Bari Tessler – Tools of Transformation – Part Two

This week we’ll cover more of the tools Bari Tessler teaches that we can use to change our relationship with money. She emphasizes that these are valuable for financial therapy practitioners in doing their own work as well as in working with clients. She developed these over time, adding tools and practices as she saw both what she needed and what her clients needed.

The first one is values-based renaming. This is one of the ways she developed to make the essential money task of bookkeeping more interesting, creative, and meaningful. It’s a way to see your goals, intentions, and priorities as part of your bookkeeping system. The first step is to  identify what your values are, which is an ever-changing ongoing list. Then, using those values, rename the categories in your chart of accounts. For example, “mortgage” or “rent” might become “home” or “sanctuary” or whatever represents the deeper meaning there.

This can be especially powerful with debts. So often we think in terms of “that damned debt” where all we see is the burden. She encourages people to take a look back at the reason that debt was incurred. What did you do with that money? Was it an adventure to Italy? Was it to go back to school? Was it startup costs for your business? Was it a health crisis? What was going on? If it was just random consumer addictive spending, that’s something to explore. But many people have debt for other reasons. Bari talked about someone who had medical debt from his wife’s cancer treatment, which was successful. He renamed it something like “time with the love of my life.” Just think for a moment about the emotional impact and difference that could make. In the same way, other types of debt like education loans can be renamed based on the value they have provided or changes they have made in your life.

This is a tool that is essentially very simple, and at the same time it can bring such depth and meaning to your budgeting and financial planning.

A second tool or practice for making good money decisions is recognizing that you need to know the numbers. It matters that you understand the basics and know your income, expenses, and other financial information. Whether you do your own bookkeeping or delegate the day-to-day work to a professional, it’s important to check in regularly and be aware and informed.

Number three is to bring a set of questions with you to a money decision moment. For example, if you’re shopping for clothes, some questions might be: Do I want it? Do I already have one in my closet? Will I wear this? Will I get the value out of it? Do I have the cash flow for this?

Also, in the moment, while you’re shopping, go back to the body check-in that we talked about last week. Am I hungry? Am I tired? Is my breathing fast or shallow? Are my shoulders tight? If you notice signs of anxiety, you can always take a break and explore those emotions. Go to the bathroom for a few minutes, leave the store, tell the salesperson you need some time and will come back later. Check in with yourself, or check in with your partner if this is a joint decision. Go through the list of questions you’ve made ahead of time, or the questions you come up with in the moment, that you need to consider before you make a decision. Is this purchase in line with your values? Can you afford it? Do you need to do more research before you say yes or no?

These tools are all ways to help you be more conscious about your money decisions. As you practice them, you’ll adapt them and learn to do them in your own way that makes sense for your personality and style.

Check out The Financial Therapy Podcast by Rick Kahler concerning this topic.

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