Are your spending habits running away from you? Find a comfy spot and take a long deep breath, because Melissa Browne’s new book aims to help you soothe your financial aches and pains with mindfulness.
Earlier this year, author and financial advisor extraordinaire, Melissa Browne, released Unf*ck Your Finances, a book that aimed to help young people develop healthier financial habits.
The book was a runaway success, and soon went global. And now, Melissa wants to take her teachings to the next level. Enter, the Unf*ck Your Finances Workbook.
A companion to the original, the Unf*ck Your Finances Workbook was released last month aims to help readers plan a healthy financial future by thinking more carefully about what, where, how and why they’re spending.
In an age of increasing convenience and with more ways for us to spend than ever before, Melissa says that being mindful about our spending is one of the most effective ways for us to regain control. And when Melissa talks, we listen.
Bank Australia: Why was important to make this workbook in addition to the uber-successful Unf*ck Your Finances?
Melissa Browne: The idea of the workbook was to have something that you could keep with you. It’s just a new way to be mindful about money without it being this big scary proposition.
What kind of journey does the workbook take people on? It spans over 90 days, right?
Yes, it’s 90 days. But before the 90 days starts, there’s a bit of pre-work. You need to stretch before you do a marathon, right? The pre-work is about setting goals, establishing what changes you’re going to make and why.
Then I’ve broken the 90 days up into 30 -day chunks. And there's a different financial challenge or a theme every 30 days. We’ve suggested themes and challenges, but readers can set their own too. Regarding the 90 days – I think 90 days is a long enough time for you to see real change in your financial habits, but not so long that it scares you off.
What kind of hurdles do you think people need to overcome to develop more mindful financial habits?
Our culture of convenience doesn’t help, and convenience can actually work against us financially. For example, you could opt to have your savings account attached to a card. But if you’ve had a bad day, or a bad week, you might be tempted to dip into it. You might even dip into it if you’ve had a good day! The convenience just provides another temptation to spend. It’s really about setting up your financial world in such a way that you're not going to sabotage it.
To what extent is being a mindful spender about budgeting?
For me, it's not about budgeting at all. It's not about restriction. It's the same as food – it’s just about focusing on eating well; about moderation. It's applying those same principles to our money. Things like fast fashion and 24-hour spending have turned a lot of us into these addicted consumers. But we don't need to spend like that, and we really need to break that mindset.
A lot of messaging is geared around how spending our money on various things will make us happier – would you argue that being more thoughtful with our spending (or saving) is a potentially more fulfilling aim?
Absolutely. And that messaging is a problem in our comparison culture – particularly when paired with a bit of scarcity mentality. We can now spend 24/7, and we’re encouraged to. I could be scrolling through Instagram and just click to buy. It's so easy for us to spend now. I think we need to just make it a little bit harder – we need to put some barriers in place so it's just that little bit harder for us to spend.
You mentioned social media – if people want to develop healthier financial habits, do you think logging off social media for a stint would actually help with that?
Absolutely. I read something recently that the average person logs on to social media 146 times a day. That's not healthy, for anyone. And while some of us are really careful about our real-life social circles and who we allow to influence us in the real world, we don’t carry the same care over into social media. We’re just allowing all these people we don’t even know to influence us, and ultimately influence our spending. I think having a break from social media can actually be a good thing for our finances. And if not a break, certainly being very careful and mindful about who we choose to follow.
Do you think there’s a risk of us taking that instant gratification – that dopamine hit – we get from social media, and carrying it across to our spending?
Yes. And there are so many things now that are being developed in order to help us to buy even quicker. Just look at AfterPay – you can take something home and split up the payments across a period of time.
Would there be any value, do you think, in people speaking to psychologists to work out some of the stuff that's going on, in terms of their relationship to money, and how and why they're doing certain things?
Oh my gosh – I always think that there's value in therapy. I've had really successful therapy that helped, my personal life, my business life, and my finances. Handling your money shouldn't be that difficult, in the same way handling food shouldn't be that difficult. A lot of it is this weird, twisted, toxic relationship we have with money. Or strange money values that we've been brought up with. I think digging into that, and figuring out why that is, and creating a new way as behaving – I actually think that's really valuable.