Talk to your money? Yes! This is an exercise for anyone who wants to be a smarter spender or saver—and anyone who has emotional conflicts about finances—and let’s face it, that’s just about everyone. It takes practice (and may feel weird at first), but it can help pinpoint your emotional issues over money and help you reach a more balanced approach.
Don’t worry, you won’t have to start talking aloud to your credit cards, explains Olivia Mellan, author of Money Harmony: A Road Map for Individuals and Couples, who developed the exercise. Rather, you’ll write down a “dialogue”—it should take about 20 minutes—once a week for a month or two. Start by asking your money how your relationship is going. (Or let Money give you a piece of its mind!) For example, if you know that you tend to spend more than you should, you might start this way…
You: “Hey, Money, how are we doing together?”
Money: “You throw me around, but you don’t treat me with respect. What’s your problem?”
You: “I feel happy when I’m spending you. When I’m not buying something, I don’t feel as good.”
Continue the conversation—being very honest with yourself (and with Money)—until the conversation naturally winds down. Then provide yourself with some internal commentary in the form of at least three “voices”: your mom, your dad, and a higher power such as inner wisdom or God.
You may want to include additional “voices” who have been strong influencers, as well—it could be your spouse or partner, an ex-spouse, a clergy person, your grandfather, etc. If you do, include that person in the dialogue before you get to inner wisdom/God.
Just imagine what each of them would say. For example, your mom might point out that you were spoiled as a kid and never could delay gratification. It’s fine if your mom was a poor role model when it comes to money or even if you’re estranged from your parents. Those issues will come out in the imagined dialogue—and help you understand how these relationships are influencing you now. (Your inner wisdom or God, in contrast, might show you what you need to do to save for a goal.)
Hold these conversations with your money weekly, and you’ll begin to see your money issues of the past and the present more clearly—and most important, what you need to do to put money in its proper perspective for yourself now and in the future.