Money Talks, So Should You

Money Coach: 10 things I’ve learned about managing money

Money Coach
by Money Coach , Dimespring Contributor  (@CarrieBirgbauer)

OK, I have three big announcements:

  1. It’s the three-year anniversary for NY Money Coach!
  2. It’s my one-year anniversary in New York City!
  3. I’m engaged!

READ: The financial benefits of being a pessimist

Let’s celebrate. As a thank you to everyone who believed in me along the way, and whispered “You can do it” in my darkest moments of entrepreneurial (and dating) despair, here are the top 10 lessons I received from six years of practicing the money coaching process.

No. 10 — Inaccurate account balances, multiple accounts and credit card use contribute to magical thinking. “Money Fog” was the source of my persistent anxiety and dysfunctional relationship with money. Not knowing how much I had, how much I was earning, or where my money was going created a severe disability in my twenties that affected many areas of my life. It’s never too late to cut cards, reorganize and get current. Let’s call it the courage to subtract.

No. 9 — There are three basic reasons people overspend: unexpected expenses, underestimated expenses or emotional spending. As I became curious and interested in why I do what I do, I started connecting the dots between my behaviors, family history, and long-standing beliefs. That’s when things really started to shift.

No. 8 — Swiping the card is not an expression of financial freedom. There are consequences and being an integrated adult means considering the future and how things might feel after saying, “Yes!”

SLIDESHOW: 5 easy ways to cut wedding costs

No. 7 — Daily spending is connected to the big picture of your financial well-being. It’s all connected. At the root, it’s about aligning your spending and earning with your values.

No. 6 — Your wallet, a.k.a. cash, is an account. Think about it. Your wallet has an ongoing fluctuating balance, withdrawals and deposits just like your other accounts. Tracking your cash is an advanced, but achievable level of financial consciousness.

No. 5 — Prince Charming is, in fact, not coming. He is a fairytale  a belief that a man, parent, employer, inheritance or other outside force will save you from your financial woes. Since learning that distinction, I am much happier and more satisfied with a healthy and sustainable relationship with money than I would be if I were still waiting to be rescued.

No. 4 — Rewiring is possible. Ask for help. Be honest. Connect. Take suggestions. Forgive. Make amends. Read. Write. Reflect. Share.

No. 3 — Codependency does not help you reach your financial goals. I cannot tell you how many times I overpaid, over-tipped, over-gifted, overcompensated, underestimated, underearned and didn’t ask. I chronically prioritized other people’s needs over my own. Not only my self-esteem, but also my finances suffered because of it. It turns out that “No” is a complete sentence.

INFOGRAPHIC: Personal finance cheat sheet

No. 2 — Automatic downloads are bad. I surrendered my need for financial control at different points in time to Quicken and then to Mint. These platforms might work well for certain people under certain circumstances. However, if you are trying to gain control of your financial life for the first time or after a major transition and need to know exactly what happens to your money on a daily and monthly basis, having an algorithm sort and file your expenses for you isn’t going to get you the results you need.

No. 1 — Being empowered with skills, tools and an intellectual foundation about finances is sexy. I’m not sure where I got the idea that being good with money was boring or uncool, but now I realize that becoming fully self-supporting and getting my money house entirely in order was absolutely necessary for attracting a good (and I mean amazing!) man.

BIG TAKEAWAY   Feeling out of control about money? Here’s the most powerful antidote I found along the way. The essential first step is to track every transaction in every account. Auto-pays, debits, checks, credit card purchases, cash  all of it. Forever? Maybe not. For me? Definitely. It depends on your personality type and just how thick the fog is. Curious what would happen if you tried it? I thought so.

READ: Three financial habits to develop in your 20s

Here’s how.

  1. Choose your modality: app, classic checkbook, pen and paper, or even a small notebook.
  2. Set up each (and every) active account separately: checking, joint, basic savings, cash.
  3. Note the starting balance.
  4. Start writing everything down. It’s about going to any lengths – collecting receipts, pausing at the checkout counter, and double checking online.
  5. Maintain an accurate and current balance every day.

Take these five steps and then maintain steps four and five for 30 days and your financial life will change. Mine did, so yours can too. Just be grateful that I’m not assigning you a 30-day cash-only diet like the one I had to go on, OK?


Carrie Birgbauer is a certified money coach and a former kindergarten teacher, chief of staff, college tennis player and yoga instructor. She has completed the intensive financial counselor training program at the Financial Recovery Institute and has started her own holistic money coaching practice. Birgbauer helps professional individuals, families and small business owners take control of their daily finances.