Budgeting is key to achieving financial independence, and at first glance, it seems like a simple solution to a complex issue. By understanding your monthly inflows and outflows, you can easily identify where you’re spending too much and cut down on your expenses or you may decide to pursue a side hustle for extra income.
But as you go through the process of taking control of your financial life, many things will come up. This is an unavoidable part of the process, and it is the number one reason why budgets fail.
In today’s episode, Dylan discusses the emotional excavation that goes along with budgeting and how you can overcome your feelings about money.
- [02:15] Why budgeting can bring up feelings of fear
- [07:02] Why budgeting can bring up intergenerational issues
- [09:09] Other emotions that budgeting can bring up
- [19:57] Why budgeting is an ongoing process
- [21:17] Attachment issues, according to Duey’s Freeman attachment cycle
[00:00:00] Intro: Forget the civilized path. It’s time to break the chains of debt and dependency, take control of our financial lives, and live free. This is the Fiscally Savage Podcast.
[00:00:15] Dylan Bain: Hello and welcome to Fiscally Savage. I’m your host, Dylan Bain. And today, I want to tell you about a time where I am sitting at my computer excited about my new job. I’ve left public accounting and I’m so ready to start in this new environment as an industry auditor. And I need a new pair of shoes so I’m at my computer and I’ve picked out the pair of shoes that I want and they are perfect. They are just right and exactly what I want. And I hover over the button to click buy and suddenly, my finger won’t physically click the button. I am paralyzed. I can’t do it. And I’m sitting here trying to get my finger to just do one last thing and then I can have these shoes. And I’m starting to sweat bullets and I’m starting to shake and I’m having a massive emotional reaction. And I’m struggling because why is this happening? I mean, it’s just a pair of shoes. I’ve got the money. And then suddenly, I’m transported back to when I’m 16 years old and my mother is yelling at me because I had had one pair of shoes to go to school and to work on construction crews and to train for wrestling and all the things and they had rotted off my feet and now I needed a new pair and I’m being yelled at because she’s upset by this. And it’s not like we didn’t have the money. My father had bought her a car for her birthday out of his cash. And so, I’m now struggling and realizing that I can’t buy the shoes today because of what had happened to me when I was 16 years old.
[00:02:15] Ladies and gentlemen, I tell that story because when you start getting your financial house in order, you’re going to start budgeting and budgeting is emotional excavation. As you go through the process of taking control of your financial life and starting to live your life for you on your own terms, there’s going to be a lot of things that come up. This is an unavoidable part of the process and in my estimation, ladies and gentlemen, it is the number one reason why the process of budgeting fails. People fail, not in the budgeting, not in understanding what to do, not in the arts and crafts, but in the emotional excavation that goes along with it. Because just like my shoe story at the top of the show, there are all sorts of things that you’re going to uncover about yourself and your past and the people around you while you are doing this process. In my case, the shoe story illustrates a fear and fear is something that comes up a lot with budgeting because we’re afraid of scarcity. We have inside of us a whole host of stories of which fear is one. There are many and we’re gonna go over more. But this fear specifically is around the idea that we don’t deserve to have these things and if we have them, we’re somehow putting ourselves in danger.
[00:03:39] And in the case of the shoes for me, I mean, just like picture this. I’m a 16-year-old boy. I mean, I don’t know if you’ve been around 16-year-old boys but they’re kind of like bottomless pits of food and energy and like they’re just throwing like weeds and I was certainly no exception. I mean, I had gotten that pair of shoes and they were a pair of white Reeboks. They were the cheapest shoes and they were — I didn’t want them. I wanted a different pair of shoes and more to the point, I wanted a pair of work boots because not only was I working on construction crews for my uncle at the time doing stick-built construction, but I also knew that I’d be going up to summer camp and I was gonna be staff at the summer camp. And given my size and my abilities, I typically got sent out to bring in hay from those hay fields. The summer camp had 40 horses and they produced their own hay to feed those horses. And so, I would spend a lot of time out in the field so I asked for a pair of work boots and I was told, no, we can’t afford that. And that was a lie flat-out. I don’t think my mother was intentionally lying to me but she was in fact telling me something that was not true because we had traveled to the store. It was a Kohl’s, if you were interested. And we’d traveled to the store in the car that my father had purchased for her with cash. Now, I grew up in this weird amalgamation of blue-collar living where I worked on construction crews and I threw hay and I threw feed corn and all sorts of stuff. And at the same time, I mean, this is the nineties and, you know, my father was a mortgage banker and he was doing quite well for himself. He was running multiple offices and his business was booming. This wasn’t the first time my father had done that for my mom. And so, the idea that I couldn’t afford a pair of shoes was just ludicrous. And yet that fear is there and present and was instilled in me at that time.
