Paloma Medina finds it pretty ironic she leads workshops centered around financial well-being. Nine years ago she was constantly overdrafting her accounts, living paycheck to paycheck on her $36,000 salary, and questioning if she’d ever be able to get ahead. She remembers feeling completely overwhelmed looking at her bank account, so she avoided it. The more she didn’t think about it, the more she did. It was a vicious cycle.
Fast forward to today. After getting a Masters in Organizational Coaching from NYU and spending time at companies such as Etsy and Squarespace, she’s now leading workshops on everything from the power of positive influence to setting attainable financial goals. She teaches these workshops at her brick and mortar store (11:11) in Portland, Or., with a mission to make every person feel capable and empowered to create better days and better lives for themselves. They sell all sorts of goodies to help people organize their lives, in a way that makes sense for them.
And in her experience leading workshops and talking with her clients, she’s found that money is a common, if not the most common, thing that gets in the way of people living their best lives.
“If money is hard for someone, everything else in their life is harder,” she says. “When someone gets really good at their money, it has a cascading effect on everything else in their life.”
Here, she shares her tips for getting comfortable with the uncomfortableness of money and how our environments and language can have a positive impact on the goals we want to achieve.
Tip #1: De-shame the situation
The first thing Paloma talks about in any of her workshops is de-shaming whatever parts of people’s lives that aren’t the way they wish they were. Shame is a distraction that makes humans want to avoid the issue, which doesn’t help their situation. So whether you’re trying to crawl out of debt or doing your best not to overdraft your account each month, first write down how you feel about your current finances. Do you feel ashamed? Scared? Alone? Overwhelmed? Whatever the feelings, write them all down. Writing down your feelings has been shown to help dissolve the strength of the emotion (this is called affect labeling) which means you can move past it towards action.
Tip #2: Define a financial goal
Countless studies have shown that tracking goals and linking them to a bigger purpose increases motivation and success (if you want to read more about this, check out this section on 11:11’s website).
Paloma suggests taking a few minutes to really flesh out a goal and ask yourself these three questions:
- How much?
- By when will you reach this goal?
- What actions will you take?
Example: “I am going to pay off $16,000 of credit card debt by the end of 2020. Between now and then, I’m going to say no to unnecessary spending (no more shopping sprees or expensive lunches), seek out the help of a financial counselor, and put together a structured payment plan.”
It’s also really helpful to define the “why”. Ask yourself why this matters to you, and who you’ll share your goal and progress with. She recommends not waiting for the perfect path, because there isn’t one. Start with a goal and work at it by taking specific actions that will help lead to the outcome you want.
Tip #3: Create a positive environment
Turns out the people we surround ourselves with have a big influence in us achieving our goals. Brainstorm a list of people who make you feel closer to your financial goals, and also those who make you feel further away from them. A great way to think about this is whether you leave conversations with someone feeling motivated to make a change or exhausted from all the unproductive complaining.
After thinking about these lists, write down the qualities and habits of the people you feel supported by. Maybe it’s that they’ve been successful at achieving a goal similar to yours or that they’re a great planner so they’re sharing organization tips with you. Once you have that list of qualities, brainstorm where you can socialize or get acquainted with other people who have those qualities. Maybe it’s a meet-up, or maybe you can specifically ask people out for lunch or coffee that have these qualities. The goal: spend more time with people that help you feel capable of reaching your financial goal, and when you can, learn their tips and tricks for how they manage their money.
Just to be clear, it’s totally cool to still hang out with the people who don’t make this list. But if they bring you down rather than lift you up when it comes to a goal you have, make sure to hang out with them in situations where you can avoid the topic of finances or life gripes. For example, instead of getting drinks with them (where money gripes are sure to come up), invite them to a music show, a museum or $5 night bowling – any activity where you can enjoy the best parts of the friendship.
Tip #4: Imagine the greatness
Visualizing where you see yourself, and your goals, is an important part of the process, but it’s also important to think (truthfully) about the obstacles you’ll face in achieving your goal, and what you’ll do when you face them. For example, if you’re paying down debt and have four birthdays to celebrate next month, brainstorm ways to combine gifts or get crafty so you can spend less.
Another big thing Paloma talks about is the power of positive and negative language. Pay attention to how you talk about your goal. Limit the self deprecating jokes and instead highlight what you’ve achieved so far. Keep track of your language and if you see a negative pattern emerging, change course. For example, if you find yourself saying things like “I’m awful at keeping to my budget”, replace that kind of talking with “I’m learning how to be better at keeping a budget” or “My goal right now is to get better at keeping a budget”. Your brain will note the difference.
Tip #5: Set a date with money, once a week for three months (at least)
It’s kinda cheesy, but Paloma recommends setting a weekly date with just yourself and your money. Pick a place you love going and schedule one hour there a week. Is it the bakery down the street with that amazing cheese danish? Get it and settle in. Maybe it’s the wine bar with your favorite Malbec? Order a glass and pull up your bank account. Wherever your happy place is, bring your money along.
On your money date, ask yourself two questions so your brain feels intrigued (instead of overwhelmed) such as “How much did I spend this month on groceries versus restaurants?” or “What’s a recurring charge I could cancel or put a hold on for the next three months?” Having a routine check in with your money will allow you to see the little wins, which gives the brain dopamine, says Paloma. Little wins turn into big wins, which turn into milestones. After awhile, maybe it’ll actually be fun to hang out with your money.
Tip #6: Be persistent
Don’t give up if you suddenly slip up on your plan. Hold yourself accountable and own the mistakes when you make them. Get back on track quickly, and take note of why you maybe slipped up. Have you stopped having dates with your money? Start those back up. Ask for support when you need it, and notice when you’re feeling good about things. Write down accomplishments (big and small) and celebrate the wins!
Thanks for all these amazing tips, Paloma. We can’t wait to start putting them into action.
If you want to read more about Paloma, you can do so here. And if you’re in the Portland area and wanna check out one of her workshops, check out the calendar here. And of course, 11:11 has a fabulous Instagram so make sure to give them a follow!
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