54: What Happens When Money, Minimalism & Mindfulness Cross Paths with Cait Flanders

What do our feelings have to do with money? Well as it turns out, everything! In this episode Wall Street Journal bestseller author, Cait Flanders, joins me to discuss what happens when money, minimalism & mindfulness cross paths.

You can listen to the episode above or read the unedited transcript below.


Meaghan Smith  00:20
Hello beautiful people and welcome to another episode of the money mindful Podcast. I am your host Meaghan Jean Smith. I am a money mindset and life coach for women. I help everyday women just like you overcome insecurities and tap into the courage required to create your dreams. If you feel like you've been playing it small and staying safe, but know in your bones, you're capable of more and want to start taking up more space in the world. I help women just like you do exactly that. And it's really easy. You can book a call to have a chat with me. And you can do that by going to the money mindful website. All right, let's do this. Let's get into this. I have such a treat for you. I am thrilled to have with us today a Wall Street Journal. That sounds so exciting. Best Seller, author Cait Flanders, with me here, we're on zoom. Cait, welcome.

Cait Flanders  01:24
Oh, my gosh, thank you for having me.

Meaghan Smith  01:26
I'm actually really, really excited to talk to you today. Because you are the first person in the money field that I feel I have come across that touches on feelings. And so I'm definitely want to get into talking to you more about that. But first, I will just let everybody know that we are reading Cait's book, The Year of Less in Book Club this month. So if you're on if your usual member of book club, you already know this, you've already got the book in your hand and you're already reading it. But if you're not, this is the author, we've got her right here, we're chatting, we're gonna find out all about the book and more about Cait. So Cait, perhaps we could stop for somebody who hasn't read the book and is not planning to do you want to give us a little rundown on what it's about what you're about?

Cait Flanders  02:26
Yeah, yeah.  Gosh, this is actually kind of fun, because I haven't talked about money in a little while. But it's still honestly one of my favourite topics. So I'm excited about this. So I started writing about personal finance in 2010. When I was at that point, like close to being maxed out financially, I actually started my blog, and I wrote for about six months and, and like I had, like every intention of kind of getting my finances together. But I actually just didn't know how to do that yet. I sort of also hadn't hit my financial rock bottom. So I wrote for about six months, and my debt was actually just going up. And eventually I stopped writing and just kind of disappeared for a few months. And then ultimately came back and said, Okay, I'm back, I'm completely maxed out now, meaning I had $100, cash and $100 left on one of my credit card limits. So I had no option at that point, but to start living and spending a little bit differently.

Cait Flanders  03:32
So I like from there went on to pay off all of my debt, like I was, I was really strict and looking back on it was probably a bit too hard on myself, I definitely felt a lot of shame during the period of time that I paid off my debt. And I think as a result of that, I was too hard on myself, and also actually didn't really learn a tonne, because it was almost like my debt repayment period was like a punishment for what I had done, like all the debt that I had gotten myself into. And so yes, I paid it off. And like, I'll never regret that, obviously. But if I had had just some, like different thoughts, right, or like less shame or something, because ultimately, what ended up happening is, as soon as I paid off my debt, I went right back to spending all my money. So I didn't go back into debt at all. And I'm very grateful that that has never been the case since. But I went back to basically spending everything so whereas before I was like putting upwards of like 50 to 55% of my income towards debt. I somehow went back to spending all of that money. And for my first year of being debt free. I would I used to do this thing, right, like shared my monthly budgets on my blog. And I would say like my goal this month is to save, let's say 20% of my income, which should have been very doable like for what my numbers were back then that should have been so easy. And yet, at the end of every month, I would come back and be like, Well, that didn't happen. I feel like you know, I saved maybe 5%, I think like the most whatever, like 10 or 12. But I would be like, I saved like 5%, or like 3% of my income. And then I would make all these excuses for why I had had to spend money on things. And I did that for an entire year. So for 12 months in a row, I would look at my numbers, not feel good about them. And, and not so much from a shame piece. But truly just like this. I know, I know my numbers, I can do better than this, and ultimately decided I was going to try and experiment. So rather than it being like a punishment, the way my debt repayment was, I was like, What if I just tried to not shop for a year, so I just won't buy anything unless I absolutely need it. And that's, that's where it started. I mean, like the book is goes into definitely more than that. But that is what started was that I set out to do this challenge for a year.

Meaghan Smith  06:02
Ah, yeah, that is so interesting. And when you were talking about that, and you're saying shame, what that made me think of, and what I see people do like clients that I coach and things like that is that when we do things like we spend money, or we eat food, and we then we restrict ourselves. And we beat ourselves up, punish ourselves that though the words that you said and it's so true, like I've done it myself, it's like we think that if we restrict ourselves and put ourselves through this crazy regime to get to where we want to be because somehow we've done something wrong or we're wrong, or something's wrong with us. And then finally, we've reached the goal, we pay off the debt, or we lose the five kilos, or whatever it was. But then there's no awareness around why we got to that place in the first place. And so then it's like, just consume, consume, again, like spend money or eat food, or whatever it is, you know, drink alcohol, like we all have our own little vices. It's different for everybody what we use, but I think you just clearly illustrated that in terms of you, you said you paid off the debt, but then didn't know. Like, why you were in debt in the first place.

Cait Flanders  07:28
Yeah, and I also like, even in paying off the debt, so not only do you not learn, like by any of those kinds of things that you just mentioned, whether it's dieting or anything like that, like not only do we not learn what got us into the position where we were wanting to do that, but the way that we decide to reverse it is not a realistic habit or lifestyle, right. So we we come up with these ideas, like, I just have to do this thing for 30 or 60 days. And and then I'll be fine. But they're either incredibly restrictive, or just really not not good for our minds or mindsets.

Meaghan Smith  08:11
Yeah. Sorry, gone.