[00:05:32] And we have fears around all sorts of things. Debt, loss, our ability to provide — those are all fears that come into this budgeting thing because when you start budgeting, you start understanding kind of where your limits are. I have literally watched people starve themselves because they’re afraid of taking on any debt. I have watched people continue to work in dead-end entry-level jobs simply because while they can see the valence of going back to school and actually getting a degree, whether it’s going to a trade school or whether it’s going to a traditional four-year institution or getting an associate’s degree or any of this stuff, they’re so afraid of the idea of debt that they won’t do it. And there’s also the fear of loss because once we start budgeting, we might realize we’re living real close to the edge and we start to understand that we could lose everything if this all hiccups. And so, the response to that is then to just, well, I just won’t look at it because then if I don’t look at it, then I don’t have to feel the fear. And then, of course, you know, I will never experience a loss. That’s what our emotional brain tells us. Our logic brain knows better. But evolutionarily speaking, that emotional brain? It developed first. It arrived on the scene before the logic brain did and it got the driver’s seat so it’s driving the car. And there’s also the idea that when you start budgeting, you suddenly understand I couldn’t last very long without a paycheck. And so, now suddenly your job becomes more critical and these are things that you’re going to work through because there’s a flip side to all of this.
[00:07:02] Let me give you another example of something that you might excavate while you’re doing your budgeting process: intergenerational issues. This one is huge. The number of times — and stop me if this song and dance sounds familiar to you or maybe you do it yourself — but the number of times in which I’ve had somebody come into my coaching practice and say something along the lines of, “Well, I wanna provide my kids the opportunities I never had” or “Well, my father just spent all the money and they argued about it all the time and they thought we didn’t see” or “Well, we grew up with nothing so I can’t possibly have less.” All of those are intergenerational issues. Your parents taught you something that you have carried forward and it doesn’t reside in the logic brain because I can sit here and argue with it. Like I’m married to a PhD-level engineer. Like of all the people in the world who should be convinced by data and logical statements, it’s my wife. And I will promise you — now, men, if you’re listening to this, take it from me. Presenting your wife with data during an argument is a one-way ticket to the couch because they’re not going to be convinced and I speak from personal experience. I mean, I’ve never claimed I was perfect on the show. But the point that we’re getting to is that that intergenerational issues carry forward. If you’re like, well, I’m nothing like my parents. I do the exact opposite. Well, my brothers and sisters in finance, I got some bad news for you. If you’re doing the exact opposite of your parents, you’re still letting your parents call the show. And the secret here is if they were doing that because of their grandparents, well, guess what? Not only are your parents calling the show, it’s not even really them. It’s your grandparents. And this chain can stretch back multiple generations where there are stories that are so heavily instilled typically from a place of scarcity and fear into each generation that it becomes almost part of your generational identity, where you’re starting to actually like, oh my God. Like, well, we’re a insert family surname here and that’s just how we are. Like, come on, guys. This is easy to see.
[00:09:09] Guilt and shame are another one that you’re gonna be excavating — guilt because you have something and you’ve been shamed at some point, which is where of course guilt and shame are linked. But you’re shamed for having needs. Now, the example that I always use because it’s really easy to see is the kid in the grocery store in the line asking for candy. Well, why are they asking for candy? Because they like candy, because it’s joyous, and because at some point they were given the candy and they like it. The packaging on the candy wrappers is designed to look attractive to children. Like the colors are purposefully selected to trigger certain evolutionary responses and then their parents tell them like, ah, you’re always so greedy. Well, okay. Well, now, that kid just learned their needs equate with the negative idea of greed. Not exactly a great place to be. And so, as you’re looking at this, you say to yourself, I’m budgeting now but oh my God, I spend so much money on this thing that I really love. Coffee’s the example I always use. Like life is too short for bad brew, my brothers and sisters, so like drink the coffee that edifies you as a person. Don’t feel guilt and shame about that. But the budgeting is this opportunity for you to really look at this and examine why do I feel shame about this in the first place?
