Love Letters to Money

IMG_3414 2-minMoney and I have been in a love/hate relationship for the past 10 years, ever since I graduated from college and entered the “real world.”

During my first year out of school, a store ran my debit card as credit. It was declined for “insufficient funds.” Turns out, I wasn’t just out of Money, I had been out of Money for weeks! Each debit swipe had cost me the price of my purchase plus an additional $25 overdraw fee. By the time my card was declined, I owed Chase Bank a whopping $1,125.

Next came the humiliating phone call to my parents, Dr. And Mrs. Judgmentalstein. I admitted my mistake, they gave me the money to spare eternal $25 overdraw fees, and I promised to never do that again.

But nothing changed.

Ok, so I never did that again.

But I still didn’t take my Money seriously. Instead, I stuck my Money fears in a box. And stuck the box under my bed…for 10 years.

IMG_3417-min

No wonder I was so stuck!

If you want to change your life, you have to take control of it first. 

For me, taking control meant organizing the Box of Responsibility into my personal finances.

Organizing my Money was not easy. It took several weeks of tedious tasks. But now that it’s done, Money doesn’t seem so scary! In fact, life is a lot less stressful (and scary) when you’re not ignoring your fears… and neglecting your hard-earned dollars.

That is, until you quit your corporate job. Bye-bye direct deposit. Hello stress and fear!

But this is my Unsticking! And nothing is going to stop me from conquering my fears and building a better life for myself.

IMG_3418-min

So I’m taking my Money to couples counseling. Our counselor is Jen Sincero, author of You are a Badass at Making Money.

In Chapter 4: Busting Yourself, Sincero instructs to write a letter: Tell Money how you really feel about your relationship.

I wrote two:

1. In the heat of the moment…

April 12, 2018

Dear Money,

I am intimidated by you because you are a prerequisite for everything I want to do and because you have so many stipulations that define our relationship—interest rates, rate of return, APR, compound interest, financing, equity, loans, deductible, Roth, IRA… Why are you so complicated?!

I want us to reach a point in our relationship that we are mutually there for each other. I provide for you an organized and optimized budget, and you continue to pour in.

I have dreams of making a difference! I want to use my voice to entertain and uplift girls and women to be more outspoken and confident. With Justin, it would be amazing if we could grow his business and give back in parts of the world that don’t have the luxury of indoor plumbing.

But I need you, Money. I need you to support me and push me. Together we can do great things.

Love,

Charlotte

 

2. Once I took some time to think (and listen to a bit more of the audiobook)

June 29, 2018

Dear Money,

I’m sorry I’ve been so distant in our relationship. But you never gave up on me! You knew I would get my act together eventually. Without you, I would be stuck forever.

I am grateful that I now recognize how wonderful of a partner you are. With teamwork and a plan (a budget) we can be a power couple!

I will take the time to care for and support you. Because that is what a good partner does. It’s not me alone or me versus you. We are in this together, Money. We are going to work hard, learn new things and create changes.

I trust you to be there when I need you, and I promise to never take you for granted.

I am grateful for everything you do for me, and everything I am able to do because of you.

Are you excited yet, my darling Money?

This is going to be fun!

Love always,

Cha Cha

***

> To learn more about how I organized and digitally optimized 10 years of neglected personal finances, read BOX OF RESPONSIBILITY.

> For the easiest budgeting tool ever, visit youneedabudget.com.

Advertisements

How to Shop Your Face Off on a Budget

Wave HelloHelloooooo! Girl without a job here. If anyone needs to not shop, it’s me.

First of all, I have no income. The money I have today needs to be enough money to pay my rent for the foreseeable future. Second of all, I have a whole closet full of clothes I rarely or never wear

But shopping is so much fun! My favorite part is the buying. I loooooove to buy stuff. What a rush!

Here’s how to shop your face off without feeling guilty for spending money (a necessary evil to buy stuff).

