You have worked too hard— getting your (numerous) degrees, navigating Cubicle America, and building your brand to be broke. “Being broke”, though, seems to a recurring theme among black women, who, for all intensive purposes, with the exception of their financial lives, embody intelligence, progressive thinking, resourcefulness, and discipline.
But in order to live a full life, you have to first gain insight into why are still broke. Here are four reasons for why a woman as fabulous as you, is still broke:
1.You are broke because you have yet to establish financial boundaries. How do you feel when someone gets too close—all in your personal body space—when you are in a restaurant, store, or on public transportation? You probably feel like they need to back up because they are making you uncomfortable. Right? Well, the same thing applies to your money. When someone in your family or in your close circle of friends comes into your personal “financial” space, they are crossing financial boundaries.
Establish your financial boundaries by making your opinions and policies around borrowing clothes and money, cosigning loans, and extended visits, clear to your moocher friends and family members. If you want to be direct, say, “ No, I am not wasting my money on that.” If you want a little more finesse, try this: “ I wish I could, but my finances are not allowing me to do that right now.”
2. You are broke because you have not aligned your values to your spending. A lot of us walk through life in a financial fog spending haphazardly because we are not paying attention to what we really care about, what we really love, or what we really need. Instead of customizing our lives and, by default, our budgets to reflect our priorities, we emulate the financial habits of friends or those on the media who are overtop in all things: clothes, entertainment, homes, dining, and travel.
To identify what you should be spending your money on, jot down what you love doing in your free time and the items on your “bucket list” and see how much of your money is currently funding those passions. If you find that you love “fine dining,” but do not care much for movies, clothes, or a fancy apartment, then you should focus most of your discretionary (guilt-free) money to that activity and eliminate spending in the other areas. On the other hand, if you are dying to travel, but are spending a whole heap of money on an apartment that you don’t really care about or paying a hefty car note, it is better to trade-in the costly rent and monthly car payment for a cheap place and sell the car so you will have money to explore the world.
3. You are broke because you equate celebration with big spending. Whether it be landing a new job, a birthday milestone, or a graduation, it is assumed that you have to go out and celebrate; “going out” makes things seem more special and more important when that is not necessarily true. When it is time to celebrate in a big way, consider taking it ol’ school and invite people over to your beautiful home or appointment to revel in your success and happiness. Besides, when you entertain at home, you don’t have to worry about mandatory gratuity, feeling rushed to leave after eating, or sharing public restrooms with strangers.
4. You are broke because you don’t manage your emotions. The concept of retail therapy is usually associated with a woman needing to shop because she needs an emotional pick-me-up or a confidence boost. We just don’t shop, though, when we are depressed. We also shop when we are bored, happy, feeling lonely, or feeling naughty.
Since experiencing emotions is part of the beautiful human experience, we don’t need to feel less; instead we need to identify healthy and cost-effective alternatives to shopping when our emotions start to surge. Try a hot shower, calling a girlfriend, dancing in the mirror in a bikini, doing something nice for someone else, or taking a nap.
As women destined for greatness, we have to manage our finances in a way that empowers our lives, brings us joy, and enriches our souls. The first step on this journey to greatness begins with self-reflection and a decision to no longer be broke.
Frugalistas: What is keeping you broke?
Updated from July 2013.