested, and here’s one I liked: I started keeping track of all the money that came into my life each day. Not in the budgeting sense, where you get hold of some money and immediately dole it out to bills. This exercise was about gratitude. I kept a running list each day of any money that came my way and appreciated it for a moment.
I got a paycheck and wrote down the amount. OK… Things got more interesting when I realized I should list the five dollars I found in my (apparently unwashed since the previous year) winter jacket. I marked down the money I gained when I remembered to return an unwanted can of soup. When I found a quarter in the road. When my National Grid bill inexplicably went down.
This did not result in a six-month paid travel writing gig.
But the tracking effort did make a difference. All of this money coming my way had always felt invisible, flowing in — sure — but also directly out again. I’d certainly never appreciated its appearance in my life, dismissing it as too small to count and also nothing I could count on. Except for the paycheck, every one of those items felt like a surprise that might never appear in my life again.
Apparently, according to Duffield-Thomas and others, a grateful attitude about money is supposed to signal the universe that you’re ready for more. That’s manifesting, I guess, and I wouldn’t turn it down if it works. I’m not going to get all worked up about the truth in that story, though. My efforts have already resulted in a sense of gratitude about money, and right now that feels like enough.