So most of you know by now that I love YNAB for keeping my numbers tidy and well-planned. I danced on a slippery slope this week around a fantasy bicycle, and I want to share the story with you. See if you relate to any of the decision-making points.
Step 1. I think, how nice it would be to have a bike again! I could get more exercise and be nicer to the environment by driving my car less. (that took like a few seconds)
Step 2. Well, do I actually want to do that? Hmmm, I’m not sure. Maybe not. Maybe I wouldn’t ride it as much as I think I would, and then I’d regret buying it. (that phase took several months of going back and forth)
Step 3. No, really. I REALLY want a bike. I want to be able to do some green commuting. It’s not like I have to use it all of the time; I just want another option for toodling around. (getting clear took another few seconds, once it happened)
Step 4. Can I move some money around in YNAB to make this happen this month/October? Well, if I don’t get a massage this month, and skip a couple of tennis lessons, I actually see that I could make $600 happen in October for a bike + gear. (that took maybe 10 minutes to play with the numbers and priorities)
Step 5. Where the heck should I go? OMG! Do I get a used bike? Probably not, since I don’t know how to fix it up and I’m not interested in learning. I want to ride and enjoy it, not wonk around with it. OK, well since I want someone else to do the maintenance, let’s look at getting a fresh start with a new bike where they can also help maintain it. I’l go to ((locally-owned bike store chain)). When will I go? I feel so busy! How can I ever fit this in?! (this step took a couple of weeks before I got to the store)
Step 6. I walk in to the store while between appointments. I agreed with myself that I could spend up to $600 for everything, total, that day; if it was going to be more than that, then I’ll just need to save up more money and get it next month. The man behind the counter was very congenial, and seemed knowledgeable. I told him what I was looking for, and that I didn’t need to go basement-level frugal, but that my budget was $600 for everything if I was going to walk out of the store a bike-owner again that day.
Step 7. Ohhhh. I see he’s immediately showing me an $900 bike. That’s interesting. I hear him out about why the hydraulic brakes are like the resurrection of Jesus (I’m paraphrasing).
Step 8. I ask if there is anything similar to what he showed me…I obviously meant, that isn’t so expensive as Miss $900. He made a joke by showing me the next most expensive model. Ha ha; touche, clever bike salesman.
Step 9. He shows me a $700 bike. He’s 70% crestfallen. It’s sort of like he could be holding his nose from the stink of having to touch the lowlier bike. Like it’s bad news and it might hurt him if I sink to that level.
Step 10. He perks up and tells me that they have financing! Oooh! Financing! That’s like not having to pay for it, right?! (I jest. Don’t quote me on that. That’s how rumors get started.) 6 months, interest-fee. He says I could pay my $600 that day, and finance the rest and take the 6 months to pay it, if I qualify. I tell him that I probably won’t qualify since I don’t have a credit score since I don’t practice debt to just keep a credit score. He suggests we just try it to see if it will go through. I think about it, and go with it as an experiment.
Step 11. Nope. Rejected. GE Financing doesn’t want any part of this Ghost Crittenden. Who is she? She doesn’t even have a credit card! How can we trust her?? To be entirely transparent, I totally was craving the $900 bike and all the fixins’! I could tell, though, it wasn’t out of loving that particular bike, or feeling that intuitive hit that I would do well to get it and change my numbers around.
Step 12. The confidence I feel in my system (making a spending plan before the months starts, then updating my cashflow weekly in YNAB) helped me walk out of that store with no regrets. The guy gave me his business card, I can go back if I want to, or I can shop at other places (which probably makes the most sense since it’s apparently a larger purchase than I thought it would be). I am so glad that I don’t have the aftertaste today, that little quick-buying shame that doesn’t make sense. Like, hey, cheer up, you got a new bike, right? But it wouldn’t have felt clear to me, and I don’t want that kind of franticness in my life.
I share that story to demonstrate the possibility of sticking to one’s guns, as well as the feelings that go along with the process for me. My inner 6 year-old was practically on her knees begging for me to buy a bike, any bike, look how pretty it is outside!!
I don’t have to get mad at the salesman. He’s just doing what the bike store pays him to do, which is sell as much as possible (I assume).
I don’t have to get mad at my inner 6 year-old. She’s just doing what kids do…want shiny things that seem fun, and that other kids have.
I don’t have to get mad at GE Capital for “rejecting” me. They don’t know me to reject me as a person. They have parameters for who they will loan money to, and my choices don’t meet their parameters.
None of this is right or wrong. I can buy as much or little as I want. I can finance to the hilt. Or not. For me it all goes back to, is the way I’m handling money helpful to my current and future selves? Can I sleep peacefully at night based on how I’m handling my finances? Abby, you can have it. (As long as there is some planning and reality-checking involved.)
Note their core finding about what four behaviors most erode the quality of relating in a relationship:
Dr. Gottman has named these most corrosive negative behavior patterns, “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” Specifically, these are:
- Criticism: stating one’s complaints as a defect in one’s partner’s personality, i.e., giving the partner negative trait attributions. Example: “You always talk about yourself. You are so selfish.”
- Contempt: statements that come from a relative position of superiority. Contempt is the greatest predictor of divorce and must be eliminated. Example: “You’re an idiot.”
- Defensiveness: self-protection in the form of righteous indignation or innocent victim-hood. Defensiveness wards off a perceived attack. Example: “It’s not my fault that we’re always late; it’s your fault.”
- Stonewalling: emotional withdrawal from interaction. Example: The listener does not give the speaker the usual nonverbal signals that the listener is “tracking” the speaker.
I will give you some more examples of how the 4 Horseman of the Apocalypse can sound around money matters. In my experience, even when I think these things and don’t say them, the energy can permeate the relationship. Your thoughts create reality, so watch what you think.
“You spend money like it grows on a tree in the backyard! Why can’t you control yourself?”
“You’re so boring and controlling when it comes to money! You never let me have any fun with it!”
“You’re a drunk with money, just like your mother was.”
“You and your spreadsheets! Get a life!”
“What? I work hard for my paycheck! You’re damn right I’m going to enjoy it the way I want to!”
“S/he just doesn’t get it. I have to worry about the money…what does s/he contribute to this process, anyway? Without my worrying about it for both of us, we’d be broke!”
These are natural thoughts and feelings. Let’s call them, the rolling-off-a-log type of thoughts. Easy peasy. It’s lower nature…fear, scarcity, blame, judgment. This is what generally can happen when we’re not consciously replacing the thoughts and actions with healthier choices. *Especially* around a potentially stressful topic like money, most of us need practice to not go reptilian on our partner!
I encourage you to practice skills and techniques that can leave more room for your higher nature…love, appreciation, abundance, creativity, acceptance. Things that have proven to help are: meditation, “I” statements, prayer, journaling to get the feelings out without hurting the other person, and creative collaboration for meeting both people’s needs. I also highly recommend that couples set a time outside of the busy flow of life to talk about their money; even if it’s just 30 minutes, it’s a great investment in avoiding future conflicts and misunderstandings.
Pause. It’s totally ok to pause.
Wow. You folks really have an interesting puzzle to figure out together. You’re inheriting an intense amount of debt on many levels. Some of it you chose, some of it happened before you were even born.
While I don’t have easy answers for you, I am very interested in offering you tools that can help, if you want them.
I’m currently conducting interviews with those in the Millennial generation (approximately born in the 1980’s) and their parents/guardians to learn the best way to deliver solid financial guidance for those who want it. Please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or text me at 415-425-1615, and let me know if you’d prefer doing a 15-minute phone interview or a quick online survey. What seems impossible can be your greatest teacher, once you face it.