"I am awful with money."

I just saw that headline in the YNAB forums. “No, you aren’t,” I thought to myself (before clicking in to read the poster’s comments).

Be careful with what you say you are; it impacts how you feel – which impacts what you do.

You aren’t “awful with money” – you’ve made financial decisions that increased your stress and limited your options.

When you say “I’m awful,” you’re applying the verb “to be” incorrectly. “To be” describes a permanent (or near-permanent) characteristic. “I’m American.”

Managing money is something you do, not something you are. Maybe you’ve done it poorly. I managed money poorly from ages 21 to 33, producing debt, stress, and conflict. But I was a good person* the whole time I was managing money badly.

Budgeting with YNAB gave me better information about my finances and allowed me to understand my true expenses. I used my new understanding to improve my decisions. Better decisions have reduced the stress and conflict in my life and given me more options. It is that simple.

Money stirs up some serious emotions in all of us (including me). As you transition from a poorly-informed money manager to a fine-tuned budgeting machine, go easy on yourself. You’re a good person who’s learning to use better information to make better decisions.

By the way, “better decisions” doesn’t mean “and then I never stepped foot in a restaurant again.” It means “I use my money to my real benefit a much higher percentage of the time.” 🙂

*Forgive the unrelated aside, but here’s an interesting social experiment: Approach friends and family and ask them one question: “Are you a good person?” Then, watch them squirm. This is entertaining, but tragic. A person who sincerely tries to do right by himself and those around him has no reason to reply with anything but a calm “Yes.” And yet, the squirming. To take this experiment to another level, stand in the mirror and say “I am a good person.” Listen to your own mental response (squirming). Interesting, right?