[00:10:27] And another thing that will come up is anxiety. When you start looking at your finances, I mean, I think it’s very natural when you understand that the life you lead is built on your financial reality, then of course you’re gonna be anxious about it. And the problem that I see a lot is there are like two types of anxiety. There’s the anxiety of the people who are like terrified that they don’t know what to do, right, so therefore they’re just not gonna do anything. And so, it’s like this: they know the tiger’s out there in the jungle somewhere. They just don’t know where. And I can go over there with a flashlight and be like, there is no tiger over here but it’s not convincing. There’s the other side of the people who are anxious because they understand their situation a little too well but they don’t know what to do about it. And in both of these cases, anxiety that we carry in our bodies into the situations in which we are a part of, they’re attacks on your presence.
[00:11:22] And this reminds me of a conversation that I was having with a couple very early in my coaching practice where they were just distracted. Like they — I am sitting down with them and we’re halfway through our hour together and I just looked and I said, what’s going on? And we started talking about some very intimate issues in their marriage — of the bedroom variety. And it occurs to me, we’re like, okay. Well, I gotta talk to the guy because the accusation is he’s checked out. Then I asked him, I said, look. What’s going on? He then like breaks down and tells me that he sat down and he realizes how much credit card debt he has and he doesn’t see a way out of it. Okay. Well, now, we got to the core conversation that we need to be having with this couple. But his partner, his wife, picked up on this because he was checked out because in the back of his head there’s the tick, tick, tick of the interest going on the credit card debt. Anxiety’s attacks on your presence and the people in your life, they know.
[00:12:19] Like one of the things with all of these, with emotional excavation, it’s an excavation because people bury it down deep and then they hope that if they don’t look at it, it’ll go away. The problem, of course, is that we all see it. Like this is literally the state of play. It’s not buried. You just refuse to look at it and that doesn’t mean that it’s inert either. It plays out in your day-to-day life. And budgeting’s an opportunity for a conversation about this excavation because everything I just said applies to you twice and your partner once because you gotta make sure that you are dealing with your own stuff before you go and you look at your partner. So, it’s you twice your partner once but understand that he or she will be dealing with these things as well. And part of your job if you’re in a dedicated relationship is to hold the space so that you can be there with them in that moment. And just let that set in for a second. Budgeting is an emotional excavation. You’re gonna find shit you didn’t know you had. Lord knows I found a lot.
[00:13:24] Budgeting is also your invitation to learn and heal. And let’s just go through each one of those things that we might be pulling up point by point. Fear. If one of the things you excavate is fear, well, let’s just stop with it. If you had a young child who was afraid, what is the number one thing you can do to nurture and nourish that child? You reassure them that you’re in control and that you’re gonna control everything you can. And no matter what happens, you’re gonna be there with them. You need that, too. You deserve that, too. And you’re the person who needs to give it to yourself. One thing that it’s not an invitation to do is to sit there and be like, no. You shouldn’t be afraid. Like I don’t know about you but that’s never worked for me or anyone else I know. It’s time for us to show up for ourselves now. And your budgeting process will reveal that fear and now you can do it and you’re not gonna get it right the first time but you’re going to go a lot further by giving it a shot than you will by doing nothing.