Cait Flanders  08:13
Oh, no. And I'm like, and so you just you can get to the end of it. And even if you technically accomplished your goal, per se, if you don't take the time to look at the emotional stuff that comes up. And or just like, is this something I can do long term and feel good about it? It will not stick? And so then we go back, and we repeat this stuff over and over and over again? Yeah,

Meaghan Smith  08:38
Yes, that's the thing. It's like, we can't hate ourselves debt free. or Thin

Cait Flanders  08:43
Oh, my Gosh,

Meaghan Smith  08:44
or sober. It's and I think that's, that's the like, that's the missing link. And I found, I think this is what I just loved about your book so much. There are so many parts of the book. And we'll talk about this more that just I deeply connected with because I felt like through the journey that you had with all the the not spending the money. The one that comes to mind, there was a point where you talked about a breakup that you had, that you weren't drinking, at the time and use. I can't remember the exact words but you said something like for the first time I had to feel my emotions, you know, and actually just process it because I wasn't drinking them away. I mean, you didn't say it in those words, but to that effect that you actually went on this journey and what happened is you actually learned how to process emotions because we're not taught that

Cait Flanders  09:45
Yeah, we're not taught it and are strongly discouraged from it most of the time, right? Like whether it's like it's not just men who are taught like not to cry that is truly something that is passed down from from older generations, and hopefully it's something that we continue to teach our kids, it's absolutely okay to cry. But even just as something as simple as that, right, like, there's just examples of like, you're fine, just get on with it. And, and like, occasionally, I guess that could be helpful. But it is so important for us to understand what our feelings are and what like, what, what is really going on inside of us. Because at the end of the day, every action that we do, or like the many of the actions that we do, are often feelings, if we're not looking at them, like if we do not know what the feeling is, it will just come up in some kind of action. And, and, and even if you're aware, like I actually just had a situation a couple weeks ago with a friend where I was really upset about something kind of in our friendship. And I noticed in our communication that I had shifted, but I would I would notice and be like, Oh, I don't, I don't want to say things like that, like I don't want to be angry, or I don't want to be to feel this way, and then ultimately act out at her for it. Because it's like, we just need to talk about this. Like there's clearly something going on. But the same can be true for money. Like, if we're not identifying the feelings, it does come out in spending in saying yes to a lot of stuff in a lot of online purchases, or just really mindless print purchases of things, we don't actually have a real intention of using going into debt, thinking that we can just deal with the minimum payments, like whatever it is. That's why it's so interesting that you said at the beginning like that not many people talk about feelings and money, because like they are so interlinked, like so into linked.

Meaghan Smith  11:42
Totally. It's like everything we do, or don't do whether you realise this or not, it's because of how we think we're going to feel or think that or avoid feeling a particular way. It's like, why do we go and buy that new dress or whatever? It's because we think we're going to feel better when we have this new dress, we're going to look better? Or why do we want that new car because we think that our life is going to be better with that new car, we're going to feel better with that new car, why don't we avoid talking to our mother in law or on the phone or whatever, because we want to avoid the negative emotions we feel when we talk by the way, I have a great relationship with mother in law. But I'm just using that as an example. I'm sure people can relate to but I actually think this is like the secret sauce of life. Like once you figure this out that if you just allow yourself to feel your feelings, and I don't mean react to feelings,

Cait Flanders  12:44

Meaghan Smith  12:45
but actually feel them because they're, they're a vibration in our body. Like it's actually something that we we feel it in our body. And if you just let yourself feel it, then it's like, Ah, that's it. Like, I mean, you know, shame doesn't feel good, doesn't it's not like, whoo, let's, let's sit and feel shame all day. Great. But if you don't resist it by going out and buying a heap of stuff you don't need or eating a heap of food that you not actually even hungry for then we we just get on with our lives without having this net negative result? I mean, what do you think about because I feel like that is what you were talking about in the book?

Cait Flanders  13:30
Yes. Even just the examples, you were just listing it made me think of the friend I was just talking about. It was actually my best friend Emma, like, is my closest friend. And also because of that, it makes sense that like we would have things come up in our friendship, you don't just have a best friend because things are magical and amazing all the time. Right? It's because you have learned how to have harder conversations. And so by me Actually, I literally named the things that were that I was feeling that I was like these actually have nothing to do with you. I'm noticing myself that like there is something like my healing is not over in this department of something that I thought I was good with. Oh, I'm actually not. So it's like showing me that there's a little more work for me to do. And I'm sorry that I haven't been a great friend for a couple of weeks. Okay, like naming it. It just changed everything. Then there was open dialogue and then it's also squashed. Like it's just fine. With the book and just the topics. I mean, one of the big things is that as you know in reading it is that I not only talk about the fact that you know, I decided to not buy things for a year, which I did learn a tonne about I learned a tonne about it, like you said in the breakup. I sort of for the first time ever, like notice that retail therapy was a bit of a thing for me. I don't think I was someone who shopped all the time. I do think I was someone who shopped emotionally, and and more the more often on my end was the negative emotions.

Cait Flanders  14:56
So I remember my editor and also my agent, both saying to me It would be great if you could include some examples of buying things to treat yourself. And like a lot of people do that. And I was like, I don't do that, like I actually have, because so much of my stuff is negative and like not feeling good enough in my own skin not feeling worthy. I do not buy things to treat myself like that is the exact opposite of how I do things. Or like as rewards, right? Like, I buy things, essentially to feel better. And but so I talk about shopping, of course, but I also talk about drinking, like you said, and like, giving up drinking first, it was the first thing that I sort of stopped doing. It, it was the longest lesson to learn, or it came with the longest lessons, or was the one that took me the longest to get the most comfortable with. But it taught me everything that I would need, including the startup this, which is that I had to feel feelings for the first time. And and that you, you know, relationships might get disrupted or even end or different things like that. But yeah, with the, like, end of the day, I really think that there's something to it of, of not feeling like enough. For me, that is where so much of both of those things came from both of those habits.

