Want to have a better relationship with your money? Toni Tone, who hosts BBC Sounds’ Money Moves podcast, talks to Stylist about side hustles, talking to friends about finances and how to finally have fun with money.
“I’m not broke, I’m money in the making,” is the mantra that Toni Tone wants you to live by when it comes to your personal finances. The motivational speaker and content creator has just launched a new podcast, Money Moves With Toni Tone, to help people build a more confident relationship with their cash. And at a time where society still attaches so much fear and stigma to money, it’s the refreshing series we need.
The fact is that young women living in privately-rented accommodation are the group of people most likely to be in debt in the UK. And yet, the discourse around money is still so suspiciously quiet. When, for example, was the last time you comfortably chatted about your salary, credit card debts and empty savings pots with a group of friends?
But it’s not just about getting frank about our money problems; it’s time to properly think about making confident decisions and learning a mindset that helps us feel happier about our financial futures. So we chatted to Tone to find out a bit more about her relationship with money, the best tips she has to share and why you need to plug into her podcast.
What has your own emotional journey with money been like?
My parents emigrated from Nigeria – where the financial system is very different to what we have in the UK – so I didn’t have those conversations about money with my parents while growing up. To be quite frank, most of my learning was from the mistakes I made.
I was living in my overdraft while studying at university and spending money on things that weren’t a necessity and were way beyond my means (including a trip to Miami when I was 19 – where I quickly remembered I had to be 21 to get into the clubs!). I left uni in debt, thinking, ‘What am I going to do? How am I going to manage this? What is going to happen now?’
I ended up saying, “Look, I have to get a handle on things. I need to budget so I can put money aside to pay my debt”. I developed a budget template and within a couple of years my life changed: I was out of debt and had surplus money. So, I started reading more about how to manage money and change my relationship with it. I read about credit cards, APR balance transfers and the importance of having a good credit score (I joined Equifax and I’ve used it for years now).
But basically, it took being in debt for me to be like, “I need to get my life together”.
Has the pandemic changed your attitude towards money over the last year?
Yes, to a degree, but there’s been a fluctuation. At the start of the pandemic, when we were in lockdown, I noticed that some of my “good” money habits started to diminish a bit. I was bored, couldn’t go out and didn’t know what to do – so I thought, “I’ll go shopping!” (online, of course). I quickly became aware that I couldn’t even wear these clothes. I realised I was using online shopping as a coping mechanism, so I nipped it in the bud.
And now I’ve gone the other way. I’ve got used to it all and I think, “Oh yes, I’m in lockdown, I don’t need to spend any money. Save, save, save!” It’s definitely had its ups and downs.
You’ve spoken with a handful of experts for your podcast, but what pieces of advice stuck with you the most?
I write a lot about love on Twitter, so I talked to Ellie Austin-Williams (founder of This Girl Talks Money) about love, relationships and money. All of us have different types of relationships: romantic partners, friends, family members. And we’ve all had moments in life where we’ve introduced money into these relationships and it’s had a positive or negative impact.
I think it’s an important episode because a lot of people think it’s taboo to talk about money and this actually hinders the way our relationships develop. One of the top reasons for divorce is money! So if people just talked about it more, I really think it would help us.
When it comes to friendships, we might sometimes unknowingly pressure a friend to live a lifestyle they can’t afford because they are trying to keep up with us financially (or vice versa). With social media as well there is a lot of “keeping up with the Joneses” and trying to look “together” in front of peers. So Ellie talked about the value of being very open with friends and saying, “Look is this something you can afford? Are you happy to do this? Would you like to do something else?”
There is so much fear around money, so how can we start feeling confident about it and maybe even start having fun with it?
Shifting from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset comes with having more knowledge about how the world of money works and how people work. It pays to research and read up on the things that interest you: mortgages, credit cards, loans, getting out of debt.
I do also think it’s important to remember that, as morbid as this sounds, money is not something we can take with us to our grave. Money is made to be spent. I’ve had family members who have saved, saved and saved. And when they passed away, they didn’t enjoy their life [as much as they should] because they were also so worried about spending money.
So on that journey towards abundance, it’s important to remember that balance. Administer self-care and say, “Do you know what? I am deserving of money and it’s OK if I spend things on myself or to make me feel more comfortable in life.”
Trust yourself and remind yourself of your wins. Sometimes we forget to pat ourselves on the back. But if you’ve come from a place of debt, and you’re getting out of debt, celebrate that. Remember, “If I was able to do that, then my habits have changed”. And it’s just about sustaining those habits.
Do you think there’s a pressure for people to monetise their side hustles?
Definitely. There is so much online about “being an entrepreneur”. And the narrative is very much, “You shouldn’t work a 9-5”. I completely disagree – people should do whatever suits their routine and their character. It’s important to remember that when you monetise a side hustle, your relationship with that hustle – or hobby, because that’s what it is – changes. For example, a painter loves painting but the moment they need to financially rely on it, the thing they adore doing could potentially change from a creative process to a sort of robotic process. They’re now doing it for the income and not the love.
For me, I love travelling so I started a travel blog. But I quickly realised it was actually ruining my travelling so stopped. Not every hobby should be monetised!
What advice would you give people who do want to turn their side hustle into a business?
Look at other people who have done the same thing in your field and consider how they’ve done it. I don’t like to call them competitors, I consider them collaborators. Ask yourself, “How have they done it? How can I follow that route in a similar way?” But don’t replicate what they’ve done, just take influence and put your own mark on it. Find your niche and USP.
And remember that if you have come from a 9-5 and you want to start your own business, things work differently. If you really want to scale up, you’re going to need an accountant and somebody who deals with the business side of things. A lot of people do find themselves in trouble when they think, “Oh this is just a bit of fun – I’m just going to put these paintings on Etsy and that’s that”. And when they end up making four figures a month after a year and HMRC comes knocking… they’re hit with a tax bill. So it’s definitely not all fun and games – think of the administrative side.
What’s been your biggest financial obstacle and how did you overcome it?
I sometimes feel like I take two steps forward and three steps back. What I mean by that is when I’m working towards a personal financial goal and everything is going great, but an emergency will come up or a family member will say they need to borrow some money.
My biggest challenge has been facing those hurdles that I wasn’t prepared for. And even if I face the hurdle [by paying the money] it can demotivate me. You just kind of think, “What’s the point? I just saved X amount of money and now I’ve given X amount to this person for this reason.” So I needed to get past that negative mindset and say, “Toni, these things will happen and you just need to get over it and practice for the future.”
So I can’t keep thinking “why do I bother?” when something comes up that I haven’t planned. I need to have contingency plans in place.
How do you protect your mental health when it comes to your money and career?
Prioritising my health comes with being able to set clear boundaries. For example, I always do work appointments after 12pm. I might be awake at 9am but I set boundaries and say “this is my time when I’m not doing meetings” or “I’m not doing social media”.
I also think it’s actually important to not always prioritise the money: I think about the actual job and how that will impact people and me and make me feel good. You need to be able to live with your decisions and choices.
Life is to be lived and I don’t live to work, I work to live my life. So I make sure I have periods with my family and friends and just chill out.
Images: BBC Sounds
Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…