Pretty and Practical Matrix

I love beautiful clothes, but I love feeling comfortable in my own body all day even more. Clothes that are extremely pretty, are often very unpractical for kicking ass at whatever overly ambitious goal you’ve set for yourself. Clothes that are extremely practical are often quite un-pretty.

If you want to get the most spark out of your spending, make a rule: Only purchase items that are pretty AND practical

Next is where to shop.

This morning, my roommate and I shopped our faces off. I spent $60 and bought the following:

  • 1 flannel
  • 1 maxi dress
  • 2 t-shirts
  • 1 tank top
  • 1 long sleeved shirt
  • 1 summer sun dress
  • 1 sweatshirt

Gooooood sh*t too!

L.L.Bean. J. Crew. Madewell. Loft. Vince Camuto.

What explains this retail phenomenon? Goodwill.

If you gotta shop, but you’re on a budget, check out your local thrift stores. You might be surprised by the treasures* you find.

Goodwill Exhibit B.JPG

 

IMG_2524

*Buried treasures hidden amongst the non-desirables. You might have to dig. But when you find a pair of unworn Enzo Angiolini gold foil platforms** in a 6.5 for only $9.99, it’s totally worth it.

**Platforms and/or wedges 1000% more practical than stiletto heels and still pretty damn sexy.

 

***

Day 5

8:45am. Woke up and walked the .25 mile circumference of the park across the street from my apartment.

9am. Read while I ate breakfast.

10am. Shopped my face off at Goodwill (3 different locations)

2:30pm. Lunchtime. More product prep.

4pm. FaceTimed with my long-distance boyfriend.

6pm. Dinnertime. One episode. Watched a 30 minute “school” by Rachel Hollis about branding.

7:30pm. I wrote this post.

 

Day 4: It’s All For You

I just cried for five minutes. Full sobbing, tears running down my face as I crouched knees-to-nose on my couch and clutched my 30 year-old stuffed chimpanzee, E-E.

Blogs are supposed to offer advice. I’m supposed to teach you something: “10 Ways to Wet Your Whistle” or, slightly more applicable, “How to Build Your Own Empowerment Brand.”

But instead, I’m a 33 year-old woman alone in her San Francisco apartment cuddling with her stuffed animal.

Not cute.

No one is going to read a blog about me. My blog has to be about something everyone can relate to. Something that motivates them to rise up and unstick.

Breath.

My blog is about creating and living your truth. It’s about having big dreams and not being afraid to go after them, no matter what any critic or Judgmentalstein may say to bring you down. It’s about following your heart, even when your head and stomach are aching with anxiety. It’s about being human. Being a woman. Being vulnerable yet brave, confident yet overwhelmed, and challenging yourself to create the reality YOU want most.

This blog is for everyone who has ever felt stuck in the circumstances of their life. It’s a blog about making changes, and the inevitable ups, downs, highs, lows, twists and turns that follow. It’s a blog about not giving up on yourself.

Unsticking isn’t easy. But we are in this together. You, me…and E-E.

***

Sometimes you just have to cry. Sometimes (about every 29 days or so) you wake up in the morning and your body feels achy, heavy and exhausted. (Ladies, you know what I’m talkin’ about.)

How do you get through it? Cry. (And maybe pop some aspirin.) Get whatever negativity, angst, fear and overwhelm that is inside of you out. Cry like you mean it, because you do. 

Almost always, I feel better after I’ve cried. It’s as if the tears have cleansed me in some way. Or, perhaps it’s because following the release, I am able to reflect and gain a better understanding of why.

Today I cried because I didn’t know what my purpose was. But then I realized, it’s all for you.

***

 

8am. Woke up and walked the .25 mile circumference of the park across the street from my apartment. Popped some aspirin to help pacify the shockwaves as my insides convulsed.

9am. Product research for my first business venture, SparkitGirl.com. Ample effort to not get overwhelmed with the amount of work to be done: product selection, image retouching, product descriptions, marketing content…

12am. Exercise. Shower.

1pm. Lunchtime. More product prep. More aspirin.

3pm. Drove to Target to buy coffee, dental floss and tampons.