Meaghan Smith  16:21
100% Yeah, I totally relate to that. And, and the crazy thing is, is even as a really competent, capable woman, like I mean, I also feel like I'm really strong and all these things, but it's kind of like the 5050 you know, we we have all these positive emotions about ourselves, we have all these negative emotions, too. And then we think there's something wrong with us. And it's like, there's nothing wrong with us. It's just the human, the human experience. But I'm, I want to take this a step further. Because I listen to the when you Google your name, this YouTube, YouTube video comes up, it's sort of at the top of, and you're speaking it, Google, I think, Google. And no, I loved it. And I was listening to it. And one of the things he said I took a couple of notes on my phone, which I've got here someone to ask you about it. You referred to your spending pre the journey that you took of no spending and I'll get you to explain that a bit further too. Because even even for me I when I I heard about your book ages ago, and I never read it at the time, but as soon as I saw the year of lessons read the blurb like oh, yeah, not shopping for a year, my mind immediately went to Oh, she How did she do that? Like, what did she do? never spent any money. Like what does that even mean? So I'll get up. That's part of two. Yeah, that's fine, too. But the first thing was is you you said in the talk that you were an emotional consumer. And this is kind of what we're talking about. But do you are you able to flesh that out a bit? Like what do you mean by that? Because I think lots of people listening have this same, do exactly the same thing, but they're just maybe not aware of it yet.

Cait Flanders  18:09
Yeah. Gosh, like First of all, consumer for me means anything that is an input. But then also, I guess, like, financially, it's an output but because you're probably bringing something in to your home. So you know, obviously like shopping or buying things could be one of them drinking eating things. But honestly, also just like spending too much time on your phone or computer or, you know, bingeing television for not just like a one night thing. Like if occasionally you're like, this is what we're doing. That's totally fine. But But really, when you're just like, every single evening seems to be just bingeing nonstop, like you're just really not present at all in your life. And it just becomes your routine. All of those things to me, is looking back now and like, so much of it was a coping mechanism that I wasn't, I just was not kind of ready to be with myself, I guess. And so part of it was also learned behaviour and that you know, you can see how your family deals with stress, whether it is shopping or you know, when the workday is over, it is then spending the rest of the evening in front of the television, whatever it is, like some of it's learned, but as a result like I I just really like we were talking about did not know Yeah, how to deal with anything in a actual productive way.

Cait Flanders  19:42
So for the most part, I ended up being an emotional consumer or just like a binge consumer of literally everything. And what I talked about or like kind of figured out more by the end of that year was what I really was doing, as I kind of let myself whether it was like feeling feelings, making the connections between drinking. And even later, as the year went on, my parents ended up separating and getting divorced. And honestly, even at age 29, it was a little surprising, even just looking back now sometimes, like I was devastated by that I was devastated by my parents getting splitting up for splitting up. And all of those things I learned these different lessons of I had kind of stripped away my little coping mechanisms, right, like so it was like drinking first then spending. But then what I was doing with my parents was with their divorce was I pretty much turned on, like signal to say like Netflix, but like, some some streaming service, I basically just turn on a show and almost never turned it off. Like I just needed background noise. And I will say there's nothing wrong with like, if that's a temporary thing, right?

Cait Flanders  20:53
If you if you can say like, my anxiety is really bad right now, I do feel more comfortable with some noise in the house. Okay, that that, again, is like a very healthy coping mechanism. I was just not, I was not thinking about it. I was just like, so unaware that that's what I was doing. It took like, at least a month probably of of that, which then affected my sleeping and just everything. Like it just bled into everything. I wasn't very productive. to finally see like, Okay, once again, I'm just sort of doing this to not feel what's really going on right now. And, and the feeling part is the hardest part of it. But it's also where the most information comes out. And like where you can actually figure out, like, what am I feeling? What will what will make me actually feel better? And so then by the end of it, I was like, what is being a mindful consumer? Is that a thing? Is that what I've been doing this whole time, and I didn't really know it. And, and that's sort of the conclusion of the book was like, recognising that again, it is not to say, don't do any of those things. And again, because we have got to strip the shame out of it. Right? Like, there is nothing wrong with any of those things, if you're doing them with the awareness of just like, yep, this is what I'm doing right now. And it's short term. And you notice, like, you know, like, this is my coping for today. But, but this is going on, I am aware of what's happening. Like, there's such a difference in saying like, yeah, I'm going to use this purposefully. And then, and then I'm, I have, I'm going to work towards a different plan here. In my life, I never did that, really until that year.

Meaghan Smith  22:35
Ah, totally. And, you know, I just think of, there was a period of my life when I used to just buy a lot of makeup, and thing and, and I just felt like I always needed the next thing, like, I just needed that other thing. And, you know, I had got to a point and I'm not even somebody who's really into makeup, I don't even wear makeup for some reason, I always needed more makeup. And when you don't conscious, and there's nothing wrong, it's like Exactly. There's nothing wrong with buying makeup, you want to buy Makeup buy makeup, it's totally fine. But for me, it was like, I was buying makeup because I wanted to feel good about myself. I thought that if I wore a particular makeup or whatever, that I would be beautiful. But I was missing the whole point of that I didn't actually believe that myself and was going ext was trying to get something external to create how much how I felt. And that's the trap. I think with the overspending that we all fall into that we're looking outside of ourselves to get a feeling and that's why it doesn't work because no, it doesn't matter what it is like top of the line. I don't even know what's the top of the line makeup thing Chanel do they do? Like some probably crazy amazing makeup. It's not going to you're still going to feel shit about yourself. If you if you feel like that it's you have to go to the core of like, what is actually the real issue like what are you thinking about yourself? What how you actually feeling and I this is the thing I was really curious about because you have quite a you've got really good awareness about yourself. And I think a lot of people don't have that same kind of awareness. And I'm one I'm curious like, did you were you like really into personal development or, or was this just something that you created the opportunity for yourself to be more aware by doing this process? I'm I'm just yeah, I'm I'm totally curious.

Cait Flanders  24:52
Yeah, honestly, and this is a topic I've been exploring a little bit in therapy this year. Is is Yeah, like trying to think of how I did develop that. So there are a couple different things that I know for sure. One is that for whatever reason, as a kid, like, I read a lot when I was a kid, and when I was probably, like, 12, or 13, I read my first Chicken Soup for the Soul. Do you remember those books?

Meaghan Smith  25:27
Yeah, yeah, yeah, no.

Cait Flanders  25:28
So I read my first one of those when I was like, 12, or 13. And I just devoured them, there was something in them that I just remember, like, feeling connected to, or, I don't know, and they're always filled with like, a whole bunch of people's stories, right? Like, it wasn't just one writer or one person. And as I do have this, like memory of being interested in some of this back, then, I think a lot of it did come from blogging, because I would write so regularly, and also very publicly, like I had no audience for the first couple of years or not, not much of one, and then in paying off my debt, it grew a bit more, and then especially with the shopping ban, grew even, and more. And, yeah, there was, um, I just think that act of writing regularly and reflecting on my choices regularly created a lot of that awareness. Now, that does not mean that other people need to go do it publicly.

