Wednesday, June 29, 2016

{Inspiration} 30 Chic Days – The Fourth Series: Day 22

Catching the bus to see my accountant yesterday, a la The Millionaire Next Door (one of my favourite books)

A big behind-the-scenes passion that I’d love to pursue one day is to inspire women to view money differently.  To look at financial management as fun and exciting, and to see monetary goal-setting and having savings as really enjoyable (because you get to dream!)

My financial life changed dramatically when I started viewing money management as fun.  I'd note down my paydays, expenditure and automated outgoings in my diary each week and kept a running total of my balance.  I felt organised and like I could achieve financial freedom one day because the saying really is true about taking care of the pennies (and the pounds will take care of themselves).

It all started in the nineties when I worked with three different financial planning companies as a secretary, over several years.  I saw that it wasn't just 'old people’ who came in for appointments, it was women my age as well.  I was impressed that someone in their twenties would bother to set up a savings plan or even visit a financial advisor.  One of my bosses ran financial seminars for women where experts spoke and there were women of all ages there.

I feel really grateful that I picked up good information and a change of attitude during this time of my life.  These were pre-Internet days (for me anyway) and so I would haunt the public library for financial books.  I'd flick through them and if they looked boring I'd put them back straight away.  My favourites were the ones that were written in normal-people language and would, if I was lucky, include inspiring stories of how people got to the financial position they had.

I still love a good savings/financial success story; I think it’s how we learn best - by hearing other peoples’ stories.  One of my favourite chapters to write in my new book Thirty Chic Days was Day 23. Be financially chic.  In this chapter I go into detail about how my husband and I are paying off our home loan early – twenty years early!

I think it all comes down to good financial habits, having respect for money, spending less than you earn, in fact all those ‘boring’ guidelines that your grandparents probably lived by.  To me though, they are anything but boring; I’d put being debt-free over a shopping trip any day of the week.

And it wasn’t always that way for me.  Like any girl who loves pretty things, I used to fritter away my pay on cute tops, glossy magazines and inexpensive trinkets.  I still do love pretty things, but the difference is that now I don’t feel the need to own them to enjoy them.  I would rather have a clutter-free home than more ‘stuff’, too.

Sometimes we shop to cheer ourselves up and that’s understandable, but if we do it so often that it becomes a habit, we cut off our creativity and can’t think of other ways to bring ourselves pleasure.

How are you with money?  What would your financial report card say?  Do you make joint decisions with your other half?  If you are single, do you feel positive about the way you handle your money?

I have the basics of finances down, but after visiting my accountant yesterday I realised I’d really like to learn the essentials of accounting so I can at least know what he’s talking about.  My husband understands that stuff fine, he has a business degree, but I want to know for myself!  I’m going to find a good ‘Accounting for Dummies’ type book to learn the basics.  That’s my action step for today.  What’s yours?

Until tomorrow, be financially chic!


  1. Now we're pensioners (although I dislike the term as it smackks of old codger-dom!) I deal with our incomings and outgoings, while husband keeps an eye on the investments which have never caught up since the financial crash of 2008. But we manage and can't complain. However, financial planning and accountability is interesting providing one has sufficient income. I think it's those who have insufficient on which to live who do not find it either interesting and indeed, try and put off looking at what they have (or don't have) in the bank, and this is understandable.
    Regarding money, we have always made joint decisions and have always had joint accounts - but this suits us and may not suit other couples, married or not. We trust each other completely regarding finances, we know that either of us isn't going to disappear, having cleaned out the accounts, but I know that these days it is often advisable for each person to have his or her own account.
    I keep a close watch on our daily outgoings, and when our pensions arrive in our account I mentally subtract all the outgoings for the next month so that I know exactly how much we have for food, petrol, meals out, clothes, all the other things which are arbitrary, unlike Denplan, council tax, power, etc. Anyway, this works for us, simple though it is. It would be more difficult to plan if our income varied, but it's the same every month.
    Margaret P

  2. So many couples fight over money. I guess, couples can fight over many things but managing money is the one thing we all have in common. I've heard horror stories where one person has run up huge credit card debts on clothing, gambling, whatever whilst the other person had no idea until the whole house of cards came tumbling down. Other couples where they hide pirchases from each other, such as new shoes or power tools. It's a slippery slope, in my opinion. I'm the opposite - if I buy new shoes I have to wear them straight away, even if that means with my pyjamas on the couch :). Open and honest communication in all matters is my preferred method. Whether you have joint accounts or separate accounts or a combination, it's something that must be right for you as a couple.

