By nature I’ve always been curious about “witchy” things like tarot, astrology, palmistry, metaphysics, etc. (Fun fact: I bought palmistry book in 6th grade that I still own. I used to read my classmates’ palms. I accepted Surge soda and pizza goldfish as payment.) I’m currently nurturing a budding obsession with crystals (could be a phase), and on my commute to work I got to thinking about the tarot themes of past, present, and future…specifically concerning personal finance. Here’s what I uncovered:
The Past // Lessons
This is where our most powerful lessons reside. I’m a firm believer in that even our ugliest mistakes were made to teach us something, and that includes in our financial lives. My financial past is full of regrettable decisions: payday loans (yep!), not budgeting for YEARS, not saving enough money, falling shamefully behind on my rent when I lived alone (to the point of almost being evicted), not paying my credit card on time, taking out a high-interest car loan…the list goes on. Some of my financial errors are so embarrassing I would rather not think about them ever again, but I needed to at least remember what happened to avoid making the same mistakes again.
In my early 20s I lived in a place of struggle and want. I didn’t make nearly enough money to support the lifestyle I wanted. I bought (useless) things I couldn’t afford on credit cards to make myself feel better. I was working two low-paying jobs and I deserved to treat myself, right? In reality, all this behavior did was cultivate a debt cycle and reinforce my attachment to material goods as a measure of my worth. If I had to hazard a guess, 95% of the items I spent money on back then are gone—donated or discarded. In retrospect, I would have been better off to embrace a simpler lifestyle of living without. (Marie Kondo wasn’t a thing back then.)
Over time, I learned to be more mindful of the things I buy, and how reckless frivolous spending impacts my future financial goals for the worse. While it’s important to look back at what went wrong for us, we don’t want to dwell in a space of shame, negativity, and regret when we think about the past. Regard your past self with kindness, and allow it to be a lesson for you: when you know better, do better.
The Future // Freedom
But wait, what about the present? (It’s coming, I promise.) In order to be effective in the present, we must look to the future. Think about yourself in 5 years, 10 years. What goals do you want to have achieved? Buying a home? Taking amazing vacations? Paying off a portion (or all!) of your debt? Your future is your “why,” that helps you stay on track in the present. A huge chunk of successful personal money management centers on delayed gratification. Skip buying a few handbags and pairs of shoes, and that money can pay for your vacation. Take your lunch to work and drop an extra $100 into your savings account every month.
The future looks different for everyone. Regardless of what your goals are, it’s a sound piece of advice to prepare for an unforeseen expense by creating the oft-hailed “emergency fund.” If you’ve not done so already…you need to do this! Almost every financial guru will tell you the same. Suggested numbers will vary, but I would suggest beginning with $1,000, which can assist with most short-term “unexpected” expenses. Starting small with an achievable goal is way more encouraging than having an unattainable goal. I’ve found that building my savings is addictive. I do my very best not to touch it unless I absolutely have to. Keep your money working for you by using a high-yield account to stash your emergency cash.
Ultimately, it’s sometimes about the long-long term and weighing pros and cons of all your decisions. Sometimes spending money will make you “poor” in the short term, but build wealth or happiness (or both) in the long term. (Example: taking out student loans to pursue a degree in a field that interests you.)
The keyword I use when I think about my financial future is “freedom.” This can mean so many things, but that’s what I love about it. Freedom to do more of what I want in the future is what today’s discipline is going to “buy” me.
The Present // Discipline
All we have is now. It is, after all, the only thing we can truly control: our actions today. The past is immutable, and the future is unpredictable. Our actions that we take today should be informed by our past mistakes and made with our future selves in mind. By striking a balance between the two, we can build financial stability that makes sense for us.
There is no such thing as perfection. I still struggle immensely with balancing my needs and wants, fighting off impulsive urges to buy things and keep my easily bored “inner child” satisfied. When I slow down and remind myself why it’s not a good idea to spend $50 on a cute hoodie, I can put my present actions and future goals in line with each other, which is really what it’s all about. We can still have takeout twice a month and be effective savers. It shouldn’t be a feast or famine mentality. Small habits over time can lead to big gains if you are willing to commit fully.
So what can you do today to improve your “financial tomorrow?”
- Reflect on your past mistakes. Be honest with yourself and look at everything.
- Think about what your future goals are. What money goals do you want to manifest? Write them down. It helps make them feel more tangible.
- Begin a spending diary today. You will learn so much about yourself from writing down all of your expenditures, I promise.
- Create a budget. Boring, yes, painful, perhaps, but oh so necessary. Regardless of how much or how little you earn, you really do need a budget, and it doesn’t make you poor.
- Get inspired. Seek out content that you find encourages your goals. For me, it’s been minimalism, decluttering, and “panning” (a beauty-lover’s term for using up products) that keep me from overspending.
- Unfollow any social media accounts that don’t line up with your goals. You won’t miss them.
I would love to hear from you in the comments! What are some of your worst financial mistakes? What are your future financial goals? And what are you doing today to make them happen?