As a young entrepreneur in Manhattan, Kate Northrup was good at making money. She was even better at spending it — often on status-centric and image-enhancing purchases.
“I bought clothes that I didn’t have the money for. I went on trips that I didn’t have the money for. I went to events that I didn’t have the money for,” says Northrup, now 31. “I felt like I needed to look older and further ahead than I was. That’s really where my debt came from.”
As her debt reached $20,000 and then kept climbing north, her self-esteem headed south.
To make matters worse, the business she was building taught people how to generate residual income and create financial freedom. “There was a big gulf between who I was saying I was and who I was actually being,” says Northrup.
“I knew what I needed to do, I just couldn’t get myself to do it — kind of like when we know we need to exercise and eat more vegetables, but then we don’t.”
Northrup’s parents had taught her never to carry a balance on her credit card, and she’d learned about the importance of budgeting. But on some level, she never believed that the rules applied to her.
Growing up as the daughter of women’s health legend Christiane Northrup, MD (author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom and other books) had presented both blessings and challenges. It gave the younger Northrup a “springier springboard” to professional success, she notes, but it often left her feeling like she hadn’t really earned it.
Being steeped in spiritually inclined and positive-thinking philosophies also left her disinclined to put pragmatic financial matters front and center.
“I’d come to associate financial awareness and expense-tracking with deprivation and a ‘lack mentality.’ I thought that only people who are broke have to budget and watch their expenses,” says Northrup. “It was this weird spiritual bypass. I thought that the more evolved thing was just to repeat affirmations and act as if I already had the kind of abundance I wanted.”
Eventually the cognitive dissonance became too much, and she began to journal and do inquiry work around her resistance to financial awareness.
What Northrup realized was that she’d always thought of financial maintenance as “something icky that I didn’t want to deal with.” So, instead, she began reframing good money practices as an act of self-care. She started seeing healthy financial habits as a means for directing love and abundance toward herself and her life.
That simple shift in perspective changed her whole relationship to fiscal management. For the first time, she found herself wanting to tend to her finances.
She started with the small-but-effective step of simply looking at her bank-account balance every morning.
“I knew from my metaphysical studies that what we put our attention on grows, and I wanted my bank-account balance to grow,” says the New England native who documented her financial journey in a book, Money: A Love Story.
“Even on those days when I had a balance of negative $135, I would find things to be grateful for — wonderful friends, a family that loves me, a roof over my head. I focused on what was working rather than focusing on the fear and anxiety around what wasn’t working.”
How did this mental switch translate into more actual dollars in her checking account? As she began consciously noticing all the present-day abundance in her life, she began to feel less compelled to want things she didn’t have and couldn’t afford. And as a result, she purchased less.
“I started really understanding that the key to happiness lies not so much in having what we want, but in wanting what we have.”
As Northrup began living from that belief, she began experiencing more of the financial freedom she’d been teaching others how to achieve. And she found that taste for freedom bred a desire for more freedom in all areas of her life.
“I don’t know where it came from, but one night I thought, ‘I need to make a change.’” She wanted to shed most of her worldly possessions and, at the same time, jettison her old story lines about herself.
She decided to give up her New York City apartment, buy a Prius, and go on a cross-country road trip she dubbed The Freedom Tour.
The move reduced her living expenses, helping her further pay down her debt. And in an ironic twist, the months-long journey Northrup had intended to be an exercise in independence wound up leading her to Mike Watts, the man who would soon become her husband.
Married in July, Northrup and Watts now live in Maine and run a prosperity-building business together.
The wedding inspired Northrup to direct new attention toward her health and fitness — historically her mother’s area of specialty. “It started when I tried on the wedding dress in February, and it no longer fit,” she recalls. “I panicked.”
But as Northrup began experiencing the benefits of improving her overall health and fitness, her worries subsided and her body confidence soared.
“It feels amazing to be getting strong,” says Northrup. “It’s so empowering to be in the weight room, and I love that I’m seeing great results in my body.”
Even though she’s “naturally freedom-seeking,” Northrup has come to appreciate the act of committing to healthy routines. “It’s been really cool to find out how much freedom we can find within structure,” she says of her daily exercise sessions.
“It’s a lot like creating healthy structures with money,” she continues. “It’s just another way of taking care of me, and creating the life I want to live.”