4pm. Tried to get back to work but started crying instead. Decided to read Rachel Hollis for some words of encouragement. She’s right! I can do anything I put my mind to. (She also encouraged me to make more of an effort to include images with my posts, hence the photo op.)

4:30pm. I wrote this post.

 

Day 3: Keep Calm

I came up with the tagline, KEEP CALM AND CHA CHA ON, in October 2010. I had just been laid off from my job, thus losing the lifeline of my twenty-six-year-old autonomy, money. All I wanted was to move to California, away from my parents, Dr. and Mrs. Judgmentalstein.*

Unfortunately, I couldn’t move to California. At least, not right away. First, I had to finish my master’s degree at New York University. —I know. It sounds completely pretentious. But that doesn’t make it any less true. Plus, that time was toxic. 

Anyway, I started using it as a mantraKeep Calm and Cha Cha On. —For brevity, I will skip evidentiary examples of the forces I was up against during my last 10 months on the east coast. In short, Keep Calm and Cha Cha On helped me to keep calm and keep going.

So one day,

I updated my Facebook status: Keep Calm and Cha Cha On. 

My mother commented: Are you ok?!

I replied: Yes Mother. It’s a tagline!

That was the end of the exchange, both on Facebook and IRL (in real life). She never mentioned it again. Not even to comment on how silly (and genius) of a tagline it was! Tough crowd. But then again, you don’t get a nickname like Judgmentalstein for taking things lightly.

What’s the point? Well, I have a few. (In No Particular Order of Importance)

— My name is Charlotte. Friends and family call me Cha Cha.

Keep Calm and Cha Cha On means keep calm and do your thing. Trust yourself. You go girl! You got this. — It’s a tagline!… though, come to think of it, it might be more of a catch phrase. Sorry, mom. 

— Keep Calm. The mantra means just as much today as in 2008. I don’t know what the fuck is about to happen. But I do know that I’m going to keep cha cha-ing.— Whatever that may mean. We are about to find out together.

I don’t need a corporate job for survival or validation. I am smart, damn it! I am smart and funny, and I definitely have what it takes in both creativity and talent to not only entertain people, but also make them think a little bit too. (People don’t take the time to think anymore. Have you noticed that?)

I believe in my gut, in my heart and in my head that the one thing that has truly kept me stuck, numbed in nine-to-five and stalled from showing the world what I’ve got, the only thing, was time.

And now? Baby, I’ve got time. I’ve got nothing but time. Time to have ideas. Time to follow through. Time to advance.

One day at a time. You’re doing great. 

Keep calm and cha cha on.

 

*Judgmentalstein is not their real last name. It’s a joke. *:p

 

***

 

8am. Woke up and walked the .25 mile circumference of the park across the street from my apartment.

9am. Product research for my first business venture, SparkitGirl.com.

11am. Fiverr.com research for a SparkitGirl. Hired a graphic designer via Fiverr for $16 to create my logo. She will deliver her first draft on Friday!

1pm. Product research.

5:45pm. Dinner. One episode.

7pm. Sat down to write this post.

Day 2: Confession

I am addicted to the Real Housewives of New York City.

The entire series (minus the current season) streams on Hulu, one episode ends and the next begins.

I like the background noise. I spend a lot of time alone, especially now that I don’t have a job to report to each day.—Though truth be told, toward the end of my corporate tenure I was listening to the episodes through my earbuds as they streamed on my phone, face down on my desk. It was a way of passing the time. I did the same thing with reruns of Sex and the City in 2008 at my first corporate job. Ten years of numbing myself with melodramatic girly bullshit instead of taking initiative to change my dissatisfying circumstances.—The familiar episodes are comforting, but not demanding. I can drift in and out of the room without missing a plot twist. With over 150 episodes, the stream is steady.

The crazy thing is that I already know what happens! I’ve watched the series since the it started. I was living in New York then (in the same Brooklyn neighborhood as one of the original Housewives, thank you very much).

But now it is time to get shit done! I need to turn the Housewives off.