Cait Flanders  25:30
But that does mean like a regular journaling practice, right. And, and I had never thought about it until more recently, but there was a real ritual around what I was doing, like, for a long time, I would track my spending every single week by hand, then I would publish it online, but but I did it by hand. I also, you know, I wrote budgets, and then updated them once a month, like there was a real ritual around that. And there's a lot of awareness that can come just from the fact that I built that into my life. I think because it was numbers, I didn't see it as like this personal development thing of what we sort of see now. But it was a very practical way to get to know myself and who, who I was what my priorities were. And also, I think that your spending, like, first of all your budgets and your spending, show you what you're currently prioritising. And that just it just teaches you something about yourself. Like that, you kind of think you know, but like, you really look at the numbers, you get to know yourself in a new way. So yeah, I just think a lot of what is a public journaling is what I was doing. And yeah, and then like, as time went on, I think I also used to, like, finally got a lot more comfortable having conversations with people. And that was something that when I was younger, I was such a perfectionist and a people pleaser that I was so uncomfortable with the idea of having conversations about things that I was trying, right that I might fail at. But I like slowly, I think getting more comfortable with with talking to certain people about it also helped.

Meaghan Smith  28:04
Yeah, I'm just nodding my head here. And writing, I think is a form of thinking. And if you're writing about yourself, yeah, that makes sense. Actually, when you when you put it in that in that light?

Cait Flanders  28:19
Yeah, and then just think, I mean, I blogged for eight years. So I had a very regular practice of sort of connecting with my thoughts and, and putting them let's say, like, on paper, so to speak. So it was, yeah, a long time. And then I mean, book writing has been similar in a sense of, they're, they're different projects, but you, I mean, annually, probably right about the same number of and, and you learn a lot about yourself in the process of writing something. So yeah, it's a lot of just a lot of reflection.

Meaghan Smith  28:59
Yeah, right. Okay, so let's talk about what that actually meant. not spending for a year like what did that look like? Because it's, it's not as extreme as it sounds, actually. Oh,

Cait Flanders  29:09
no, it's not. Yeah, so for me what it looked like was, like I, the basic premise, we could say is like not buying something unless I absolutely needed it. So that was things like of course, I could buy groceries, I could put gas in my car if I needed it. Like basic toiletries and cosmetics when I when I ran out of things I actually used. So I mean, obviously if you run out of toothpaste, like everybody wants you to buy more toothpaste, things like that, but yeah, so basic stuff. Trying to remember I was not allowed to buy like the list was kind of long for that it was like clothes and shoes again, like unless something dire happened and I absolutely needed something. So what I will say is I am someone who typically only owned something like that. One pair of jeans at a time. And actually, that year, my pair of jeans did rip in the inner thigh. And I remember the first time I tried to patch them up, and like you learn with stretch denim on your inner thigh, it doesn't last for that long. But I draw. So I did buy like one pair of jeans. And I bought like one sweater. And one pair of boots, like for the winter, literally because I didn't have anything appropriate. And also, actually, Emma literally just asked me the other day if or something about my boots, I just wear blund stones. And she's like, I'm thinking of finally buying some blend stones, like how long have yours lasted I was like, I bought them during the shopping ban So yeah, it's just I hadn't thought about that. in so long.

Cait Flanders  30:54
So there were a few things that I did buy, I could not buy books, magazines, things like for around the house, home decor, I know candles, stuff like that, like there was the list looked long, but kind of as time went on, really realised that I didn't care about most of it, or just like, most of that never really rubbed up against me in the sense that it wasn't hard. I learned things about myself, like I'm pretty much have always been someone who wears the same few outfits. So clothes shopping was nothing I actually cared about. And so I didn't miss it in any way. The hardest thing for me was books. And that was actually like sort of similar to any sort of bad habit that you can have books for me were a bad habit in that I used to do the thing where I would just hear about a book that sounded good. And back in the day, like immediately jump on and say Amazon and add one to the cart. And then it would tell you like, oh, if you only spend eight more dollars, you'll get free shipping. And so I've just add another one that maybe was in my bookmarks or just also sounded interesting. And I would do that probably almost every week, maybe every two, but I had books coming all the time. And I would love to say that I was someone who read that many books a month. But it's pretty rare for me to read more than maybe two.

Cait Flanders  32:26
So yeah, so I used to read that a lot. And so books were the hardest one for me, because I had such a habit around it. But one of the things that helped me at the beginning with books specifically was that I actually went through my bookshelf and counted how many books I owned that I had never read, like I still had never met and I think it was 55 if I remember correctly, that is more than a year's worth of reading material for me. Right. And it wasn't that number was not to shame me. It was awareness. It was oh, I literally don't need more books. Like I have enough. I do not know like I do not need more of these. And so every time that I would think about buying books, which for the first probably four months was often I would be able to remember I have more than 50 books that I've never even read, I do not need more. But I also like fortune on that and started using the library more regularly. It was just something that I used all the time as a kid and then I don't know, I hit like 20 had credit cards and just started buying like it was it's so interesting how quickly, something like a credit card could change a habit like that. But yeah, those were that was kind of the only hard hard part was books oddly, and that would be different for everyone, though, the same way. Like it might have been cosmetics for younger you right like younger, you might have had a harder time with something like that. Or some people it would be fashion or if they have a hobby or a craft that they like to do, but you just constantly buy more and you think like, you can come up with reasons we can always justify why we might need something. But it was a real practice that year of finally recognising how long it takes for me to use things up. And and all of that created awareness around knowing, like and like long term. So where I'm at now is like I do not mean to buy things because I know how long it will take me to get through what I've already got.