    I have never spent more than I have earnt, always putting some aside for a rainy day and paying extra off my mortgage when I could. I got a credit card after I had been working full time for a year but found it too easy to use so cut it up and didn't get another until I was in my 30s and heading to Europe. I pay it off in full each month and have never paid interest. If I REALLY want something and can't afford it then I wait until I can .... nine times out of ten I forget about it anyway and realise it would have just been more 'stuff'. Window shopping costs nothing and now that almost anything can be bought online I also love browsing websites. I get lots of ideas, keep my credit card stashed away so it's an effort to dig it out and so don't buy anything anyway. Win win.

    Ladies - we all need to be financially savvy. Yes it's boring but so is flossing your teeth to prevent decays and bad breath. It's simply a necessity. Don't think that a white knight will save you. There are too many older women with inadequate superannuation, unstable housing and looking at spending their Autumn years scraping by on the single aged pension. Read the business section of your local paper, Google websites that are specifically for women's finances (yes they do exist), accept any offers for newsletters and seminars from your superannuation / bank / workplace. It's an important life skill.

  3. I love this post, Fiona!
    My husband is retired and his career has been based on his original accountant starting point. And he calls ME tight! AND he tells everyone!
    We got together in later life.
    I received no financial support from my ex husband and brought up my son as a single mum from the age of 6.
    I've had times when money has been very tight.
    I put my son through private education from 11 so money was even tighter then.
    My son and I lived on a small food budget with own-brand food lines, and I really did enjoy that period, we ate healthily despite the lack of money. The budget was always an inspiration to do my best.
    I've always lived within my means,
    I use cash and my debit card most of the time and always pay off any credit card use before the payment date.
    I endeavour to pay any non-direct debit items as they come in (but sometimes I lose them a while!).
    I deliberate, conduct research and analyse before making purchases, even small items. I paraphrase here with 'deliberate on the little purchases and the big ones will take care of themselves'!
    We were never taught how to do all of this, I think we do it instinctively, eh ladies?!
    Living in this way through my working life means that being a pensioner was no shock to the system. And I'm even tighter now!

  4. Dear Fiona, I think this post has to be my favorite of the series thus far. I love talking personal finance. The only thing is I wish I had been more savvy earlier on. I only started becoming vigilant of our money right before the U.S. recession in 2007. Thank goodness I started before it hit though, just in time! We paid off our house early this year, like you are (it's great knowing you've saved tens of thousands of dollars by doing this, and the peace of mind is priceless) and we haven't had any debt since about 2008. I still could do much better at spending less on things like eating out and indulging my teenage daughter so much. Still, according to statistics, we are in much better financial shape than most other American families. The U.S. has the worst savings rate compared to others around the world!

    Anyway, thank you for including keeping one's financial house in order as a priority in living well. It's interesting to think that living a chic life involves not spending a lot of money. I think a lot of people think it means the opposite, like having to keep up with a current wardrobe, furnishings, car, traveling, and so on, but really it's all about luxuriating in an uncomplicated life - at least in my opinion :)


  5. Hi this post! I have noticed that the most chic person is the person who is careful with their money. And there also seems to be a direct relationship between careful with money, & having a stable weight. Last night I went to dinner with a group of women friends. The person who was the most slender & the most hardworking had 2 small entrees, & 1 lassi (Indian restaurant). The evening was not a chance to gorge for her (nor me). Our share of the bill was a lot less than the others!

