What are the ground rules?

There are 5 rules that apply for the duration of  Counting Zeros, 2 things I have to count and 3 things I have to avoid.

Rule 1) Counting the money I spend
Rule 2) Counting the money I have
Rule 3) Zero procrastination about opening my post
Rule 4) Zero impulse purchasing
Rule 5) Zero spend on organisational items

Rule 1) Counting the money I spend — Or what Debtor’s Anonymous calls “working the numbers”

Years ago I had a friend who wrote down everything she spent as she spent it. We’d go for a drink after work and as we made ourselves comfortable at the bar, she’d open her little notebook and jot down the cost of her glass of wine in miniature, perfect penmanship. I thought she was mad. I thought this was sad. I saw it as evidence of letting money have the upper hand.

The last time I took a crack at addressing my financial fuckwittery I got stumped at the very first task; namely, examining my monthly outgoings. The truth is there is only one way to know what we really spend our money on and that’s to track it. I’ve always acted as if I have enough money not to worry about where it went. In the past this delusional attitude has created large personal debt and today it means that I don’t know enough about my spending to make conscious financial choices.

So for the year ahead, I will be that friend with the miniature, perfect penmanship logging each item of spend as I go.

Rule 2) Counting the money I have — as I write this, before the official launch of Counting Zeros, I don’t know what money I have. Or where I have it. I don’t know how to access all 5 of the bank accounts I’m pretty sure I have open. I don’t know how much money I owe. I don’t know how much money I’m owed. This cannot continue. While I’m tracking my daily spend and entering it into a weekly tracker, I’ll also be updating the overall snapshot of how much money I actually have. Every week.

Rule 3) Zero procrastination about opening my post — A not insubstantial amount of my financial fuckwittery is triggered by the mailman. No matter how consistent his visits, my ability to ignore all the brown and white type-faced envelopes he shoves through my letterbox borders on the heroic. Over the course of 2011 I’d say I opened my post a total for 4 times. And each time I did, I found out something pretty important like the tax office owed me £900 or that Barclaycard had bought my Egg VISA which is why my credit card stopped working a few months ago. Counting Zeros demands a radical rearrangement of my relationship with my post. I will become, if only for this year, a person who opens her post the moment she receives it. No matter what. Better a small daily dose of dread than the massive pile up I keep re-creating.

Rule 4) Zero impulse purchasing. I pride myself on the fact that I do not have a shopping disorder. Compared with other people I know and given the society we live in. But in the event that I might be in a little bit of denial about this, this rule is designed to address that. The way it will work is that I cannot buy any material items (aside from food) that I haven’t planned to buy in advance. Spontaneous popping into bookshops will remain an option, but buying on sight will not. If I really want or need something it’ll go on a list which I’ll review monthly.

Rule 5) Zero spend on organisational items. It has come to my attention, over the many years in which I’ve known myself, that I seem to think that the answer to most money management issues is new stationery and other office supplies or a better purse. Rule 5 is going to hurt, but I have to accept that I already own a substantial number of purses and wallets and folders and notebooks and desk trays and filing boxes and moveable plastic drawers and if any of these items were the answer to my financial fuckwittery, I would’ve cracked it by now.


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