Meaghan Smith  34:28
Yeah, mine's yarn I've got a basket full of yarn down here a cup. And, and in my defence because you know, we can easily defend ourselves. I was making a lot of stuff but now this year because I've started a business and been doing all these different things I'm finding I'm not doing that. And it's really interesting. I think I don't know whether you wrote it in the book or whether you said it on the talk that you were talking about how there was a stage that you got to where you'd you'd gone though your things, you've got rid of stuff that you felt like you weren't using or didn't need. But then you got to a stage where you had all these aspirational things in your home things that you thought that you would do, but just never got around to doing. I feel like I'm at that stage too. Like, we don't have a lot of stuff because we move quite a bit. I mean, we, that's not true. We do have a lot of stuff. Because we have a family. I've got young kids, but at the same time, I feel like I've got a lot of stuff that when other people come over, they're like, Oh, you've hardly got anything here. But But yeah, that's my next step, too. It's like, ah, do I really need a whole cupboard full of wool, like, maybe I could give it to someone else who might actually use it.

Cait Flanders  35:44
Maybe I'm like, for something like that. It's always like, if it's not bothering you, like the thing with for me with stuff that I held on to was, when I looked at it, I genuinely felt bad. Like, I felt bad that I owned these things that I wasn't using, almost like another form of shame. And it was interesting to like it took removing them. So donating or giving to friends, it took removing things, to see how much emotional bandwidth that was taking out. And then as soon as it was gone, it was like, Oh, I can like, just magically seem to like have more time to think about other things or put it into things that you care more about. It like feeling shame about things is it takes up so much more time than we realise and like pauses us does that hard stop. It pauses us in some way. Like it really restricts us and hold us holds us back.

Cait Flanders  36:39
The aspirational thing too. I was always subconscious. I did not know this really until I was decluttering. There were so many things I had purchased for this. These like other versions of myself that I wished I was. So even on the line of books like it was like I had these books that I would sort of think like a smarter Cait would read. Right? Yeah. But like truly right? Like whether they're classics or certain books in sort of like the self help space or like, you know, the ones that are so dense. They're like a textbook. It was like a handbook like that thinking, like, I wish I was the kind of person who read these. And or maybe subconsciously it's like, maybe thinking, like, if people see these on my shelves, they will think I'm that person. Like it was never I was not aware of it. When I was making the purchases. You're just like, Yeah, I would totally read that. Or Yeah, I'd like to read that one day. And it's so simple. But like deep down when it came time to kind of decluttering, which I did that year and and getting rid of things I could finally see what well, what was going on behind those purchases.

Meaghan Smith  37:50
Yeah. And I think that's why the whole minimalism thing and Marie Kondo and all of that. I don't think it's necessarily the goal is to not have anything in your house. But what that allows you to do is exactly what you've just said, like, sometimes we hang on to all this stuff. Why? Like, we don't even question it. We don't even examine why we still have this thing from 15 years ago. You know, I mean, sometimes like I've gone through and done a, you know, quick declutter in my wardrobe. And I've armed an ad about a particular article of clothing. And then I'm like, I bought this when I was 20. I'm now in my 40s. I can probably let it go. I just,

Cait Flanders  38:41
it is another. Yeah, there's another aspect of it where I think even if it didn't cost a lot, I think that an extra layer of the shame is I spent money on this. And so then you think that automatically that means that you should use it. And it's a it's a really hard one to let go of is that piece it's not the physical item. It's like letting go of the fact that yeah, it is flat out. It sucks. It sucks that I spent money on this thing, and I'm never going to use it. That sucks. And that it's already been paid like financial term board is like it's a sunk cost. You've already paid for it the money's gone. Just it happens sometimes. Like and you just have to let it go. But yeah, yeah, yeah, the minimalism stuff is an interesting like topic in general. But yeah, it's that the like the it's hard to let go of things. And I do think like, what other things in your house would you actually use if you stop looking at all the things and like worrying about the fact that you're not using them? Like, what would you actually do in your space if that stuff didn't exist?

Meaghan Smith  39:54
Yeah, yeah. And I've spoke I'll share this with you. I've spoken about it on the podcast before but when we Move to Sydney. I did a massive declutter and got rid of stuff that was really had emotional baggage attached to it. And I used to work as a photographer 1000 years ago. And I had a lot of photography equipment. I mean, I'm talking tripods and lenses and cat, so many cameras, and, but I don't work as a photographer anymore. I do not. It's not my job, you know, I just had a wardrobe full of camera gear. But because it was such a significant part of my life, and something that I was really attached to, letting the cameras go felt like somehow this big deal. And what was really interesting is that as soon as I did in my life has just opened up this year. And it's not just because I got rid of the camera gear. No, it's just part of this process that that was me back then. And, and that was great. And that was amazing. And yes, I needed all that then. And I wanted to have all that then. But that's not me now. And what does future me want to do? And what does future mean? Need future me doesn't need a wardrobe full of camera gear that, like, why am I carrying this stuff around with me? for it? Am I gonna carry it around for the next 10 years? You know, no, this is ridiculous. Let it go. And it was such a I mean, I don't, I don't I'm sort of conscious of sounding like a total wangka. But like, it was really healing for me, you know, like, I just was like, yeah, let it go. I don't, I don't need it. I'm moving into the next step of my life. And I think we do use up so much mental energy on exactly what you've just said, thinking about the stuff that we have. And also the shame and whatever else comes up for people like me, because everybody experiences different emotions. But it's, we we hold on to so much stuff. And I think just letting stuff go physically is symbolic of what's happening in our head. Because if we haven't resolved what's happening in our head, it is much like you can't let it go.

Cait Flanders  42:17
No, and I think that there's just for whatever it's worth, I don't think you sound like a wanker per se. I think it's really hard to let ourselves change. That is like, it just is it is hard to know that we are changing to let that be true. To accept that maybe what was true for us isn't true for us anymore. And it's hard for us to do it to ourselves, it's also really hard for us to do for other people or for others to grant that to us. Right. Like there's something about, like, we just put ourselves in boxes, and we put other people in boxes, and it's just like, this is who you are. And it can be really hard to let yourself like, like, let yourself first of all, be different and be like, Oh, that was part of who I am. And, and yeah, I don't know, I watch that with my sister right now. We've tried to convince my sister to sell her drum set for years, because it right, it's just been clutter for years and years and years. Now, she used to play all the time when she was in her teens. And she just doesn't anymore. And we've tried and tried and tried. And finally she just said something very similar of like, that was my creative outlet and my emotional outlet for so long. And she was like, I'm just not ready yet. It was like, oh, okay, like just, she just named it and so will stop asking. And, and yeah, and so she's not there yet of like willing to let it go. Okay. Like, you also can't rush this stuff sometimes. But good on you for for like recognising a how hard it is to let go of that stuff. And to like step into who you are like I think that is so powerful to just step into yourself and and your money will change as a result of like how you spend and save and everything will change as a result of that

Meaghan Smith  44:17
Hundred percent what I one of the things that you said, which I absolutely loved was someone asked you a journalist asked you a question about budgeting and whether you budgeted and you just said Actually, I don't even budget it's not something that I tried it it's not something that worked for me and then this was beautiful. This is what I absolutely love. You said, I know I won't overspend because I trust myself.

