Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content


The Smart Cookies

Is your money personality keeping you in debt? Add to ...

If you're a client of Dr. Kathleen Gurney, a psychologist specializing in money-related issues, she'd advise you to avoid situations that make you feel "poor", have coffee with those you want to emulate, and never leave home without a notebook.

According to Dr. Gurney, these are just some of the strategies to figuring out your money personality - a hunter, high-roller, producer, to list a few - and becoming money conscious, key if you're looking to get out of debt.


Our average household debt hit new records last year - $96,000, according to a recent study. Roughly 30 per cent of this total is consumer debt. If we're maxing ourselves out, and in many cases doing it mindlessly, it could only help to tap into a few of Dr. Gurney's suggested strategies.

1. Create a Personality Balance Sheet. Dr. Gurney suggests first assessing your personality as you would a balance sheet. Run through your traits and list them either as assets or liabilities. When you have your strengths and weaknesses staring back at you, you can see what is working for you and what isn't. This is also a great exercise for couples who can see strengths and weaknesses of one another and play to those.

2. Eliminate any decisions requiring willpower. If you were trying to lose weight, it wouldn't be wise to keep chocolate-chunk cookies in the house - too tempting. Same logic applies to trying to get out of debt. If it requires any amount of discipline, or tempts you in the slightest, then get rid of it. Take the credit card out of your wallet, avoid the mall all together, have friends for potlucks rather than eating out.

3. Carry a notebook and use it daily. This sounds like a pesky task but it actually requires very little work. Plus, it's effective and will make you feel good. The idea is to write down three things a day that you are proud of: took public transit instead of a cab, bypassed Starbucks and opted for the office coffee, used points to buy a housewarming gift, etc. Then, write down three things you could do better or differently tomorrow to improve your situation. Putting it to paper starts the shift of power, from feeling like a victim to feeling like you're in control. The key is to do this everyday until making smart and conscious choices is a habit. Changing bad habits takes constant attention and time.

4. Avoid anything that will make you feel "poor." Avoid places or situations that make you feel bad about yourself or your current financial state. You know what these are. If window shopping at the mall makes you feel bad about all the things you'd like, but can't afford right now - don't go there. It's important to stay as positive as you can when dealing with debt because it can take its toll on your emotional well-being.

5. Be in control at all times. As you're working your way out of debt, you must control your environment. Don't let others dictate where and when you will spend your money. This takes thoughtful planning and a bit of time. If your friend suggests a particular restaurant for dinner, check it out online to ensure it's within your range. If it's not, suggest an alternative that's less expensive. You might want to even suggest one closer to home so you can walk there and avoid additional transportation costs all together.

6. Find an accountability partner. This could be your partner, a friend in a similar situation, or even a counselor. Have a regular check-in to make sure you're on track. Dr. Gurney also advises picking the brain of the people in your life who seem to have it together. People love sharing what has worked for them; all you have to do is ask.

Most of us fail to realize the extent to which our financial personality impacts our financial picture. To help you identify and understand your money personality, Dr. Gurney developed this online program. Based on your answers, the online program also provides you with an action plan and suggestions for improving your skills and reaching your financial goals. It will cost you about the same price as ordering your credit score online.

Dr. Gurney believes there is an inseparable link between our unconscious feelings about money and the way in which we earn, spend, save and invest it, and part of getting out of your financial status quo is looking at and changing your money mindset and habits.

. Weigh in on whether you would stash some extra money into an RRSP, RESP or a TFSA.

Report Typo/Error

Next story




Most popular videos »

More from The Globe and Mail

Most popular