NEW YORK (MainStreet) — If dealing with your finances has ever felt like running through quicksand, you may need to transform your relationship with money from drudgery to fun. A little pleasure couldn't hurt.
"I was in a constant feast-or-famine cycle," says Los Angeles-based sexologist Jaiya, who embarked on an intense 90-day challenge to transform her finances by applying psychological principles she learned through her sexology practice. "This challenge will put an end to years of poverty and financial ignorance in my family. My son will know how to manage his finances, and so will his children."
Jaiya was tens of thousands of dollars in debt, a mix of student loans and credit card bills. By the end of the 90-day project, she'd paid off over 80% of her debts and more than doubled her monthly income.
Here's how Jaiya's findings can revolutionize your financial life:
Explore Your Baggage
Virtually all of us have psychological baggage when it comes to money. When helping clients overcome their sexual hangups, Jaiya starts by examining their emotions around sex. She took the same approach to her money: "My shame runs deep," she says. "I grew up in poor Appalachia, and my parents constantly fought about money. I couldn't help feeling that if one person creates wealth, it must be at someone else's expense."
That made her ashamed to have money, so she felt a subconscious need to get rid of it, whether by spending frivolously or failing to ask for what she deserved at work.
To explore your money baggage, Jaiya suggests, ask yourself: "How do you feel about money? How do you feel about your financial future? What happens in your body and mind when you talk about your finances?"
From there, you can start to work out your mental associations with money and understand why you feel how you do.
"Some of my clients exhibit a phenomenon called dissociation in which they leave their bodies when talking about sex," Jaiya says. "They'll black out and not remember the experience, because they're so uncomfortable."
After sitting through a meeting with her accountant, Jaiya realized that she was also suffering from dissociation—when it came to money. Any money conversation caused her heart to race and her whole body to break out in sweats. "I had so much shame that I found it impossible to stay present in any conversation about money," she said.
You can't deal with your money until you turn off that fight-or-flight response. Jaiya could self-diagnose, because she was familiar with the phenomenon from her sexology practice. Still, there are ways for you to examine yourself, too.
"First bring awareness to it," she says. "Notice how your body and mind respond when talking about money. Do you get tense, does your mind leave the conversation, do you stop breathing?"
Once you know you're suffering from dissociation, notice when the tension creeps in and focus on relaxation. Write down the specific things that trigger your anxiety. When panic starts to rear its ugly head, Jaiya finds it helpful to shift her environment, such as moving around, changing rooms, pausing the conversation or listening to a happy piece of music.
Find Your Muse
Jaiya enlisted the help of a financial coach, whom she calls her money muse.
"She helped me create a rigorous budget," Jaiya says. "Knowing that someone was watching, I immediately found myself spending more responsibly."
Whether you hire a professional or simply ask a friend to be your money buddy, being accountable to someone can make a huge difference.
Having a trusted listener can get you out of your own head. Jaiya helps her clients diminish their internal dialogue by jokingly giving the negative comments a "tiny Mickey Mouse voice," she says. When her own demons start chattering about money, she does the same for herself, or she'll visualize sending the interior voice on vacation to a tropical island. "I do this process with my clients around sexuality and it works wonders," she says.
Make Money Fun
Jaiya couldn't engage with money, because it was so unpleasant; instead, she needed to find a way to make it fun.
"I saw an article about how more sex can lead to higher wages, so I was curious whether sex could create an atmosphere of fun around my finances," she says.
During the 90-day challenge, Jaiya had an orgasm every day, and as she climaxed, she thought about opulence to train herself to be comfortable with having wealth.
"I was learning to view money not as evil but as a lover," she said. "Sex feeds me, and money feeds me, too. Literally."
She carried that spirit throughout the three-month project. For one meeting with her accountant, she wore a dress that made her feel sexy and confident, transforming the chore into an afternoon on the town. Another time, Jaiya and her money muse wore fancy clothing as they ate a decadent dinner. Instead of feeling sinful for indulging, the point was to become comfortable with the idea of indulging.
"The next day, I booked a major client," she says. "The confidence from the night before inspired me to be gutsy in asking for what I deserved."
The moral? Seek a "hook" that can keep you engaged. Whether that's sexuality or something else, aim to spend an hour every week doing something fun with money. "Put a hundred-dollar bill in your wallet and see how it feels to carry around," Jaiya suggests.
Write down your big financial goals like travel, buying a dream home or paying down debt, and figure out what you'll need to do to make those goals happen.
"Cut out pictures associated with those goals, paste them on a glass jar and put in money every week toward your dream," Jaiya says.