Cait Flanders  44:43
Hmm. Yeah. Which is huge. And I still feel that and I still don't budget. I do. I do like have a money practice. I just tracked my net worth every month. So I go in and add up all my bank accounts and if I have like $200 my card Card, whatever, like I just added everything up. So I know my net worth every month. And the goal is for it to go up, not down, like the market doesn't always allow for that. But yeah, so that is my only money practice still. And, and it is because I know that I never want to put myself in a bad financial position. I know how awful it felt. I know how, like the shame, yes, but also just the restriction. And just like there was there's no freedom, no ability to be able to make decisions that I really wanted to because everything was essentially of like just staying on top of my bills. And I never want to go back to that. So

Meaghan Smith  45:50
yeah, and I think that's such a sign of scarcity, too like, in the sense that when you, if you and I'm not saying don't be aware of your numbers, like I'll like, just to be clear, I have a business and I do my books every month, I you know, I, I have to stay on top of that. I mean, I've got to do that for tax purposes and so forth. In my personal life with my family. We do a budget once a year, just in terms of, we put money aside for yearly annual expenses, we know exactly, all the annual bills like the car rego and our memberships and blah, blah, blah, we list them out, then we divide it by how often we get paid. And we make sure we put that money aside every fortnight so we just have a bank account sitting there. And when the rego comes up once a year, the money is sitting there, we know we've got it, right we do that. But I think have an and also listen, if having a budget works for you. Great, amazing, don't change. Like there's nothing wrong with that. But But for me, I am having a budget if I was like writing up every single thing that I do every month and every single dollar I spend that for me is like counting calories. And yeah, that's what I loved about you saying that I trust myself because I don't overspend because I trust myself. And it's like, um, you know, I don't have to count calories because I trust myself that I'm not going to overeat.

Meaghan Smith  47:26
Guys, I don't need to plan every single thing that item of food, I'm just trying to give a reference point for it that you know, it's like, I know, I'm not going to over eat. So I don't need to plan every calorie I know, I'm not going to overspend. So and also, I know if I do happen to overspend in quotation marks, I'm not gonna beat myself up about it. It's like, okay, sometimes that happens. Hello, we're humans, where this is the human experience. I mean, yeah, sure, if you've had like a real issue and you you want to turn it around, you want to really develop awareness around your spending, yeah, do a budget for a while, just so you like really onto it. And you can create that awareness. But I think it's sort of like once you have that awareness, you don't have to monitor yourself all the time. It's like you can develop that self trust, where you just like, I'm in control of how much I spend, nobody's making me I get to decide if I spend money on this or not. And I also get to decide if I want to spend a lot of money on something or not. And it's totally up to me.

Cait Flanders  48:39
Yes, and I was actually only going to add a similar point to like a I did that, like I did track my spending and write budgets for a few years. And it did give me awareness. And then you do know your numbers, like after a few years that you absolutely know what your numbers are. And I've I guess I've never written about this anywhere. But annual spending is then like what I figured out after the shopping ban was like I did have technically numbers I just wasn't sharing everything publicly anymore. But I did have my numbers and I could say like okay, I know rent cost me X amount. insurances cost me this amount. Typically I spend this amount on gas in a year, my groceries typically in a year, the beautiful thing about annual spending. And the reason it takes you out of the scarcity stuff is that you really get comfortable with the fact that every month looks different. If you have one month that is horrible, you just feel horrible. And you're like well of course it was a so called horrible month you had this massive bill or you had like whatever it was on an annual basis, you're probably fine.

Cait Flanders  49:50
Like you have an opportunity to turn this around in within the year or cut back elsewhere. If this budget was up too much, or whatever it is like and it's It's, yeah, there's a real gift. I think for some people, depending on what their numbers are, and if they have no awareness, I do think you probably do have to start with a bit of tracking and really understanding that or just going back through like your last few months of like bank account and credit card transactions and stuff like that. And you can figure it out from there. But annual spending, it opened me up in so many ways. And then that also similar with a shopping ban, or when I recognise that, like one bad day does not mean a failed experiment, because I actually did have one moment of weakness in the shopping ban where I bought something that I wasn't supposed to and like very much talked myself into buying it. And then on bought it like it return or cancel on the order. And really took it as a learning experience, rather than an unexperienced where I would just like beat myself up and give up on the whole thing. Which again, like counting calories, if one bad day, and it's just like, ah, why bother? I'm done. And same with money. Like I had one bad week or one bad month, like why am I even bothering because it was one bad week or one bad month? So what? keep going keep like, you know what, okay, it doesn't feel good. Cool. Keep going, then like, keep going towards what does feel good?

Meaghan Smith  51:16
Yes. Yeah. I just love that so much. So listen, I don't want to run out of time without talking about your new book. And I haven't read it. So I want to know all about it. Tell us about it. Because it just the title. I feel like it. It To me, it seems like you've been on this journey. And this is like the next phase. So tell us all about it.

