Photo of Kumiko Love's Books My Money My Way

Book Review: My Money My Way

About four years ago when I started my financial journey, I came across Kumiko “The Budget Mom” Love, a fellow Pacific Northwest mama. As I started this journey, I needed support, but I wanted support to have had some of the same experiences I’d had. I found Kumiko relatable because she’s a single mom, struggled in the past with debt and teaches us how to take steps to help us feel financially successful. She also covers our relationship with money and how our past experiences inform our present. “My Money My Way: Taking Back Control of Your Financial Life” was released in 2022. We get support and insight to getting over money traumas along with tools to become financially independent. Between Kumiko and Tiffany “The Budgetnista” Aliche, you’ve pretty much got your bases covered with personal finance books!

A New Face for Personal Finance

Kumiko is one of the leaders of the personal finance movement that is becoming less white and less male. She’s practical and gentle, showing us how to be true to ourselves and the things that are important to us. It was from Kumiko that I learned about sinking funds and finding my why.

Past Trauma Affects Our Relationship With Money

In chapters 1 and 2, Kumiko starts where I start in coaching, and that is by talking about your traumas and how it affects your relationship with money. She discusses scarcity mindset, the idea that no matter how much you have, you expect it all to disappear. This new generation of financial experts pays great attention to mental health. Researchers have long investigated the connection between our mental well-being and our finances.

You Gotta Know Your Why

When I saw the title of Chapter 3, “Start by Answering this Question,” I knew what this was about. You gotta ask, “What is my WHY?” Answering this question will provide the motivation to reach a goal, whether it’s to pay off debt or move to a new city. A Why should do three things, she writes. It should evoke emotion, be specific and be something you cannot be without. At the end of the chapter, she has an exercise to help you determine what your Why.

Chapter 5 has a provocative title, “The $1,000 Manicure-and Highlighting Your Blind Spots.” Here Kumiko asks you what kind of spender you are and then teaches you to track your spending and being mindful about where your money goes.

Subsequent chapters focus on the practical elements of managing money. Create a budget, save for an emergency and creating a budget calendar. Throughout, she plugs products she developed, such as The Budget By Paycheck Workbook. To see how these products are used, check out her YouTube or Instagram.

Budgets Aren’t Boring

A lot of people have the impression that budgets are boring and restrictive. Your budget may be boring and mine may be boring. But watch Kumiko go over someone’s spending and you’ll start to see they really aren’t. And boring can be good! Sometimes we like boring. And a budget isn’t restrictive, at least the way she does them. She encourages flexible categories and categories that bring us joy.

Grab That Cash

If you know anything about Kumiko, you know she’s a cash spender. She even gives away beautifully designed cash envelopes on her website at The Budget Mom. Her planner even includes trackers to record the amount of cash you’ll put toward a spending category. Kumiko argues that having something tangible (cash) helps you be more intentional about how you spend your money.

This may work for some people, but it doesn’t work for me. I tried. But I get weird with cash. I stick it into my safe and forget that it’s there. By the time I get to the store or wherever I need to spend, I end up pulling out my debit card. I suspect that ADHD is the culprit behind my forgetfulness. With a debit or credit card, I feel like I have more freedom, but Kumiko swears by the cash method, so I’ll probably try again in the future.

The Journey Is Just Beginning

Two important chapters halfway through the book deal with debt and retirement. In a way, paying off debt and investing for retirement are at the forefront of personal finance. People want to get out of debt and they know they should be investing for retirement. Some people want to get out of debt before putting even one dollar into retirement. Others believe they can count on Social Security in their retirement years. The problem with both these ideas is that they lack a plan. And while we’re at it, probably a Why.

Basic Money Management

Kumiko covers the basics, like the different retirement vehicles: 401(k)s, IRAs and so on. She also tells us to take care of ourselves before we take care of others. I love to tell people there’s no financial aid for retirement so don’t borrow from your 401(k) to pay for your kid’s college. Too many people withdraw or borrow from their retirement plans, only to be hit with fees and penalties, and never catch up.

The book ends with Chapter 13, “Live a Life You Love,” which is exactly what this book has been building up to. Throughout My Money My Way, Kumiko has told us to have a plan, develop our Why, accept fluctuations in priorities and adjust accordingly. She encourages us to check in with our mental health to see how past traumas have affected our relationship with money.

Note: I post one book review per month, mostly on personal finance. All reviews are of books written by people who have historically been marginalized and who have made their way into financial spaces. Some of the books are recent while others were published pre-pandemic. I only review books that I would recommend to family, friends and clients. If you have any suggestions for books I should review, please let me know by dropping a comment below!

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