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My Money, My Choices

Gail Vaz-Oxlade is a personal finance writer, television host and radio broadcaster. Every Wednesday, she arms Metro readers with tips to keep spending in check.

Stop with the excuses: The first step to solving your money problems is facing them head on

So many people see the math of money as overwhelming. It isn’t. It’s Grade 5 math. Stop using this excuse!

Stop The Nothing, face your financial problems.


Stop The Nothing, face your financial problems.

Have you ever seen the movie The NeverEnding Story? The majority of the story takes place in the parallel world of Fantasia, a world being destroyed by The Nothing. As The Nothing creeps across the land, everything is consumed, leaving behind desolation and emptiness. The protagonist is a young warrior, Atreyu, who is charged with finding a way to stop The Nothing.

I’ve met people who have The Nothing in their lives when it comes to their money.

They are living in a miasma of inaction, the desperation of their circumstances paralyzing them. They’re afraid to look too closely at the mess they’ve made because that’ll crystallize just how dire their circumstances really are.

Sometimes they feel helpless. They even avoid seeking help because they’re too embarrassed by the mess they’ve made to fess up and get help.

If you’re sure that what you’re doing now isn’t working for you, then it’s time to make some changes. For as long as you remain mired in The Nothing, you will be eaten by the misery you’re feeling.

Face The Nothing head on and you will not only overcome the fear and the embarrassment, you’ll no longer feel helpless. You’ll be moving forward.

It won’t happen quickly. It’ll take time. And effort. It took time to make the mess, so it’ll take some serious effort to fix what’s broke.

Set aside the excuses you’ve been using for why you’re in a mess, like, “Gail, I want to make things better, but I just don’t know where to start. How can I take money out for the jars if I’m always in overdraft?”

I get this question all the time. Hey, does being in overdraft stop you from buying groceries? I don’t think so. And that’s the money you’re putting in the food jar. Using the jars isn’t about finding extra money, it’s about taking the money you’d normally spend out of the bank (yes, even off your overdraft) and putting it into your jars, then not spending any more than that.

Eventually, if you’ve done a budget and you’re cutting back on your expenses, you’ll have the money to pay off that overdraft because you’re watching where your money goes and you’re focused on getting rid of the overdraft.

Here’s another excuse I hear frequently: “I can’t figure this out. I just don’t really have a brain for money. It’s too hard. Where can I go to get someone to help me?”

You don’t own a pen and a piece of paper? You can’t add and subtract? So many people see the math of money as overwhelming. It isn’t. It’s Grade 5 math. Seriously. Grade 5. Stop with this excuse!

You can change your life. You can work out your money problems. But you have to want to do it.

And you have to be willing to get off your ass and do the hard stuff it takes to figure out where you are and where you want to go. If you let your sense of being overwhelmed, your lack of time, or your waning willpower get in the way, The Nothing will eat you.

For more money advice, visit Gail’s website at

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