Cait Flanders  51:39
Yeah, I mean, from a few people who have read it already, they have said, it actually feels like a really natural extension of the year of less, which is really cool. Like, it's just a cool thing to hear. I can tell you that where it came from was when I was doing events for the year of less. What I noticed was that at every single event I did there were about 20 that I did all together, and every single one. And also with journalists, even like people would always ask a question that was like along the lines of Did you lose anyone along the way? Did you lose any friends? How did your social life change? Like, what was your dating life? Like? There was always this piece around family friends connection around doing something different than what everyone else is doing? And what I noticed was that my answer at first was, I was just sugarcoating it. To be honest, like I was just kind of saying the, the thing that people probably would want to hear like, oh, like, you know, something shifted, or you can have to change, like how you socialise a bit, but it was fine. It's okay. And I also noticed that after four or five events, I was like, well, that answer doesn't feel great. Like I don't feel good saying that. Because the truth is that, yeah, you you do lose people, like you do lose friends, or you do have people who just stop calling or stop understanding you or conversations feel harder, or you're just not connecting with at all anymore. And we don't want to say those things because it's the harder truth. And it's complicated, and every relationship is different. And that won't be true in all cases, but could be horribly true. And some others and, and, and ultimately, I just sat there thinking like, in specifically sort of the minimalism and like simple living space, we are doing a massive disservice by not talking about the fact that when you decide to be the one person who lives differently, it is going to change your life. And not always in a good way.

Cait Flanders  53:38
Like like, yes, the the ultimate outcome will be right for you, if it feels like you're on the right path for you. But it does not mean it will come without challenges, like it is absolutely going to challenge some relationships, it is going to, like if you go really deep with it, you'll really start to understand how different you're going against maybe the way that you were raised or things that your family does, which can really cause like disconnection with your family. It can be extremely challenging, and then not even just in the sort of relationship aspect. But like changing your own patterns is hard. It is hard to stop doing something that you always did. And I just thought like, so many self help books that I read, just sort of like give you 10 steps and are like here are the benefits. Not to deter people from doing it. But to say if you can be prepared that yes, it will come with ups and downs, then yes, like go do it do the thing.

Cait Flanders  54:41
But just to like, no, it's like we just sort of like, need to add a little more awareness around the fact that it will also be challenging whatever it is that you're doing. So to me opting out, I just so it was actually one of the taglines for the book, but to me opting out is literally just changing paths in life. So something that you weren't Doing you decide you're not going to do anymore. And what I take you through is sort of the five, five stages that I've sort of seen both in myself. And then I interviewed a bunch of friends for the book and people that I know or have followed online. And, and everyone sort of spoke to these different points, even though I wasn't naming them for them. Like people sort of all spoke to these points of like, what it feels like in the beginning, what it feels like in the middle. And then as you keep going, because the middle can be pretty hard, like what happens as you keep going, what, like results are the benefits, but also, yes, how life has changed in some ways, it didn't feel great, and how you manage those. And yeah, I just like, it was kind of fun. I took an analogy of like what it takes to complete a difficult hike and just kind of applied it to the book. And honestly, for me, it was like a really fun creative project. And I feel excited about it in a way like the or less, I'm proud of it. But I think as time goes on, it's like, you just realise like, that was a thing I did when I was 29. Right? And so as you like, I'm 35 now, and I'm only going to get older, like, Oh, that was just like this thing. I did than. So it's not a thing I'm going to live out for life kind of thing. Like Yes, I don't spend the way that I used to I'm My life is somewhat similar to a shopping ban, per se now.

Cait Flanders  56:30
But opting out, like, no, like, I will probably be doing this pattern or going through this cycle over and over and over again, forever. Because I think that also once you opt out of one thing, and and can kind of see that you can do it. Like the more intentional you're being you will, you will opt out of many things in life. It could be frequently it could be 5, 10 years apart. But yeah, everyone I talked to ultimately had opted out of way more than even one or two things. So

Meaghan Smith  57:03
I do you know what, what I think about that is one Yeah, totally. You, you will create new friends and move up and close up relationships with old friends, that's going to happen for sure. But I also kind of like to think about it, it's not you're losing friends or you didn't leave them behind, they just didn't keep up with you. They didn't stay on the same path that you wanted to go, you just you know, and I love thinking about it that way. And relationships with friends have cycles, just like anything else, I think. But in terms of what you just said then about what happens when you it's not all good when you when you change. But I think this is the piece that so many of us Miss is that life is 5050 we're not meant to be happy 100% of the time, when somebody dies, you don't want to be happy at the funeral feeling great about life. Of course not like it's part of the human experience to feel sadness and happiness and joy and insecurity and fear and love. And it's like the whole thing. It's a whole package. That's what life is. And we already feel positive and negative emotion now, like right where we are in our life. And when we get to this place in quotation marks we want to go to, we're still going to feel negative emotion, half of the time and positive emotion half the time. And then so people ask me, so then why would you have a goal to like, earn more money or live somewhere else or whatever, if I'm still going to feel bad half of the point, half the time. And it's like, because that's the point of life to just do stuff because you want to because you choose to. And there's going to be good and bad where you are right now. And there's going to be good and bad to the place that you want to in the place where you want to go as well.

Cait Flanders  59:08
Yes, and to, like what I could see in people's questions, especially was like there's a real scarcity around being alone, right? Like of maybe being isolated. So like the question of even like, Am I going to lose friends or anything like that? It's because you can't yet see who you're going to cross paths with as a result. Right? And so you're really just entering the unknown and is this concerned like, what if everyone leaves me behind? Or I leave everyone behind or whatever it looks like. But you Yeah, there's just a there's a so there's a scarcity to it. And exactly that, like you're going to feel something either way. So why wouldn't you at least try to go after what feels like the most and just truest version of you? Why would you not live that if you're going to feel this stuff anyways because you're already in your current life. Having these thoughts not feeling great being afraid of being alone, also, okay, it and like the feelings are coming with you. But like, wouldn't it feel? I don't know, just like maybe for me like I was like, it's not even about happiness. It's like, wouldn't you just at least feel more content? If you were choosing what felt right for you? In that process?

Meaghan Smith  1:00:23
Totally, totally. I mean, this is the journey that I've been on for the last 18 months, 12 months, like I've completely changed my life, and it is been scary as anything. And you know, I'm like, literally living in a different state, I now have a new caeer, I have a business, I'm not working as what I was doing before I have a podcast, all these things, but it's like what you were saying about? Yes, some people do get left behind or don't understand you or whatever. But also, like, all these new connections, open up with new people who come into your life who are interested in these new things that you're doing, which is so amazing, you know, and you wouldn't have met those people or had these new experiences if you hadn't decided to go for what you want.

