You’re listening to The Work Of Becoming podcast! My name is Dr. Karin Nordin. I am your host as well as a behavior change expert and self-proclaimed tornado girl. I spent years of my life struggling to change before I finally got my PhD and learned the psychological tools that I needed to actually make those changes happen. Now, I’m bringing you five-minute sneak peeks of how I’m applying the real science of self-help to my life. Let’s get started!
All right, y’all. Today we are gonna talk about something different than we normally talk about, and that is money. So, specifically, I want to talk to you about my relationship with money and the one thing that really changed my relationship.
So, I want you to rewind back about, what is it, like, ten years now — yeah, about ten years — to baby Karin entering graduate school after doing my undergrad. So, I went to a tiny liberal arts college. I guess I paid them off now, but I had oodles of student loans from that experience, and then I didn’t know what I wanted to do after college, so I got offered an assistantship at The University of Alabama coaching their speech and debate team. I didn’t really have another option, and that seemed like a pretty good one because I was gonna get a free master’s degree and a small stipend, and I was like, “Okay, great!”
So, my stipend as a master’s degree was $15,000 a year, okay? I was being paid $15,000 a year, and under that contract, I was not allowed to have another job. So, that was it. That was income capped at $15,000 a year. Luckily, Tuscaloosa, Alabama is a fairly cheap place to live, but during that time in my life, money was really, really, really tight.
I got to Alabama, and I had this apartment that I was living in, and I was really starting to freak out because I didn’t know how I was going to afford basic things. I remember being in the grocery store and on the first grocery trip of the money, I would buy a pack of raspberries, and I remember that four-dollar pack of raspberries was this huge treat because I didn’t normally have the grocery money to buy that type of thing, but once a month I made the exception and I bought those raspberries, okay?
I want to be clear that I did not come from a family where money was an issue, and I’m not gonna go into this, but there was a period of time where I was relatively estranged from my family, and so, when I was a master’s student, that was during that time. So, I did not have anything to fall back on. It was just me. And so, I remember just feeling really, really, really tight, and I had credit cards, so I could kind of put things on a credit card if I needed to, but that was stressing me out because then it was like the debt was going up, and I knew I needed to do something that was going to reframe my relationship with money.
I don’t know where I got this idea, whether it was a book or a podcast I was listening to. I truly don’t know, but I came up with this concept that I called “The Fairy Godmother Fund,” and every paycheck, I would take five dollars, and I would put it in The Fairy Godmother Fund, and The Fairy Godmother Fund was money that I gave to other people completely anonymously in the form of donations. I guess sometimes it wasn’t anonymous because sometimes I would Venmo people. But you know when you’re scrolling through Facebook and you see something that’s shared from somebody else, and it’s like, “Oh, so-and-so person is looking for help. They’re really trying to generate $1,000 for this, that, and the other thing,” and it’s just like a person who’s reaching out for help, and they need a little bit of money.
Now, did I have the money at the time to really be giving to other people? No, I didn’t. But one of the things that I chose to do in that moment was I chose to have this fund, and so, I always had five or ten dollars every two weeks or so to donate to these things. And something about that action helped me focus on what I did have rather than what I didn’t have. That shift made a huge difference because it calmed my relationship with money, and from that calm I was able to make better budgeting decisions, and I actually became less impulsive with my spending.
So, I mentioned this before, but I got into a point later on in my master’s degree where I was in several thousands of dollars of credit card debt, and that credit card debt came from impulse purchases. It came from me being like, “Well, I don’t have enough money anyways, so it doesn’t matter.” And then I would go on Amazon, and I would buy a bunch of stuff that was supposed to fix my life, okay? The way I walked back from that, the way I slowly earned my way out of that debt was, yes, increasing my income. That was absolutely vital, but I kept this Fairy Godmother Fund, and I focused all of my attention on, “What money do I have? Where are the places where I do have enough in my life?” The more I focused on that, the calmer I got, the less I impulse purchased, the more I was able to slowly chip away at that debt, and I didn’t get rid of that debt until well into my PhD, and in my PhD I was only making $19,000 a year, but at the very end of my PhD I started to get jobs on top of that stipend, and occasionally I would get an overload in and things like that. And so, that’s how I chipped my way out.
But that idea of The Fairy Godmother Fund, the idea that I have enough to give to other people even if that enough was only two or three dollars, something about that made a big change in my life. So, I wanted to tell you about that in this episode, and if it helps you, awesome. If it’s not something you can swing at the time, totally get it, but just a thought, just a story that I wanted to tell.
PS: if you are on a journey to become a better you, and you want to learn the tools and techniques that will actually help change your life, make sure you check out my Change Academy Membership. Each month, we do a 1.5-hour workshop on a different psychological topic, but we also provide resources like journal prompts, worksheets, and trackers. We host community events and more. If you’re struggling to close the gap between knowing what to do and actually doing it, this membership was built for you. Go to www.karinn4.sg-host.com/change-academy to learn more!