Q. I've always viewed money as a necessary evil. How can I adopt a better relationship with it so I can get some kind of balance in my finances?
--Mary B., Washington, D.C.
A. Back when I was a student, I had a similar outlook. I'd rather have tap-danced in the park for change than balance my checkbook. However, I hated that sinking feeling I got whenever I bought something by check or credit card, because I was afraid I didn't have enough money in the bank to cover it. I was also mentally kicking myself for not effectively using what I had. And let's not even talk about paying bills on time. What I didn't understand then was that I actually had many financial strengths.
I've always been good at finding bargains, and I never get too wrapped up in the trappings of money. Instead, I value things money can't buy, like time spent with a friend. By asking for help, you're already on the path to finding balance. The next step, says Gayle Rose Martinez, a financial counselor and author of "Money and Me: Healing Our Relationship With Money," is to build your confidence.
Look at what you do well financially -- and, yes, there is something. Do you balance your checkbook? Do you regularly contribute to your savings account? Take a moment to celebrate these accomplishments. Then, Martinez suggests, pick a small aspect to work on, such as paying all of your bills on time. Once you accomplish this and it becomes second nature, give yourself a reward (one that doesn't put a dent in your wallet) to keep yourself motivated. Then pick another to work on. Remember, no one's perfect when it comes to money, so honor your strengths and don't be too hard on your weaknesses. The peace of mind and sense of accomplishment you'll achieve will make it all worthwhile.
Text by Tracy Fernandez Rysavy