Gill South: Someone stop me before I spend again

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Gill South consults a financial personal trainer to get her bank balance in better shape.

One of the reasons money goes flying out of wallets is because of 'slippage'. Hannah McQueen says people waste a lot of money when they spend because there is no reason not to. Photo / Thinkstock
One of the reasons money goes flying out of wallets is because of 'slippage'. Hannah McQueen says people waste a lot of money when they spend because there is no reason not to. Photo / Thinkstock

As a former Money editor it shames me to admit I could really do with a financial personal trainer to get me back on the straight and narrow. Worrying about money can make us all lose sleep at night. My aim is to do some serious saving this year, pay the mortgage off at a faster rate and try to rein in my shopping urges.

The upside, when I meet with enableMe's Hannah McQueen, is that I don't have to do any ungainly exercises dressed in tight gym clothing in a public park.

My initial conversation with Hannah takes place in a favourite cafe over a nice pot of tea and a yummy piece of gingerbread. Much more fun.

But if I want to improve my circumstances, I do have to commit to some hard, quite unpleasant work. For instance, Hannah warns me, we will spend 10 hours going through bank statements and all that yawn-making stuff like taxes, income, mortgage and insurance. It can be very confronting, she warns.

For people like me, self-employed types, nine out of 10 of us could be making more tax efficiencies, Hannah tells me. She has a masters (with honours) in tax law and will spend a lot of time analysing my tax position. Most people overspend on insurance too.

But if I am time-poor (yes) or wanting to avoid confrontations with my partner (mmhmm), it can be an uplifting experience once you start seeing the results.

A lot of couples, says Hannah tactfully, don't live in harmony on a financial basis. Once everything has been restructured, then I'll have to commit to some new budgets, a workable plan, and "suck it up" for 12 weeks and see what happens.

If done right I should feel aware of every dollar that I spend.

It's a bit like Weight Watchers. It's hard to keep the momentum going unless checking in, so she sees clients every 12 weeks, to see if they have "hit their target".

You want to get results straight away, otherwise you will fall off the wagon, says Hannah.

Okay, maybe it's more like Alcoholics Anonymous.

She talks to me about the term "slippage". Most people slip, she says. They spend money on things because there is no reason not to.

A lot of people waste money on the supermarket shop, she says.

We also talk about goals. My main one is for a renovation in the next couple of years in a bid to teenage-proof the house before the big galumphs take over the living space completely.

Hannah gets people to think about what they are capable of doing. They tell her what's important to them, what they can't do without and she accommodates this in her budget.

If people can still do what's important to them but get rid of the slippage, they are happy, she says.

The tax expert herself likes to have brunch with her family every Saturday.

Well, frankly with two growing boys that would be terrifying, but I find I do have rather a long list of important must-haves, from my kids' swimming lessons to lunch with at least one friend a week. Oh, and there is the trip to Britain next year to see family. And a few days in Melbourne in August with girlfriends for the Writers' Festival. I think Hannah's going to think my important list is rather over-long.

Next week:

I am going to see Caryn Truppman, a Feldenkrais practitioner, to see if she can do anything about my slightly asthmatic wheeze which seems to follow any meaningful exertion.

- NZ Herald

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