- “Finance for the People” is one of the only personal finance books that actually addresses economic injustice.
- Three journal prompts in the book helped me change my relationship with money.
- The most important one is a list of things I can do to get calm before making big money decisions.
- Read more stories from Personal Finance Insider.
Changing my relationship to money is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
The money habits that create long-term change, like automating my emergency fund savings or tracking my expenses, are just the tip of the iceberg. Beneath the surface, I had to do a lot of hard work to understand what motivates me to spend and save money the way that I do.
Thankfully, a new book called “Finance for the People” is a tour guide to that difficult journey. Unlike most personal finance books, “Finance for the People” actually addresses how credit cards, student loans, and predatory lending systems work to keep people on the proverbial hamster wheel.
Instead of labeling money behaviors as good and bad, queer Filipina American author Paco de Leon gives readers much-needed support on their quest to change their relationship to money while creating smart, long-lasting spending and saving habits.
This book continues to support me on my financial recovery journey, starting with these three helpful journal prompts.
1. Give an example of an experience you had growing up where you witnessed people feeling ashamed about money
At the beginning of the book, de Leon dives into the emotions behind why we spend money the way that we do. The first few journal prompts ask about the earliest lessons we learned about money from our families of origin.
What first came up for me was a feeling of shame around my home. When I was a kid growing up in the Philippines, I always shared a bedroom with my sisters or cousins who came to stay with us. When we moved to the States, we could only afford a two-bedroom apartment, which meant that my sisters and I had to share a room. I didn’t have my own room until I was 14, when we moved to a bigger house in the Midwest.
Watching American TV with kids who had their own rooms made me feel really ashamed of how I grew up, even though I cherish the close relationship I have with my sisters and cousins as a result of sharing space together.
This deep shame translated into a penchant for name-brand furniture, home decor, and random organization containers that landed me in deep financial trouble. After unearthing all of that, scrolling through my favorite furniture sites like CB2 or West Elm didn’t quite give me the same soothing pleasure.
I was quickly motivated to cut a bad shopping habit and redirect those funds to my savings instead.
2. Which behaviors can you commit to now?
This journal prompt comes at the end of Chapter 4 titled, “What Are You Trying To Do With Your Life? Deconstructing Your Goals.” In the chapter, de Leon says the key to achieving “financial awesomeness” is to increase earning — especially for people of color affected by the racial wealth gap — with realistic money habits to help you save and pay down debt.
I love this journal question because it reminds me that saying, “I’m going to stop eating out for the rest of the month” is literally not something I can commit to. right now.
I don’t know what the rest of my month is going to be like, if work is going to be busy, or if a friend might need a listening ear after a breakup over dinner. But right now, just for today, I can commit to skipping Grubhub and cooking a simple meal at home instead.
Thanks to this question, I’ve gotten into the habit of breaking down a big commitment into much smaller, actionable steps that I actually feel confident I can achieve.
3. Create your own Chill the Fuck Out Menu
De Leon references a psychological concept called “the window of tolerance,” coined by Dr. Daniel J. Siegel. She writes, “When a person is in their window of tolerance, they can regulate their nervous system in order to deal with the natural ups and downs of being a human being on Earth. In the window of tolerance, one can reflect, think rationally , and calmly make decisions without withdrawing or feeling overwhelmed.”
De Leon shares a list of her own tips to get into her window of tolerance before making financial decisions, aptly called a Chill the Fuck Out Menu. Her list includes:
- taking deep breaths
- playing an instrument and singing
- making my wife laugh
De Leon recommends keeping this list near and visible so that you can have it with you before making a big financial decision.
My own list includes taking baths, calling a friend, taking a long walk, and watching a funny TV show. The list really came in handy while I was planning a trip to San Francisco with my best friend from high school. Instead of feeling pressured to make quick decisions, I used my Chill the Fuck Out Menu to get centered.