I wish the opposite of “mo’ money, mo’ problems” really was “no money, no problems.” But let’s face it, it’s more like “no money, real problems.” I’ve never had the best relationship with finances, yet thankfully I’ve always had a squirrel fund or — in recent (relative) tough times — friends and family I could lean on for help when needed. Mostly my “real problems,” when it comes to money and finances, is about the mind games of it all.
Earlier this year, I left a very stable relationship. My partner not only made good money, he was extremely supportive of me (he even signed the lease to my new place because I was not good on paper) and kept us financially organized every month. He applied for a joint credit card, which he paid off on time every month. He created a detailed spreadsheet and diligently plugged in all the numbers at the end of every month. In essence, he was the responsible one — and not just when it came to money.
Being left to my own devices for the first time in nearly 12 years is scary. Even before my marriage ended, I’d already developed another unhealthy relationship…with my finances. I tapped my credit card for everything. I turned a blind eye on bills. I forever racked up interest fees. And I didn’t have a budget. Not to mention my messy finances as a small business. Yup, as a freelancer making over a certain amount of money, I had to register as a business, which came with its own fun responsibilities. Note to sarcasm.
Then I was introduced to Chantel Chapman.
Mogo Money’s financial fitness coach and credit score expert, Chantel listened to me stutter through my situation and then told it to me straight — I was making a bigger deal than I needed to. She told me to think about my financial sitch like a messy closet. The idea of cleaning it up is always more stressful than actually cleaning it up. Basically, personal finances is one big mind game — one that isn’t even that hard to win.
The first thing Chantel got me to do was download the MogoApp. Once I signed up, I got my credit score — for free. And it wasn’t the greatest. In fact…it was literally categorized as poor. And yet Chantel was optimistic. I ended up paying for a detailed Equifax credit report and it turned out that my mind made up a slew of reasons as to why my credit score was so low. I thought it was due to late payments, open credit cards and some unnamed fears lurking in the background. The reality? I forgot to pay $1 — that’s right… ONE DOLLAR — on a credit card that I closed earlier this year.
Lesson No. 1
But it doesn’t matter if it’s one dollar or a thousand left on a credit card, it’s still recorded as a late payment due. That means, my score had been decreasing slowly since April without me even realizing it. Lesson No. 1? Man up and know exactly what’s going on with your accounts. Don’t sweep them under the cover because you’re too afraid to deal with life.
With step one out of the way (a blunt assessment of my current financial situation), I’m now ready for step two. Budgeting. But before we get into that, do me (and yourself) a favour and sign up to get your free credit score. It might prompt you to dig a little deeper and find some innocent mistake that’s fucking up your finances. Let’s adult for a second and get our lives on track together. Unless you’re already five steps ahead of me, which I hope you are.