HOW TO WASTE MONEY
The list of things I’ve wasted money on in this life is ridiculous.
I like to think I'm not entirely to blame for this. Spending money is what our culture does. If I pick up a little something to treat myself here and there it’s okay, right? Everybody does it, right?
For many many years, my buying habits were as follows:
I was always short on time. Rush rush rush. = Justified picking up a coffee and a scone on the way to work
I was too exhausted by the end of the day to make a meal for the family = justified ordering in
I was unhappy with my body, and hated the way i looked in my clothes = justified trips to the mall
I DESERVED something for all my efforts in life = Justified impulse purchases online at any time of day
My house was ugly = Justified trips to homesense / urban barn / somewhere with pretty things
My body was achy = justified trips to the chiropractor (when doing a little exercise would have fixed the issue)
I was overwhelmed & stressed = justified trips to the natural food store for supplements to support my gut and adrenals
I thought I was buying happiness. Trouble was, the kind of happiness that comes from emotional spending and impulse buys doesn’t last. Fast forward a few years and we were looking at a HUGE pile of debt, and no happiness to be found.
This is where I was 2 years ago. How much debt? Doesn’t really matter. Enough to make me feel weak in the knees and sick to my stomach because when I looked at my life at the time I knew that money had NOT been spent wisely. Nothing to show for it… except the weight on my shoulders.
And you know what? Had I not cleaned up my act, things would have gotten a lot more expensive. My emotional spending came from emotional disconnection, which bred disconnection from my spouse. Arguments over finances spread into arguments over everything. The next big expense would have been the dissolution of our marriage, and separation of our homes. And believe me, we were on our way there.
How Does This Happen?
There’s a few things at play here:
We live in an age of instant gratification. Unlike past generations, for us It’s considered totally normal to go out for dinner or buy yourself a prezzy even if it isn’t your birthday or anniversary.
It’s a scientific fact that making small purchases and “gifting yourself” with stuff gives us a hit of dopamine - the feel good chemical. The neurotransmitter surges when you're considering buying something new—anticipating a reward. Sales, by the way, give us an even harder kick.
Many of us adopt the spending habits of our parents and peers. Keeping up with the Jones’ anyone?
Emotional spending is a Learned Habit. That which we repeat we get really good at. Your brain creates pathways that engage a default response to emotional influences. So the more you respond to stress with shopping… the more you'll respond to stress with shopping.
A variety of the above led to one very unhappy bank account, and a sour relationship between me and my money.
So how did I get out of it?
First thing’s first (in this situation and really always), I had to get clear on my values.
Have you ever gone through a values exercise? THIS IS POWERFUL STUFF. Take some time to get clear on what you value in this one and only beautiful life.
Getting clear on my values showed me what’s really important, in the big picture. My long term goals became clear, which is important because I recently realized I’m still young but not invincible, and my goals won’t be reached if I don’t start taking steps.
Here’s a few of the things I value:
Physical Health & Mental Well-Being
Freedom from debt
Freedom from clutter.
It’s amazing how many of the purchases I was making ACTIVELY WENT AGAINST my values and long term goals. Like, ew. That doesn’t feel good.
FIND YOUR VALUES, so that moving forward you can
Align your purchases with those values.
The Next thing I had to focus on was my mindset. When it came to little purchases, I had a real tendency to say “treat yo self!” and ignore how those little $5-$30 purchases added up in the lines of my Mastercard statement. But when it came to bigger purchases, I was stuck in a belief that “I can't afford that’, thereby shutting the door to the real opportunities that come with investing in things I value.
This is the difference between victim mindset, and responsibility mindset.
As a victim, I couldn’t afford the nice things, yet “needed” to spend money on the little crap that just got me through the day.
In shifting to responsibility mindset, my investments align with a more awesome, goal-oriented version of myself.
My husband and I committed to sitting down and creating a practice of reviewing our purchases and bills every week. After doing this for 10 weeks, we had paid off $12,000. Where for years we’ve been living paycheck to paycheck. There’s a whole world of conversation surrounding the energy of our thoughts and what we put out into the universe. Just know for now that magical things happen when you pay attention.
Same thing happened for my sister. For years and years, my sister was a victim mindset, or “scarcity mindset” person. We talked about going on vacations together, and her response was always “I can't afford it”. Then, as she started to change her habits and shift her mindset along with me, she decided that she would put a vacation with me on her credit card, and immediately set to paying it off in weekly payments. Whatever she could find. She took a look at the ‘stuff’ she was buying, and cut out some of the purchases that didn’t align with her values, and goal of paying off the trip (check out this fun calculator to see how much you could save) She paid off $3k in just over a month. And you know what? She’s no longer accepting the old belief of “I can’t afford it.” She wants to experience life. We’ve already planned the next trip.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SPENDING AND INVESTING
There’s a difference here. Spending doesn’t align with your values. Investing supports your goals and your growth. And the best investment you can make?
Is in Yourself.
Things I never knew I should invest in:
Body integrity / connection with my body.
UNDERSTANDING OF SELF.
There’s nothing tangible there. It’s not a comfy couch or soft leather purse. There’s nothing to show off… or so it seemed.
But the returns on investing in myself in this way have been greater than any other gift, thing, or accomplishment.
Optimal energy levels, clarity in mind = ability to perform & succeed = no more supplements or visits to the chiropractor.
A feeling of groundedness. Responding instead of reacting. Not taking things personally = more wealth of relationships
Healthy routines automated in my day = more time in the day. The ability to create new habits like meal planning & prep = saved on groceries
Acceptance of what is. Appreciation for the things I have = LESS Emotional spending = ACTUALLY SAVING MONEY
And oh boy, there’s something to show for it. I am a totally different Mom, wife, friend and coworker. I’m so much more present. I can offer so much more value to everyone in my life.
My spending habits now are as follows:
Buying things that align with my values
Setting a budget each year for personal growth
TRAVEL. Life experiences
A rainy day fund, so we ACTUALLY have the money for when the hot water tank or refrigerator breaks down
And yes, creature comforts are still there. But, going back to the values part, we take time as a family to talk purchases out, and ensure we’re buying from a place that isn’t feeding an emotional shortcoming. We’re buying stuff that brings us an incredible amount of joy, and helps us in reaching our goals. Recent investments include:
A trip to Mexico
A vitamix, dehydrator, and juicer
A stand up paddle board (used but new to me!)
A super old travel trailer
So ask yourself: Am I in a victim mindset, or a responsibility mindset?
It may be time to shift your mindset in terms of money and what it’s worth. In The Habit programs, we do a ton of work in shifting mindsets. Let this be your first practice in engaging a solutions-oriented mindset.
One of the best ways to do this is to talk to people who are already there. Who is in your life that’s invested in themselves? Coaching, education, mentoring, learning… what is the feedback these people have for you? You can check out some of the feedback from my clients here .
And one last thing - When you invest in yourself, make sure there's a community attached to it.
There are a lot of courses out there that give you a lot of information. But information doesn't equal transformation - and goals have an 80% higher chance of being reached when you work with others. Get into a community of like minded individuals. Support others and be supported. The change happens so much faster. And you don’t want to miss out on those big, beautiful goals