  6. I'm so glad you wrote about this and brought it out in the open. Women rarely talk to each other about money and I find it such an interesting topic. Personally, I love the organizational aspect of knowing where my money is and balancing my checkbook. I get an odd satisfaction of balancing it to the penny at least once per week. Online banking makes it so easy to keep track of accounts.

  7. Margaret, that's a fantastic point you've made about insufficient income and I agree, it's not fun or interesting if you haven't got enough. But, the way to turn things around is to take an interest. You need to get traction before you see good results and it would take focus and faith to do that first. I like joint accounts and financial decisions because that way there's nothing to hide. I think simplicity is good for all aspects of my life, including finances :)

    Lara, I'm sure I've read that money is right up there in reasons for divorce, and I too am passionate that women would do well to increase their financial knowledge so they at least know what's happening in their own life. I love reading the personal finance pages of a newspaper, mostly online, and I used to read the CNN Money personal finance articles all the time. I'm not sure if they still have the savings/financial success stories though because it was more than a decade ago that I used to do that. I used to print them out and study them, yes, I'm a geek :)

    PP, I love your story so much, thanks for sharing it. I admire that you did what you did as a single mum for your son. Yes, I think often females have an instinctiveness for being thrifty and making the most with what they've got. So funny that your husband is an accountant and he calls you tight :)

    You can certainly make basic but very nutritionally sound meals on little money, and it makes me quite cross when I hear people say 'it's cheaper to get takeaways than make dinner'. No it's not! And think of future health costs too. I think it's more that some who struggle with money were not shown by example when growing up that it is normal to cook dinner at night. It's a cycle that I would love to address. Budget advisors probably are the first point of contact for such people but there is only so much they can teach. I'd love there to be a life skills type course that is freely available to anyone who wanted to take it, teaching budgeting, cooking, running a home etc.

    D, I love talking about personal finance too. I'm sure we all could have started earlier, but we started when we did. And like you say, many are far worse off and may never start. New Zealand's savings rate and household debt is pretty abysmal too. I adore your last paragraph so much, it encapsulates all that I do myself, and love.

    Ratnamurti, thanks for sharing the fascinating story of your dinner companion. I agree, there can be parallels with weight and money. A saying I love to ruminate on is 'the way you do money is the way you do everything'.

    Stephanie, thanks! I know you're on the same page as me, and I do wish it was a more socially acceptable topic to discuss with friends, because I think often we do hide a lot of shame over financial decisions we've made in the past. And with money, for the most part, you can hide it, so it is even more insidious.

    'Sunshine is the best disinfectant' - another of my favourite sayings.

  8. Hi Fiona,
    I just received a copy of your book and am loving it so far. I'm only allowing myself to read a couple of chapters a day so I can savor it! My husband and I are both accountants, so we love tracking our spending!! I've always felt that information is power when it comes to personal finances. It's important to know where you stand so you can make informed decisions. It makes me feel in control each month when I sit down and "do our books". If you stay on top of things regularly, you tend to stay on track. You can make wise purchase decisions because you know where you stand vs. your budget. Accounting can be fun and chic (;

  9. I think this is something a lot of women struggle with. We were told growing up that men were the ones to handle the money, and now that we're adults, that thinking still holds sway- it's too hard, we can't understand it, etc. We can learn, and we should. I've seen a number of women who took a massive financial hit when they got divorced or their husband died, because they didn't know where the money was and how it was handled. Some of them didn't know how to pay bills! It also sets up a dangerous situation for women- when we don't have any control over the money, financial abuse becomes a serious problem.

  10. Wool Fairy, well I can guess that your household budgets will be very well run with two accountants in charge! And I totally agree about accounting being fun and chic, we're on the same page there. Not sure if others would agree though. Inexplicably, some find accounting and budgeting boring ;)

    Aurora, it's true, many grew up with 'dad doing all the financial stuff'. Thank goodness it's changing!


Merci for your comment. Wishing you a chic day!

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