Cait Flanders  1:01:18
Yes, and you do have to be open to them. Because I've definitely seen people pick paths and just say like, Oh, I don't meet anyone or something. I'm like, there's there's also a part of this where like, you have to be open. And making friends as an adult is requires you to really step outside of yourself sometimes. And it's worth it. Like it's worth having conversations, even if you only had like one good meeting with someone like one good coffee date or whatever. And you felt so alive because you were just aligned. Like that is worth it. That feeling when you like you just connect on something. It is it is worth it.

Meaghan Smith  1:02:00
So Ah, yeah, I'm getting chills. Yeah, totally. Absolutely. I mean, right now, like I'm talking to you, you. I'm in Australia, you're in Canada, or I assume you're in Canada right now. And I'm, and how cool is that? Like, I could not have anticipated this happening 12 months ago. And now it's just a normal part of my life. It's like, yeah, on the weekends, Louis takes the kids to the pool. And I talk to international authors.

Cait Flanders  1:02:32
My new life.

Meaghan Smith  1:02:33
Yeah. And love them. Absolutely. And this is what this is all the stuff what you open yourself up to? Yeah, exactly. If you allow. But look, we I feel like I could chat with you all day. But what kind of sort of been going for a while. So I want to start wrapping it up, first of all? Well, just finally, before we go, I wanted to ask you because I always ask like, what's if someone was going to take anything from this conversation today and the book that the year of less, just in terms of our money mindset, or any practice or anything that you do that has helped? You're just one little last nugget of information? You think that would be helpful before we wrap up? Hmm.

Cait Flanders  1:03:21
Yeah, I think that I haven't thought about this in a while. But I think that one of the things, like if someone said to me, oh, should I do a shopping ban? And I'm like, No, not necessarily. Like, it's not necessarily a thing that everyone has to go and do. What I do think is an interesting exercise is if you if that's even a question that you're asking, right, like, should I do something like this, I would say do an exercise where you go through your home. And maybe you know that there's 1234, or five things that you buy the most of or own a lot of, and just add up how many you actually own, like the way that I did with the books and I knew then that I had like 55 books. Just do something like that, because awareness can change so much. And also that really remembering that is not to make you feel bad about the fact that you have that much stuff or whatever number it is. It's not to feel bad about it. It's awareness of spending decisions going forward. And also a reminder that you have enough stuff. Right, like, those are the things that you You seem to be buying a lot of Okay, great. Does it feel like enough? Like, do you have enough to last you this year, you know, into next year, six months from now? That's amazing, if you do just to feel really grateful for that.

Meaghan Smith  1:04:49
Yeah, I really love that you've hit the nail on the head. It's just awareness. It's totally just awareness when you realise you've got, I don't know five tubes of moisturiser. Maybe you You don't need to get any more moisturiser. In fact, that moisturiser is probably gonna last you like another 12 months,

Cait Flanders  1:05:06
at least takes time to understand that though. Luckily, the silliest thing, but I went on to do the shopping ban for a second year with the whole purpose of I kept track of how many things I used. So I learned things like that, like I learned how many tubes of toothpaste I use, or how many sticks of deodorant, and it is such boring information. But I then I really understand how much I need in a year now. And that it's just informative for me. So

Meaghan Smith  1:05:38
yeah, I love that. All right. Well, Cait, tell us where can we find you is the book out in Australia yet? Because I know it's just recently just come out.

Cait Flanders  1:05:48
Yeah, it comes out in Australia on December 1. So okay, soon.

Meaghan Smith  1:05:52
Okay. I will I'll put links to your website, because I'm sure that there's information on the book there. And yeah, and the year of less, and yeah, where where can we find you? What's your

Cait Flanders  1:06:07
Instagram is the best. It's kind of the only place I hang out. I've been thinking of restarting a different newsletter, like kind of doing something a little different. But Instagram is like my for sure I'm there every day. So

Meaghan Smith  1:06:18
and that's at Cait Flanders. Flanders. Yeah. Okay. All right, I'll link you up in the show notes. If anyone wants to find you. I definitely. I'm like you with buying books. But I buy a lot more books this year because of book club. So that's like, that's a thing now. And I like my reasons. So that's okay. But I will definitely be buying that one. I'm really interested because I, I really have loved the year of less. I just, it's not something I'm interested in doing at all, but it just, I just loved all the insights that you had. And I thought that it was a really great angle to just look at our feelings, which is so funny that I, I have to do a podcast just on feelings, I think because it's a whole thing that seems to just get overlooked. And yet, here we have spoken about it for an hour. And yeah, it's so relevant.

Cait Flanders  1:07:18
It is on whether anyone wants to believe it or not. Mosley is in a big like, a financial planner or something would tell you like it shouldn't be emotional. It is so emotional. And that that is okay. And when you can tap into it, it can help you make the right decisions for you. So

Meaghan Smith  1:07:35
absolutely. All right. Well, Cait, thank you so much for being with me here today. This conversation, we've gone, we've gone deep, I think it's been great. So thank you. I really appreciate you being here today.

Cait Flanders  1:07:51
Thank you. And thank you for inviting me and just for making the space for it. So really nice.

Meaghan Smith  1:07:56
You're welcome. Okay, well, there you have it. I love talking to authors. Cait is such an amazing and insightful person. Obviously, we have to get her book, the year of less, and her new book that is coming out, I can't wait to read that. And I'll definitely link that up for you. Now, if you weren't already coming to book club. Now you know that you have to join us. It is the last one for the year. And it's actually going to be on a different date. This time it's going to be on Tuesday, the first of December at 8:30pm Australian Eastern Standard Time, all you need to do is grab it, grab a copy of the book. You can do that on any good bookstore retailer. There's also a link through the website to make it easier for you. I show up on the money mindful Facebook page at 830. And you can just join in the virtual meeting. As always, if you want to, if you want help living an intentional life actually doing all the things you want in your life instead of just fantasising about them. Book a call with me I can help you do this. Until next time, have an amazing week. Bye Bye.

Episode references

Find out more about Cait Flanders and her books on her website here. OR find her on Instagram here.

Be sure to join in on book club this month.  You can find out all the info and get the book here.

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