Living In Fear Of My Bank Account
Arguably the first step to financial solvency has to be basic awareness of where you stand with your money. This is the step that I struggle with the most. You might think that the simple act of checking your bank account to look at your recent transactions would be easy, but for me it isn’t. The thought of checking my bank account, regardless of whether I’m in a positive or negative financial state, makes me break into a sweat.
I have anxiety, and my anxiety makes me avoidant. I have a tendency to stick my head in the sand and pretend that my bank account isn’t even there. And of course, like any adult task I avoid or put off, the longer I go without checking it the more daunting it becomes.
In my last relationship, my ex-boyfriend and I were both generally terrible about checking our finances. This was the relationship that I was in for the bulk of my twenties, when financial habits are usually formed. We had a semi-monthly ritual in which we totaled up and divided what each person had spent on our living expenses as a couple so that we could see what we might owe to one another, and it was always hellish. I say ‘semi-monthly’ because we could never bring ourselves to actually look at our bank accounts once a month, which meant that we’d be peering backwards at purchases made three months ago, trying to remember if it was an individual expense or if it should be shared.
This was a deeply clumsy way to address our split costs, and knowing that the process would be painful always made us put it off more. Usually after a totaling session we would find out that I owed my ex-boyfriend money, and I was never good at budgeting for that expense in advance. It was a heavy strain on our relationship. Our mutual reluctance to so much as glance at our bank accounts on a regular basis meant that we were guaranteed a nasty surprise any time we managed to muster the courage to look.
That’s the thing about going too long without checking your bank account: it becomes a terrible experience when you finally look. Every time I check my bank account, I sit in harsh judgment of myself. Each purchase seems totally unjustifiable, whether it was for groceries, gas or an impulse buy of something frivolous. I berate myself about each line item and the hideous total of spending. Since I’ve gone so long without looking at the account, all the purchases have piled up and the numbers are so huge as to be practically meaningless.
I know that this is what’s waiting for me the second I navigate to my bank’s home page, so I simply don’t look. I put it off and I put it off and I miss credit card payments because I’ve put it off; every time it occurs to me that I should really check it, I shut out the thought, singing la-la-la to myself until the worry goes back into the back of my brain with all the other things I’m avoiding. I live crouched under a boulder of responsibilities that I’m putting off and avoiding, bills I haven’t paid because thinking about money reminds me that I need to check my bank account, overdraft fees that could easily have been avoided if I’d checked my account before making a purchase.
I am hard on myself about my inability to look at my finances. Sometimes I feel like I’m always on the run with the specter of my bank account one step behind me, a disembodied voice yelling at me to check it and verbally beating me up when I continue not to.
I’ve tried scheduling my banking. It doesn’t work — I just skip my scheduled date. For a while I had text banking on my phone, enabling me to send a quick text message asking for a balance summary whenever it occurred to me, and that worked surprisingly well. I guess it’s less intimidating to the anxiety centers of my brain to look at a text instead of a web page. But when I switched phones, I lost the text banking ability, and I have yet to set it up on my new phone because setting it up would require visiting my bank account. I keep meaning to but, like most things in my life, I haven’t gotten around to it yet.
Since I’m no longer in the relationship that resulted in me constantly owing money and since I’m no longer living paycheck-to-paycheck, there is no longer any substantial reason for me to fear checking my bank account. I know this, and yet I still like to pretend that it’s not there. I have to get off my ass and get text banking back on my phone. I have to take a deep breath and log on to my bank despite the fact that it makes my teeth chatter with fear. In fact, I’ll check it later today. No, really, why don’t you believe me?
Cléa Major originally hails from Salt Lake City, UT and traveled East a few years ago for school. She currently lives and works in Carrboro, NC. She can be found on Twitter over here: https://twitter.com/