[00:14:27] Let’s talk about those intergenerational issues. Intergenerational issues are interesting because particularly here in the United States, one of the questions that I had a lot when I grew up was like, well, what are you? And what they were meaning was like, are you German? Are you Irish? Are you blah, blah, blah? Well, okay, so I use German and Irish because that’s actually my heritage. It’s a little more complicated than that because I’m an American so we’re all mutts. But people focus on that and they focus on that because at some point in our past, the differentiation between those different ethnicities was really important. Like to my grandparents growing up in our little corner of southeastern Wisconsin, the difference between the Irish family and the German family was like a really big thing. But by the time you get to my generation, it wasn’t. But then again, who taught me about myself and about how to hold a sense of myself? Well, my parents. Well, who taught my parents? Well, my grandparents. Well, who taught my grandparents? Well, the people who came to this country and had to suffer discrimination based upon their ethnicity. Okay. So, we’re seeing this cascade down and one of the things that I’ve learned about myself, particularly in this arena, is I never say, well, when people ask me like, what’s your ethnic background? I never say, well, I’m Irish because I have about as much in common with the Irish as I do with the Chinese, which is to say very little. What I do say is, well, I’m an American. And if they wanna find a point on it, well, I’m a Great Lakes American because that’s the region of the country I grew up in. What that means, ladies and gentlemen, is that I’ve separated myself from that intergenerational identity. I have self-differentiated into who I wish to be and how I wish to navigate. And it’s in a more real sense, right? Like I grew up in southeastern Wisconsin. There are generations of my family going back over a hundred years in that area. We all speak English and we all speak, I mean, you maybe can’t identify it in this podcast but if I just talk about a bagel, everybody’s immediately gonna hear that I still have elements of my Midwestern accent to this day. And so, I am still self-differentiating to be more real to the reality that I’m in and I’m letting go of something called enmeshment. Enmeshment is when the boundaries within a family system or relationship don’t exist. You become enmeshed with the other person. And we do this with family systems all the time. Your money’s a great place to go find this because, you know, you might have an intergenerational identity issue going on that you’re entirely enmeshed in. And if not for self-differentiation, that intergenerational part of your past is gonna continue to call the shots for you today.
[00:17:10] Let’s talk about guilt and shame ’cause they’re huge. I mean, how many of us have been told we’re not allowed to have needs, and if we do get our needs met, we should feel bad about it because somehow it was a zero-sum game, which is not at all how it works? But we carry these with us. But the ticket out of guilt and shame is self-compassion, both for your past mistakes and for the hopes for the future. It’s coming from loving yourself because where does the guilt and shame come from? It comes from your past. It was pushed onto you by your parents or your communities or the context you grew up in. It’s not yours. It was just something someone else gave you. Self-compassion is your ticket out of that shame to say, well, yes. I might have made mistakes in the past and I’m making new mistakes now, which means I’m growing, which is what we were all put on this earth to do — to grow and to flourish. And I’m doing that. And so, you start living your life for you and so long as you’re in alignment with your actual self-differentiated true sense of yourself, live without apology. Just live without apology.
[00:18:17] And lastly, anxiety. When people are feeling anxious, this is one of these interesting things that when I look out from where I sit in the world, people say, oh my God, I have anxiety. It’s a diagnosis. Well, okay. Well, if you have a diagnosis, in my mind, the diagnosis should generate a treatment plan and the treatment plan should help alleviate or eliminate the diagnosis. Well, if you’re feeling anxious, what’s the best way to do it? In our current state, people just medicate you because of course they’re gonna always sell you a solution. But I don’t think that’s actually the way to go because particularly when it comes to your money issues, the anxiety’s coming because you probably don’t have a full handle on it and a solution to that is to build a budget, make a plan, clear away your debt, build a cushion, have a plan for when things go wrong, and manage what you can and let the rest of it go. Once you’re brilliant in the basics, you’ll be shocked at how much anxiety just starts to dissolve once you go through the hard work of actually clearing away your debt, building a cushion, having a plan, and managing the variables within your control. That’s really what it comes down to. All of these are only going to be healed when you take the time to learn about yourself and learn about where they came from and then face them head on. There isn’t a way to avoid it. There isn’t a way to run away from it. So, your choices are that you can face these with self-love and self-compassion and heal these to move on to a better, more self-differentiated version of yourself or you can just keep doing what you’re doing and let them run all over the place. Like those are basically the options.
[00:19:57] And my last point on this is to understand that budgeting is an ongoing process. Last week and the last week before that, we’ve talked about how to build a budget — creating a vision, living out the budgetary process. It’s a living document that exists from week to week. It’s a conversation to have with yourself and your partner. It’s an emotional experience. It’s an ongoing process. The way in which you approach your finances today will not be the way you approach your finances in five years. I will promise you that. When you dedicate yourself to this, it’s gonna look very different because every self-improvement path, more or less, has very similar hero’s journey-like stories that go along with them. The person who loses a massive amount of weight is not doing the same shit five years later. They’ve evolved. And the thing about it is is that even in the cases of weight loss, even in the cases of fighting addiction, even in the cases of getting your financial house in order, some people will fight the process because they’re enmeshed, because they have not self-differentiated, because they’re invested in the current state for some reason. And, again, this is where compassion really needs to be a part of the conversation because no, it doesn’t make logical sense. But the logic brain doesn’t get a say here. The emotional brain is the one driving the car.
