Fighting and finances: Airing dirty laundry

I came across an article this past week that spoke to me and pointed out something to me that I hadn’t considered. I’ve always known that my disdain for money was linked to growing up as a working-class kid with parents who fought every Friday, as that was the day the bills were sorted out. The article on my mind, One Indicator Of Massive Credit Card Debt Is How Often Your Parents Argue About Moneytalks about how college students are more likely to carry credit card debt when they grew up with parents who openly fought about money.

I’ve thought a lot about this article since I read it. Today I have been thinking about it quite a bit. You see, I’m “supposed” to sit down and pay my bills today. I have many of them on auto-pay to avoid the actual act of paying my bills. I have a history of waiting until the last minute, and sometimes forgetting altogether, to pay my bills, so the auto-pay option is really helpful. However, there are a few bills that still require an active payment. I also need to monitor my checking account to be sure that bills are being paid in the right order and amount, as well as to find out how much to put into savings (which I still need to start back up after a financially difficult summer) and what I have for spending money. Finances and managing them.

Despite the fact that I make enough money to budget out and pay my bills on time and likely pay them off sooner, I hate it. Even getting everything set up and put in one place causes such anxiety for me and my continual strategy is to avoid doing it all at once. I tend to pay my bills online as they come due instead of taking two days out of the month to just pay what needs to be paid. I don’t have a calculated budget. I don’t balance my checkbook. Of course I know what I have in the bank and can approximate what is going to be due; however, I don’t have it on paper as a plan. That thought really scares me – both the making of the plan and the having one at all. I can’t help but trace  this anxiety back to the fact that I have been programmed to believe that paying bills is negative. How else am I to view it when it was never a normal routine… it only normalized fighting?

The funny thing is that I’m good with budgets at work. The fact that monitoring the budget is my job and that I know there is a plan in place already helps to keep things on track. I don’t have the least bit of anxiety about that budgeting… it’s just my own that gets my gut in a knot.

So, perhaps this could be a cautionary tale for parents, perhaps it’s a wake-up call for me “written out loud”, but a) I urge parents to consider how they talk about money with other responsible adults in the house, as well as with their children, and b) I urge those with high levels of debt, avoidance of finance issues, or even a reluctance to spend on what you need to consider where that comes from and challenge it.

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