Dear Spice: I’m Broke. Heeeeellllpppp!!

Dear Spice:

I feel like I’m being nickeled and dimed to death!  Every time I try to make a move to help myself, like get a new job or start a new savings plan, I get a ton of stuff from nowhere that needs to be paid or else.  Will I stop this cycle?  If so, how?

–NO Money, Mo Problems

Dear NO:

This financial merry-go-round from hell sounds like enough to make anyone say “screw it” and stop even trying to get off this crazy thing.  However, you have enough clarity to recognize it for what it is and asked for help.  Good for you!  The obvious answer to your first question is: yes, you will stop the cycle if you choose to do something differently.  Since your question reads like you’ve tried to do everything you can think of differently, I read between the lines for your actual concern (hope that’s okay).  It sounds like your real concerns are: a) not knowing where your money goes, b) not being able to control where your money goes, c) your money being spread too thin, and d) perhaps an inability to say no when encroached upon.

I asked the cards what you should know about having no clue where your money goes and I got:  The Hierophant (number 5, questioning what others expect versus what is true, being honest in the face of criticism, the line between being true to oneself and functioning in society, teacher or counselor figure, a healer for old wounds, and going on a new spiritual quest); Eight of Cups (number 8, taking life for granted until an aspect of it is broken, an unfulfilled dream, the need to go inward for answers, the need for a break, and possibly “easy come easy go”); Ace of Swords (number 1 or 11, intellectual energy, cutting through the unnecessary, the need to employ logic and reason, “sword of karma” cutting both ways, and brutal honesty); and Temperance (number 14, feeling balanced within oneself, the ability to make things manifest, blending of light and dark sides within the self, and re-evaluating one’s life).  This spread suggests a person who knows what they should be doing and what would make them happy, but is not doing it out of a sense of obligation or need for acceptance.  The Eight of Cups strongly indicates a person who has given up their life’s passions and dreams to make others happy, even though this may not have been asked of them.  The presence of the Hierophant and the Ace of Swords in this spread shows me you know very well what it is you want to be doing, but are too afraid of rocking the boat and losing friends to tell them to eff off and do your thing.  Temperance in the presence of these other cards indicates you are trying to drown out this nagging feeling by being everything to everyone and by buying yourself things because you have convinced yourself you need them to cope…  or they will somehow keep you from committing some serious verbal assault on those that may deserve it.

Your money is going in three directions: towards things you need, towards stuff you only think you need, and towards stuff you buy as a form of self-punishment.  I get the feeling you have a terrible time differentiating between the first two categories—what you need and what you think you need.  The Ace of Swords and the Hierophant tell me that you need to be brutally honest with yourself about these categories.  I would start with making one list of the things you absolutely need (like food, water, shelter, toilet paper, gas for the car, etc.) and one list of things that you feel are necessary, but not immediately germane to your survival (such as Frappucinoes, trinkets that help you blow off steam, and items that help you better cope with the parts of your life where others are constantly stepping on your boundaries—because they are).  I also want you to make a third list of items that you buy or make yourself a part of in the name of keeping the peace or making others happy (please include things like holiday presents, birthday presents and dinners, bridesmaid dresses/groomsman gear, time and money spent helping others with pet projects, and lending your time or money to people who claim to need it).  This third list is a petri dish of resentments for you because you don’t feel as though the resources and energy ever get returned, the people rarely appreciate it on a level that would justify your effort, and you know darn well these projects keep you from doing what you know on a soul level would make you happy.

Here’s what I want you to do with each item on this third list:

  1. Write down why you feel obligated to put your time, energy, and money into this. Go with the first thing that pops into your mind, such as: “To make my friend happy,” “so they’ll feel like idiots for making fun of me,” “to be the bigger person,” “because this is what friends do for each other,” etc.
  2. Write down what the approximate cost of this item was in money, time spent on the project, and how much of your energy and emotion you put into this. Be honest.  Now’s not the time to pretend you’re okay with it.
  3. Write down what benefit you got out of this item. How did the other person show their appreciation?  Rank the level of appreciation from 1-10 (with 10 being the highest).  Did you get referrals, promotions, a bonus, some money, or other material compensation from the project?  If so, how much?
  4. Write down the emotional cost of this item to you in terms of resentment, feeling drained, feeling used, feeling pressured to do it again, et al.
  5. Write down anything that would benefit you that you could have paid for or done with the same resources you used on the item on this list.
  6. How are you using the item on your third list as an excuse not to do the stuff you wrote for Question 5?
  7. Take note of how you feel about this third list.
  8. Commit to erasing one item from the third list and replacing it with part of your answer from Question 5 this week.
  9. Re-read your answers to Questions 1-5, then repeat the instructions for Questions 6-8 each week for at least a month.

If you do this, I guarantee you will have answered your own question.


PayPal me at

(Send your question in the Notes section on the PayPal site.)


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