Another way to stay engaged is to keep moving.
"I started doing walking meetings, so I'll try to go hiking or do yoga while talking about money," she said. She also recommends pinning notes around your home with quotes about financial freedom to keep your inspiration strong.
Understand Your Spending
Keeping track of her spending led Jaiya to the realization that she needed a lot more money than she thought. Previously, she wasn't very careful with her expenditures: "I bought the best organic everything and didn't care about sales. On top of that, I had weird food scarcity issues, so I would spend a ton at the grocery store on a single trip and half would rot in the fridge."
With the help of her money muse and some spreadsheets, Jaiya now knows her personal pitfalls.
"I now realize my money can work for me versus me working for it," she says. "That was a huge revelation. If I spend less, I have more money with which to build wealth."
Know where your money is going. Maybe you're a fan of spreadsheets, or maybe you prefer an app like Mint. Maybe you can monitor your expenses best with a credit card, or maybe you thrive with a cash-only envelope system. Whatever your plan, the most important thing is to have a plan.
Rejoice in Your Earning Potential
Scrimping is only half the battle; the other half is earning. Booking a high-value client made a big impression on Jaiya.
"I used to be wishy-washy and offered discounts without even being asked, because I felt ashamed about accepting money," she says.
As the 90-day challenge progressed, she learned to value her own worth.
"I changed my entire business model," she says. "Now I insist that clients sign up for a package that enables me to provide them with accountability, rather than having them come in whenever they want, à la carte."
Despite the uptick in price, her clients loved the shift. Before, people made appointments once in a blue moon and didn't keep in touch afterward.
"Now they are accountable for six months, have a group of other people going through similar challenges for support and feel like they are part of something," she says. "I have watched results soar because they have to be committed. Couples who have not had sex in years are reconnecting, so the model produces results."
What Jaiya craved around money is what her clients crave around sex: accountability. By having confidence in the value of her own work, Jaiya has been able to make a bigger impact and demand a higher paycheck.
Keep a Journal
During the challenge, Jaiya kept a daily journal about the challenges, she faced and techniques she uncovered to reach her money goals. Writing down her emotions helped her understand herself better.
"I discovered how much shame I had about having money and not having money, and how much I was hiding my head in the sand," she said. "I also discovered how much fun I could have with money."
When keeping your own journal, go deeper than a simple recounting of what you've spent or saved. Note how you feel and the triggers that make you want to overspend. Don't be afraid to get creative, either, by pasting photos or drawing images to represent the goals you're working toward.
Revel in Learning
Jaiya's official goal was to read three finance books during the 90-day challenge, but she ended up reading ten. "More than investing in the stock market, the best investment you can make is to invest in yourself — educate yourself, increase your skill sets," she says. Her top picks? Dani Johnson's First Steps to Wealth, Suze Orman's Financial Guidebook: Put the 9 Steps to Work and George S. Clason's The Richest Man in Babylon.
Some people learn through raeding, while others absorb information best by listening or discussing. Whatever your style, bring a sense of exploration to the topic. That could mean listening to personal finance podcasts, exploring interactive quizzes and tools or practicing having important money conversations without feeling awkward.
Deconstruct Your Myths
"When I coach clients in sexuality, I instruct them to critically examine the myths they buy into," Jaiya says. "Similarly, for each of my prejudices, I needed to ask, 'Is this mine or was it imposed on me by society or someone else?'"
For example, through her family, Jaiya absorbed the idea that money is the root of all evil. "That doesn't belong to me," she says. "I needed to tear down my associations to see if they were actually true. I remembered that it's the love of money that's the root of all evil. Money isn't inherently bad; the problem is when you get greedy."
One of the big myths Jaiya held was that rich people must have made their wealth at someone else's expense.
"I needed to readjust my judgments," she says.
She made a concerted effort to get to know some wealthier friends on a human level and found that her preconceptions about this demographic were wrong.
"For example, all of them gave to charity," she said. "Another myth I held was that women were held down by society, so it was very special to find women who made it on their own." Many of these wealthy people spoke about mentorship, too. Jaiya learned a lot, and six months later, she had three mentors of her own.
When it ended, the 90-day challenge had far-reaching effects on Jaiya's life that would last for years to come. In addition to improving the dollars and cents, she's gained tremendous knowledge, confidence and education so she can continue to manage her own money capably in the future.
It's been more than a half a year since the challenge ended, and Jaiya says her financial life will never be the same again: "This challenge has given me so many things: knowledge, confidence, the power to finally shake off my debt and far more earning potential."
--Written by Allison Kade for MainStreet