[00:21:17] And you can see and I did an entire episode — link to that in the show notes — talking about the Freeman attachment cycle. So many maladies that come out in society are attachment issues. My mentor loves to say that all the time — that the maladies we see in society are really just attachment issues. Overspending is a cope. And how many people will overspend to make themselves feel better because of insecurity or they wanna feel validated? This is the retail therapy. Ah, just go out and buy a new dress and you’re gonna feel great. And then the validation, of course, is like all the lifestyle things. Like there’s always this meme that goes around of like the guy in the pickup truck with the shades and the hat and he’s got the goatee. Like all of that. Like, okay. If you have that like, hey, man. Good for you. I’m really glad you do. But also like think about why we have certain things is it’s a validation tool. I mean, the same goes on the other side of the political spectrum with the people who are walking around with their kombucha and they’re vegan and they got the messenger bag with all the patches on it. Like same thing. It’s validation because of attachment issues because they’re afraid of abandonment. Difficulty setting boundaries is another attachment issue. If I set boundaries, then people won’t want or need me. If I set boundaries, then I won’t be loved. That’s right here with money. If I don’t let them spend the money, then I can’t be loved. If I spend the money on the candy or I don’t spend the money on the candy, I’ve somehow done something bad for my kid. Like these are boundaries that need to be set and you’re having trouble with it. That’s an attachment issue. And then, of course, there’s the unequal power dynamics. A lot of couples that come into the coaching practice have one or the other where they’re like, I just give it all to my spouse and they just take care of it. I don’t wanna think about it. Or they come to me and they say, well, my partner will not talk to me about finances and they just get angry and we just fight about it. Well, what’s happening here is one person has taken on way too much power in the relationship and the other person has abdicated their power in the relationship. And if there’s one thing that I can promise you will result from this, it’s that this dynamic is going to lead to resentment and that resentment is going to undermine the relationship. Period. End of statement. Mic drop. That’s it. That’s how that always goes. If you wish to be happy in your relationships, do not abide an unequal power dynamic within the relationship. This all takes time, ladies and gentlemen. But budgeting’s a really good first step because once you start going through that emotional excavation, you’re going to get a better understanding of yourself and your partner. It’s gonna be one day at a time, one step at a time, one opportunity for curiosity at a time.
[00:23:57] And I know exactly how that is because as I bring myself back to that time of trying to buy shoes, my finger won’t work to click the button and in my head, my mom is screaming at me. I’ve reverted back to 16 years old. I suddenly had a shift inside of the shift I had already had. Going to my grandfather’s funeral and the bar that we all went to afterwards with my aunts and my uncles all sitting there discussing the life of this amazingly loving man who has just recently passed away. And suddenly, one of my aunts starts telling a story about when her feet got too big for her shoes. And then suddenly, my uncle tells his shoe story and it suddenly occurs to me like a flash in the darkness — that my mother was not yelling at me because she didn’t think that I deserved it. She wasn’t yelling at me because she didn’t love me because she absolutely did. She’s yelling at me because she’s playing out a series of intergenerational traumas that are cascading down the line. And in that moment I am thinking to myself, this is going to stop with me. I am the end of line for this trauma. I am stopping it here. It is over now. I am going to define myself for myself and I will not let this cascade through me into my children. And as I came zooming back to the present and I’m sitting there looking at the shoes on the screen, my mouse button hovering ever so precariously over the purchase button, I clicked. And ladies and gentlemen, three days later, a box arrives in the mail and I open it up. It’s a pair of black shoes. I slipped one foot in. I slipped the other foot in. And they fit perfectly.
[00:26:02] Outro: Thanks for listening. If you like what we do here, please hit that subscribe button. Leave us a rating and review. And share the content with somebody who would benefit from the message. You can follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, all @fiscallysavage. And head over to fiscallysavage.com to get our free tools, suggested reading, and everything else you need to take control of your financial life and live free.