Name Your Poison

This is a guest post by Beth Lee Lundberg, MBA, AFC, Financial Coach, mom to two, and founder of The Yankee Saver. Visit Beth at her website to learn more about her financial coaching services. You can follow Beth on Twitter.

Relationships are funny. Sometimes, something as simple as a name can jump start them forward, or doom them to failure. 

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Take my friend Bean for example. I first met Bean when I was four. We grew up in the same New England neighborhood, a half hour north of Boston. Bean lived two colonials and one cape away from my parent’s house, and could always make me laugh. She has a heart of gold, and today is still one of the staple relationships in my life. In the unlikely event that I were to meet someone else named Bean, I’m sure I would consider them a friend right away, based on all the good things I associate with the name. 

But names work the other way as well. I have another friend, a really sweet person, who will not, no matter what, associate with anyone named Daryl. Why? She had a bad experience with a Daryl once, and that was it. Now, don’t even mention a Daryl to her, she won’t hear anything past the first name. 

When you think about it, we all bring our past experiences into our new relationships, and use them to protect ourselves from bad things, and move closer to good things. We go with what we know, even if all we know is a name. It might seem kind of nuts, but its how we work.

This is particularly true when it comes to our relationship with money. Money has a lot of emotion around it, and sometimes just the sound of “money” words can conjure up all kinds of bad feelings. Take the word “budget”, for example. For lots of people, this word is one big, huge, Daryl. I know, I used to feel this way too. “Stick to your budget” may as well have been, “Take a sip of strychnine” or “Bite this poison apple.” My reaction would be the same. I just could not relate to the word in a good way.

The thing is, this negative association creates a major problem. Without a budget, we will fail at managing our money. But we can’t fail! We need to manage our money well! We need it to support ourselves now and when we are too old to work. We need it to protect ourselves and the people we love! We just can’t afford to have the Daryl reaction to our finances. 

So, what do we do?

We change the name! That’s right, no more calling the key to our financial success a “budget”. Let’s make it real, something we can relate to, and something we will welcome into our lives. Let’s give that sucker the name it needs to get the job done.

This worked really well for me and my family. So, without further ado, let me introduce you to the strong and mighty protector of my own personal economy: Welcome THOR! Thor is a giant Viking Warrior who is leading his people across rough terrains and enemy waters. Thor will bring us safely into the land of financial freedom, for he is strong, and has won many battles (like the one over at DSW last week…). We follow him because he is good, he is right, he is a powerful hero. He is also wicked scary, so we tend to do what he says.

Sound nuts? Might be, but it works. Here’s a recent example:

“Mom, can I get a new lacrosse stick?” asks my 12-year-old son, who knows he does not need another lacrosse stick.

“Hmmm,” I say. “Let me check with Thor.”

The energy in the room changes, the Viking Warrior is being summoned.

“OK,” says the brave sixth-grader.

I look down at the spreadsheet on my laptop as my son waits silently.

I scroll to Thor’s line marked “Kid’s Activities”, see $17 left for the pay period and then translate my findings:

“Thor says ‘NOOOOO, ARRRGH!’ ”

“Fine,” says the boy. He walks away. End of conversation.

Nobody messes with Thor!

For you, maybe Thor is actually Dr. Spock or Flloyd, The Mayor, Frank Sinatra or Diana Prince (remember Wonder Woman at her day job?). It doesn’t matter what name you give it, as long as that name satisfies the emotional connection you need to have with your budget in order for it to be a working part of your life and get you where you need to be with your money.

So go ahead, name your poison! What name will it be?

Question: Do you have a question for Beth? Use the comments below where  she’ll respond. 

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14 replies
  1. Shirley
    Shirley says:

    I had to laugh today when you talked about stores with plush carpet, beautiful music, a newspaper by the door and fresh flowers! There are none of those things at the only places I shop……Walmart, resale shops, and online (Amazon or Ebay)!! I don’t even go in those stores that have those amenities.

    Reply
  2. Kathy
    Kathy says:

    This is the right idea!! Unfortunately, it’s not that easy; we anchor feelings deep and a re-training of the mind is absolutely necessary. For instance, take smoking, a common difficult addiction to break. If we could substitute “I could really use a cigarette” for “I could really use some cancer”; you would think that would do the trick, but it just doesn’t. Change your inner self first, and the outer skills will follow…with ease. As a mother of four, our family’s budget took a huge hit when my severely disabled son required me to stay home full-time. The consequences were both emotionally and financially devastating. Between Mary’s “Everyday Cheapskate” for financial advice and a program through www.optimindshaping, my mind and heart are in a much better place. Clear the mind, set it right, and you see opportunity and not roadblocks. And “Thor” will become highly effective!

    Reply
  3. beckylynn
    beckylynn says:

    Love the idea of renaming the budget! My problem is that I freelance, so I never know what my income will be. And as s single mom, there is no sounding board

    Reply
  4. DianaB
    DianaB says:

    I absolutely love the Thor thing or whatever name you choose. Brilliant. My grandson would certainly appreciate what Thor has to say and simple to see what the available funds are for that particular purpose or any other purpose, for that matter, on a monthly basis.

    Reply
  5. MWeber
    MWeber says:

    Beth – Thank you for the timely thoughts. Well said. Do you have any key points for starting an online tutoring practice?

    Reply
    • Beth Lundberg
      Beth Lundberg says:

      Hi there,
      Well, my expertise is in financial coaching, but I will say that live phone support with your web hosting service can come in pretty handy. Good luck with your new venture!

      Reply
  6. Tommy
    Tommy says:

    I’m 74 years old, and after much research, began a budget on Jan 1, 2014. My wife and I are both living on Medicare, and our nest egg which is diminishing. We have always spent lavishly so budgeting is very difficult. After 6 months, we’ve managed to cut down spending very little, and the budget is serving well only as a monitor of our money. My wife is the major problem. She doesn’t favor doing a budget, and in reality, makes very little effort to truly reduce expenses. She would rather keep spending and let the future take care of itself. Any suggestions?

    Reply
    • Beth Lundberg
      Beth Lundberg says:

      Hi Tommy,
      From what you say, it sounds like your wife does not fully appreciate the financial trouble you are heading into. It also sounds like your wife might not have been involved in creating the budget.

      In my experience, in order for a budget to work, for most people, four things need to happen. First, we need to know where we currently stand financially, and really understand what that means. Second, we need to believe that the budget will either make our current financial situation better, or keep it from getting worse. Third, we need to have some say in how our budget it is created, so that we feel like it is a benefit that represents us individually. Finally, it has to offer us something we like in the short term, or some fun along the way. These four things help us to relate to a budget as something helpful, as something we want in our lives, and that makes them more likely to work.

      My suggestion to you would be to start over. Perhaps if you sit down with your wife and create a new budget, and include the four elements above, she might respond differently.

      If you try this and are still having trouble, I would suggest speaking to an Accredited Financial Counselor for help. I wish you all the best!

      Reply
    • Beth Lundberg
      Beth Lundberg says:

      Hi Blythe!
      Glad you enjoyed it, thanks so much! If you ask me, everyone needs a Thor in their life!

      Reply

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