The agreement to guilt-free
I’m obsessed with shoes.
And even more obsessed with buying them guilt-free.
In my early thirties, I was single, renting, and climbing the corporate ladder. I earned a decent salary and had no kids or financial commitments other than looking after me (how things have changed). I also had an overwhelming desire to indulge in beautiful shoes. It was love in its purest form.
Having spent my career in financial services, I knew if I wanted amazing shoes, without guilt, I had to ‘adult up’ to do it properly. I needed expert advice as my obsession was serious. I needed a financial adviser.
An adviser who would get my financials sorted and let me happily indulge in my footwear fetish. I had been an adviser in a past role, so I knew that making personal decisions required a hefty dose of objectivity and outside perspective.
“I’m aware of the many behavioral biases that can lead us down an unwanted garden path when making decisions we’re emotionally attached to.”
The only way I could get my so called ‘cake’ (shoes) and eat it too was with great advice.
Being in financial services, I spent my days working with advisers, peering under the hoods of their businesses and seeing how they rocked and rolled. My work put me in a privileged position to choose someone I trusted would fit the bill and get me what I wanted. Someone who would let me embrace, not berate me about my obsession. I didn’t have to search for long. His name was Andrew.
When I called Andrew to proposition myself as his client, before he got too excited about a new recruit, I cautioned that strict conditions had to be met. They were:
- The advice had to look after my needs now and cater for my future. And any recommendations had to make my life happier, without limit or restriction. Budgets and I have never been great mates.
- Managing my money had to be easy and automated, with as little effort as required.
- An agreed amount had to be allocated to buying shoes and taking holidays each year.
Andrew was up for the challenge. Agreeing to these conditions, he got the gig!
Andrew got my financials in order (super, investments, insurances, a Will, banking, direct debits etc.), and set up two additional accounts, one for shoe shopping and the other for taking much needed breaks. The accounts were christened (and nicknamed online) ‘guilt-free shoes’ and ‘holiday fun’. Who knew bank accounts could be so inspiring?
There were caveats placed on these two genius accounts, which made them even more valuable, including:
- The money in each account was for shoes and holidays only.
- Any cent spent over and above the allocated amount did not come with the ‘guilt-free’ status.
- Any amount leftover at year-end was forfeited and redirected to my’ future self’ fund. No exceptions.
“This setup was an exclusive agreement I was making with myself. It allowed me to enjoy every hard-earned dollar while being financially sensible. It was a commitment to honouring what gave me pleasure and providing the freedom my future self would one day adore me for.”
This simple agreement meant I behaved as I intended. I never felt limited, and I never spent above the agreed amount. And as each year drew to a close, if there was unspent money in either account, Andrew was honoured with giving me explicit instructions to spend. A request I obediently obliged.
A side effect of this arrangement was how it sweetened the joy of buying shoes and taking holidays. Because guilt can sour the taste and tarnish our decisions. Removing guilt from the equation is about stacking the odds of enjoyment in your favour. It’s setting you up to savour the extra piece of chocolate cake without it haunting you for days.
The reason this arrangement worked was the underlying premise that my money was being used in the best possible way across all areas of my life. That an expert’s eye was being cast over my situation so I could appreciate the joy of spending without guilt.
What agreements could you make with yourself to encourage behaviours you want to uphold (financial or otherwise)? Where do you need an expert’s guidance to get the biggest bang for your buck? It’s an investment to guilt-free happiness.
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