Clare Seal is the face behind @myfrugalyear, an honest space where she talks about finance and wellbeing. She writes about security, health and relationships in terms of our money and our mind.
From a female perspective, the topic is complicated with the gender gap, taboos and gendered roles. Clare shares her top tips and insights for it all...
Tell us about yourself!
I'm a 30-year-old writer with one husband and two young children. I started @myfrugalyear in March 2019, when my relationship with money reached breaking point.
I had over £27k of credit card and overdraft debt, and it was taking a huge toll on my mental health and emotional wellbeing. I'd been juggling small amounts of money from one account to another, struggling to keep up with growing repayments and just trying to make it through to the end of each month, but that month, the money just completely ran out, and I was faced with the fact that something needed to change.
It was a lot to deal with, and I thought that using Instagram as a way to hold myself to account and document my journey might be useful. I never imagined that it would evolve into the community that it is today, or that I'd end up writing a book!
How do finance and wellbeing come together?
They are so inextricably linked, especially for women. There is no wellbeing without financial wellbeing - money, or a lack of it, causes so much anxiety for people that it's very difficult to feel well and happy if it's weighing heavily on your mind.
The important thing isn't to amass wealth at the cost of all treats, but to make sure your relationship with money is a healthy one, and that you feel financially secure and in control.
What are your best practices to embrace financial wellbeing?
What have you learned about women and finances?
I think that I was always aware that women were operating in an economic system that didn't serve us, but the research that I did for the book, and engaging with campaigns like Pregnant Then Screwed and the Young Women's Trust has thrown the injustice into sharper relief, definitely.
The fact is that the gender pay gap is affecting women from the second that they enter the world of work, and there is still very little protection for new and expectant mothers in real terms.
Women are having to fight so hard for rights that should be given as a matter of course. The race pay gap also means that Black and Bangladeshi women in particular are getting a double hit when it comes to not being paid what they're worth - all of this perpetuating the pension, investing, debt and overall wealth gaps that exist in society, too.
Why do you think the conversation around finance lacks attention, how does it compare to taboo topics, such as sex, women's health or cannabis, for example.
I think Brits in particular find it very difficult to talk about money. We're quite buttoned up when it comes to most of these subjects, and I think it comes down to opening ourselves up to criticism or feeling vulnerable. For all of these topics, there is a real epidemic of 'everything's-fine-itis, whether that's to do with pleasure, physical and mental health or cash. We don't want to admit that we're not sure what to do, or that things aren't great. Particularly with finance, I think that bright women are often afraid to speak out for fear of being judged or patronised - I know that's definitely how I felt.
What are the key takeaways from your book?
My book is not meant to be a quick fix or silver bullet, but rather a prompt for addressing deeper lying money issues and fixing the foundations of what, for many people, is a fundamentally broken relationship. The key takeaways are not necessarily around material financial changes - although that's certainly part of it - but the importance of getting rid of financial shame, how to curb emotional spending and how to decide what financial health looks like for you.
How is the relationship with money compare to the relationship with yourself (self love) and the relationship with others, the environment, etc.?
I think they’re all completely interwoven, but I’m not sure that they necessarily should be. Money should be a tool, but a poor relationship with money can be the cause of self-loathing, relationship difficulties (in terms of partnerships, friendships and family relationships) and overspending/over-consumption, which is damaging our world so badly. I am increasingly aware that the money I spend is a vote cast for the kind of world I want to live in, which in itself is a great motivation to spend more mindfully.
With the uncertainty of the current financial times, how are you planning and preparing?
We’ve been quite lucky so far, as the pandemic hasn’t had too much of a negative effect on our finances yet, but I’m very aware that that could change in an instant. My husband works in hospitality, one of the worst affected industries, so we are trying to be very careful. The focus at the moment is very much on building some savings and continuing to pay down our debt to reduce our financial commitments just in case.
Share a bit about your community and how it was to share similar experiences with people around the world.
I absolutely love the community I have now on Instagram, but I think if you'd told me a couple of years ago that I'd be doing this, I would have needed a lie down. For the most part, the response has been very positive, especially when I dropped the anonymity earlier this year, but it has left me feeling very exposed and vulnerable at times, too.
I absolutely love seeing women supporting one another in the comments, and have received lots of messages from people who have found my content helpful, which is always a real buzz. It's been hard at times, but I'm so glad I did this.
What motto do you live by?
Definitely ‘Life is short’. My husband and I have both recently lost friends very young and It serves as a stark reminder of the fact that we must prioritise the things that matter. I try to remember that the goal is happiness, not only at the end of the journey but during as well.
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