That’s why I am writing this here. The first step is admitting you have a problem. Hello, my name is Charlotte, and I am addicted to the Real Housewives of New York City.

But even if when I quit, the problem will still persist that I don’t like the silence. I need something that can stream constantly that won’t distract from my tasks at hand. Music of course is better than TV, but what music?! Classical doesn’t work. I’ve tried it and feel like an impostor. Nothing too pop or familiar. A foreign language perhaps…

So I’m working on that. Suggestions welcome.

***

Topic 2 of this Day 2 post is what I did today (besides watch the RHNY). Each day I want to share how I am using my hours to accomplish my unsticking feat. As this blog progresses, so too will my presentation. But for now, it’s about getting it out there, as rough as it may be. 

9am: I woke up. Got dressed and left my apartment to find a $73 parking ticket on my newly acquired car. Lesson learned: Street cleaning Mondays from 8am-10am. Can’t park there.

10am: Drove downtown to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and paid $109 for an 8-week parking pass (this would not have saved me from the ticket, but it will save me from having to move my car every 2 hours).

11am: Arrived back home and made breakfast. Watched an episode while updating my budget to include my morning expenses.

12pm-4pm: Posted on Upwork.com for a graphic designer to create a logo for my new brand (more on this later). Activated my Shopify.com subscription (also more on this later). Began initial set up of my online store, including payment, shipping and checkout settings.

4pm: Exercised. Showered.

5pm: Read outside for about 30 minutes until the wind picked up and I got too chilly. I need to read about 100% more than I do if I’m ever going to accomplish anything.

6pm: Dinnertime. Another episode.

And that brings us to now.

 

Day 1. The Grand Gesture

Let Me Out I’m Stuck!

Did I mention those were my first words as a baby? No, really! I was almost two and completely mute. My parents were beginning to believe I was not only deaf, but dumb too. And then, one day, I spoke, “Let me out I’m stuck.”

Thirty-some years later, that request has yet to be fulfilled.

But that’s the thing about life, if you want something done, you have to do it yourself. So this is it! The official start of my unsticking. I’m gettin’ out.

I’m starting a whole new life, the way I want to live it. 

Three weeks ago, I quit my day job.

Without the safety net of a secure paycheck and benefits, I have no choice but to create my own net. I’ve always worked best under pressure. And what better pressure than the insistent knowledge that if I don’t do something, I WILL run out of money?

For the past three weeks, I’ve basked in my unwavering commitment to this grand gesture toward freedom, quitting my job. I spent most of my time outside, using yard work to detox from ten years of computer-focused, 9-5 days.

Yes, I am terrified. But not of failing. The thought of dedicating my life to dissatisfying, time-consuming corporate jobs with limited vacation time if far scarier to me than jumping off the metaphorical cliff into self-employment.

I am terrified…of starting. There is so much to do!—from formulating a business plan to creating a brand to figuring out what I’m gonna do about health insurance. The first steps are many and overwhelming.

***

I know I have had a few false starts on this blog. (Most of that can be attributed to the fact that I was stuck in a soul-sucking job that depleted my creative energy faster than I could muster it.) But this time is for real. This is where I will share my daily progress, goals, defeats, triumphs, emotions and everything else that comes with unsticking one’s self.

Today I’m easing into things (it is Sunday after all). My goals (now complete) were twofold:

1. Update my budget using YNAB (You Need A Budget). Now that I’ve received my last paycheck, I have to track where I am dropping each dollar. No refills are coming in the immediate future.

2. Post here. Get this ball rolling.

Work in Progress

I just overthink things.

Analytical. Silly. Articulate. Witty. Long winded.

Thoughts about my thoughts. I wish you could hear me thinking out loud.

But you can’t. So it is up to me to organize my thoughts and write them here. And hope that they capture your attention enough to read a little more.

This will take time. I’ve never liked waiting.

But the time will pass either way. Might as well have progress to show for it.

You’re excited now! What will happen? Time will tell.

It always does.