In this season of spending we can often go to excess. We can make rash purchases that we later regret. In our quest for that “prefect” gift we spend too much time and money on others – often to be disappointed by their reactions. We think the perfect gift will make us happy.
If you feel like your spending is out of control, your wallet might be in need of a “cleanse” or “throw it all out and start over” practice. This isn’t to say you should throw out your actual, physical wallet; rather, what you need to do is “throw out” your spending habits by embracing mindful spending.
The objective is to become more mindful about how you’re spending your money.
When you make spending a mindful activity, you’re forced to examine why you’re buying the things you’re buying and whether or not you really need them. Before I adopted this practice, I would go into Walgreens to buy a birthday card or one simple thing and leave with $75 worth of stuff makeup, shampoo, candy bar, book, cute socks, etc. I just wouldn’t think about it. Now, I examine my purchases using my mindfulness tools.
Recognizing the difference between wants and needs is probably the biggest benefit to mindfulness spending. You many find, though that it will make you more resourceful when it comes to meal planning and even cleaning the house. I did go through a phase where I made all of our meals – no fast food or eating out just once per week for a year. I also made my own soap and cleaning products. It was as much about money as it was the safety of the products I was consuming with a small child around.
So, what if there was a way to embrace mindful spending without feeling like you’re missing out? To feel great about every dollar you spend, knowing that it’s contributing to your overall happiness and long term financial health?
It seems that spending less feels like deprivation. You can’t spend less unless you’re depriving yourself of something you enjoy. And you’re supposed to feel bad when you do spend money, unless it’s for the most basic of essentials.
Who wants to spend their life this way? I certainly don’t. Which is probably why most people are so bad at following personal budgets.
Mindful spending is examining the happiness you derive from every dollar you spend. Looking at time or money you spend in a way to allows you to derive more happiness for less money. The payoff, in terms of increased happiness and decreased expenses, can be dramatic.”
First, remember that nothing outside of you can ever make you truly happy. Yes, that new toy, gadget or outfit can give you a quick fix, but it won’t last. You’ll be looking for your next fix soon thereafter.
Mindfully spending your time and money means pausing to consider the impact of each expenditure on you, your life and the lives and environments of those around you.
For example, our family chooses to spend more money on our food than the average family. Considering the impact that our food choices have on our taste buds, our short and long-term health, our family time together cooking, the people that handle the food, the health of the plants, animals and soil where the food was grown and the global environment, we want an overall positive impact.
When the children were young we choose to spend more time and money on experiences than on things. We would go on bike rides together where the kids had to map our route with the information on the parks and recreation website. When we travelled we left early so they could read us the train map and tell us the correct stop. We left early because there were mistakes along the way that took time to correct. In addition to the skills learned, we did create some humorous adventures over the years that are still family stories today.
When we know that the latest gadget isn’t going to help our overall
happiness or get us closer to our intentions in life, it’s easy to choose to spend more on food and less on gadgets. It’s not a sacrifice.
When considering how you spend your time and money, pause to consider how you feel about the expenditure. Is it helping, hurting or neutral? Is it retail therapy to keep you from facing something difficult inside you?
Those difficult feelings won’t go away until you accept them and work with them. Retail therapy can get pretty expensive with no end in sight while actual therapy may seem expensive at first, but it has an end, and its benefits impact your whole life.
You can use mindfulness to spend less.
When you pause to notice why you’re spending and how that particular expenditure makes you feel, you have the opportunity to change old habits and make new choices.
For many years I rewarded myself for my long commute with a Starbucks venti latte and blueberry muffin on my way to work. Once my commute got shorter it had become a habit. I stopped thinking about whether or not I even want them. I just stopped every day on my way to work to buy them and consume them mindlessly while I was focusing on traffic.
Not only was I consuming hundreds of empty calories, but I was also spending $9 every morning on things that were not adding to my overall happiness or health. Like lots of tasty treats, the happiness generated from the first bite or two is gone by the third or fourth bite.
What are you doing that is just mindless spending? Pause to think about what you could do differently and what effect you’re looking for.
You can spend less while increasing happiness.
But looking at what you buy is just the first step. Next we look at how we pay for these purchases. Over the last couple of decades, the average savings rate in America was negative. That means that people were going into debt faster than they were saving. Fortunately that trend has started to change, but not by much.
It’s so easy to put all those little purchases on a credit card. They don’t seem like much individually. But you experience sticker shock when you get the statement at the end of the month and see how quickly they add up.
When I was in college and received credit card offers, I accepted almost all of them. I thought that if the credit card company was going to take a chance on a young kid like me, I’d take them up on it. Unfortunately, like most people, I had received no education on how to manage my money, especially credit.
This resulted in me graduating college with over $10,000 of credit card debt, on top of my student loans. I didn’t even realize the damage was so bad through most of college because I had little balances spread across many cards. It wasn’t until a friend asked how much I owed that I took the time to add up all the balances. It astounded me.
For several years, it seemed a near impossibility to pay them all off. I always felt the heavy weight on my shoulders of all that debt. I would come up with all kinds of creative plans to pay everything off, only to
open new accounts that I would “only use for this one purchase.” Then I would slide down the slippery slope again.
This cycle continued for until I made a plan to live within a system, got side jobs and focused on paying off that debt. I cut up all the cards and vowed to go cash-only from that point forward.
It was scary - but I stuck with it. Each month passed and my income was finally more than my expenses.
Many years have passed since then and I’ve never felt better. The constant weight on my shoulders is gone. I take a good, long time to consider buying something new.
I’ve realized that I just don’t need much to be happy. Mindfulness has helped me with that immensely.
Understanding the source of your happiness and making mindful choices from that knowledge can grow your happiness and your savings at the same time.
The next time you plan to spend your time or money on something:
1. Pause. Many times, what you’re about to do or spend money onis a habit that you no longer thinkabout.
2. Take three deepbreaths.
3. How will this expenditure of your time or money affect thefollowing areas of your life?
-Health: nutrition, fitness, sleep
-Relationships: sex, love/romance/community of friends & family
-Money: income, net worth, career
-Culture: art/entertainment, travel/leisure, home/environment
-Purpose: legacy, contribution to others, spirituality
-Capability to provide value: creativity, influence, knowledge
4. Is this something you could livewithout?
5. Can you spend your time or money differently in order to addto your long-termhappiness?
6. Can you share the cost with someone to lower the cost andspread more happiness?
7. From what you’ve learned from the above steps, can you makea new choice?
8. Experiment with these steps to mindful spending and noticewhat you learn.
9. Use what you learn the next time you have an opportunity toinvest inyourself.
I would love to hear how you apply this in your life. Please send me an email about how you applied mindfulness to your spending and what the results were at firstname.lastname@example.org
Until next week Live Rich!
November 30, 2017
Join me every Wednesday on my podcast “Unlocking the Secret to Living Rich”.
If you have questions or comments you can contact me at my email email@example.com or find me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram @cindybbrown777
Who is Cindy B. Brown? Cindy is a CPA, MBA, CFO, and board member of public and private companies, business consultant, entrepreneur coach and a foremost expert in the field of financial
mastery. Cindy’s purpose is to motivate, educate and inspire people to live their richest life. Host of “Unlocking the Secret to Living Rich”.