A friend of mine likes to pay for lunch every time we meet. Surprisingly, she also always picks the most expensive places. I love to see her and there’s no reason for her to pay…but she always insists on paying anyway.

Lately, I’ve seen some disconcerting problems. Three weeks ago I could tell she was anxious.

Money Bubble

My friend, we’ll call her Rachel, shared that her husband Mike is now seeing a psychiatrist. “He always feels like he’s about to have a heart attack. After asking three doctors for opinions, he’s starting to realize that it’s in his head.”

“What have they found out?” I asked, worried.

Rachel said, taking a bite from her caprese salad, “They think it’s stress.”

When we parted, Rachel again paid for lunch over my continued objections, and then wrote me a check for some earrings from a mutual friend’s jewelry party.

I found out two days later the check bounced.

While she laughed it off and paid me in cash, she showed up for our lunch the next time in her mother in law’s car. “Mike’s car died, so we’re going to drive his mom’s car for awhile.”

Rachel’s paying for every expensive lunch and they can’t afford to fix their car?

The truth seems to be clear. Rachel and Mike are having some severe money problems. Luckily, she actually let me pay for lunch this week. Next week I’m going to suggest that we visit over lunch at one of our houses.

It’s time for Rachel to get back on track.

Does This Sound Like You?

The truth is that many of us can relate to what is happening with Rachel. As creatives, it’s not uncommon to avoid talking or even thinking about money. But we have to stop sabotaging ourselves… doing things like overspending just to prove to people who really don’t care whether you buy them lunch… that you can afford to buy them lunch.

I’ve witnessed too many mental breakdowns and physical ailments that stem from worry over money. To me, it’s easier to face the fact: until spending gets under control, nothing is going to change.

You’ll continue to worry about your money.

You may have trouble sleeping.

Unfortunately the black hole won’t go away by not looking at it.

I Have Good News

There are many resources available. The world is filled with good people who understand money and AREN’T judgmental. That makes NOT getting help so sad. There are solutions to money problems, but the first thing you’ll have to do is acknowledge them.

The First Step To Solving Your Money Problems Is Acknowledging That You Have Money Problems

A couple weeks ago I wrote about Marisa Mayer, the dynamic CEO of Yahoo!, who likes goals that frighten her. She’s turned fear on its head. There’s something to be said about facing your fear. I know it’s difficult, but you’ll never, ever resolve your money problems until you look them head-on and tell yourself that things have to change.

Ready To Face Your Money Issues? Here’s a checklist to get started:

 1)   List your debts. Lots of people (most, actually) have debt. Get it all out in the open. How much do you owe? What’s the minimum payment? What is the interest rate?

When I’ve worked with people to write these expenses down, they feel a sense they didn’t expect. Relief. They’re relieved that (sometimes for the first time) they have all of their skeletons out of the closet and in front of them.

One client tapes her debt sheet to her bathroom mirror. While I think this may be a tiny bit over the top, I love her reasoning: she wants to see her debt as soon as she awakens and just before bed. It doesn’t scare her anymore, and because of that, she’s able to tighten her budget and face her fear. Awesome!

2)   Write down the amount of money you need to pay your debt AND live.

Here’s another tough hurdle to cross. Writing down your needs will show you that maybe you aren’t making enough money. What you find is that once you have an amount of money in front of you, your subconscious brain will work on solving the problem. You’ll begin to naturally cut expenses and look for ways to pad your income. Debt is a powerful monster and you need all of your strength to fight it.

Author Tim Ferriss, in his book the 4 Hour Body, details how people eat less bad food if they photograph their meals. Keeping a record, when it comes to weight loss, turns out to be a powerful motivator to eat healthy foods. It’s the same with your expenses and income. Keeping a journal or diary of expenses will help you curb bad habits that you don’t want to write down.

3)   If you seem to have enough money, ask yourself where the money could possibly be going.

Often I find that people have money left over on paper, but they don’t have any money in their wallet. That means you’re doing a great job of pretending to know your expenses, but you’re forgetting items. Often people forget gifts, one-time trips, auto repairs, and anything that isn’t recurring. Stretch your budget out to a year instead of a month to uncover these “one-off” purchases and expenses. You’ll have a much better picture of your situation.

I’m praying that Rachel and Mike face their money problems. If you’re bouncing small checks and don’t have a car to drive, it can feel like an insurmountable journey ahead. But get the support you need to take those first steps. I promise you can build momentum towards the financial stability and peace that will allow you to thrive.