If you’re going to slay the dragon perhaps throwing a pebble his way every morning isn’t the way to do it. This is my conclusion after a week practising my new approach to managing my finances — to give it 15 minutes attention every single day. In this case the dragon isn’t a task. I knew going into this that 15 minutes is only enough time to start most financial chores, rather than finish them off.
No, the dragon is the amount of dread and avoidance I invest in this category of my life. I thought if I approached that every day, just for a teeny bit of time, I might pull apart this spectacularly unhelpful emotional barrier to facing up to all things financial.
I have succeeded, yet failed.
I have succeeded with “15 minutes a day” but in doing so my dread levels have been rising — not dispersing. Here’s what 15 minutes each day this week involved:
- Sunday – check online statement, notice a payment to Barclaycard that I wasn’t expecting since I paid off all credit card debt back in January, find password to online Barclarycard and de-mystify that the extra £158 they’ve charged me is for interest which came in after I cleared my debt. Sheesh.
- Monday – start this week’s assignment by finding my mortgage file (under M), thinking about calling my lender (which almost consumes the full 15 minutes since phone calls always trigger delaying tactics and I’d started flicking through emails). Get a grip on self, dial and listen to the hold message that my call is important to them (5 minutes). Get answer to 1st mortgage question from nice call centre girl who says her name is Charlene who then transfers me to a different department for 2nd question on list only to speak to Robert who explains his team is too busy to answer my call, but that someone will call me back to talk about how much more money they definitely will charge me if I inform them that I am renting my property …
- Tuesday – while waiting for no one to call me back, go into panic about ISAs after scolding from friend last Saturday. Google ISAs and discover I’ve several weeks left to sort out making my annual contribution to this tax-free savings scheme. Hunt down ISA folder (under S for savings) and try to work out how much money I have in my ISA account anyway. Not sure how many times I’ve deposited an annual sum (last two years? last three? ). Don’t want to sound clueless when call them. Instead find that the only statements I have date from 2009 since I’ve never informed ISA company of my change in address.
- Wednesday – break into former flat — well, use key I still have to the front lobby of the building to check the discarded post pile which used to be a mile high so I had every chance of finding my missing ISA statements. Instead find hallway under the management of new, more organised person who has left a notice saying that anyone moving should leave their change of address with management who will henceforth forward post or, if no address given, return to sender. Leave empty-handed. I know what you’re thinking — that surely, this took me more than 15 minutes. But it didn’t. I detoured to my old flat on my way to the coffee shop.
- Thursday – consider calling ISA company but am still too stressed that I haven’t a clue how much money of mine they have and am anxious about what they’re going to say to me when I inform them I moved address 2 years ago. Instead revisit my folder and notice, that wait — no I do have the more recent statements! The folder was just a bit messy and dis-ordered, that’s all. But … I can’t make heads or tails of statement. “Balance carried over of 0.0” doesn’t in any way seem reassuring and yet I know I haven’t touched any of my ISA deposits, so I don’t understand. I can’t possibly have a zero balance. Consider calling them, but them remember that this week’s task is not about ISAs, it’s about my mortgage and that the week is almost over. Realize that my 15 minutes is almost over too — so do nothing about ISA or mortgage and instead update my weekly spend tracker only to discover that I have failed to spend 30 per cent less than I normally do … which is what I am meant to be achieving throughout Lent. Feel demoralised.
- Friday – take a money personality test that a friend has emailed me over night. Find out my money personality is driven by fear (rather than happiness). Decide that I do not want to chase my mortgage provider directly for the answer to my remaining questions and that what I should be doing is tracking down the broker who arranged this mortgage for me in the first place. He was so concerned with my approach to finances that he gave lots of helpful paternal advice about my debt at the time — so why I am even bothering to deal direct with my lender. Worry that he may have retired or lost his job given that the global economy has collapsed since I last spoke to him and lots of mortgage brokers have gone out of business (because so few of us can even get a mortgage anymore). Search old archived emails hunting for his contact details. Fail. Search old correspondence in mortgage folder for contact details — locate, but no email address given. Go to website of brokers and start composing an email to the generic inquiry address asking if Brian Keane still works for them and if so, could he call …. Realize this is a deranged email and instead pick up phone, call them, speak with very kind gentleman who says he remembers me (uh oh) which he then proves by immediately mentioning the address of my property!! but that Brian has the day off and could he call me Monday. Yes. Please. Sense of relief. Brian is going to help me.
- Saturday — write Counting 000’s blog about how I haven’t managed to accomplish much of anything this week with my daily 15 minutes except for a possible crime (entering hallway of old flat?), a constant flow of anxiety and a reinforced sense that I am an idiot.
This was Leon’s reaction to all of the above.