October 25, 2011

Enjoying our money in lean financial times

Just about everyone wants more money. It is assumed that money is the thing that can buy us security – access to good medical care, food, insurance, nice things to have in one’s home or give as gifts, cars, clothes – an infinite list. This assumption goes unchallenged in normal, everyday society. In our current financial crisis, I have yet to read any opinion which does not centre on the basic assumption that money is the solution.’

~Rev. Master Seikai Luebke, from Struggles: to Have, to Hold, to Let Go

Is more money always the answer? Does our experience of abundance depend entirely on how much money we have in the bank? Can we improve our financial health without increasing our wealth?

Over the years I have had the experience of feeling very satisfied with my lot when earning very little money. At other times I have had more cash but have been plagued by the fear of scarcity – all the money in the world wouldn’t have been enough for me. It wasn’t the money that was the problem, it was me.

This realisation encouraged me to look at how I relate to money and to abundance, and this work has helped me to feel richer regardless of how much I actually have.

Times are hard. There is no denying that being made redundant or not being able to afford Christmas presents causes real suffering.

Despite these hardships, most of us are lucky enough to live in an affluent country where we’re not likely to starve. Without minimising the seriousness of these real difficulties, how can we begin to enjoy our money again in the midst of all the financial doom and gloom?

I’ll leave you with some suggestions to get you started.

1. Become curious about your relationship with money

How did your parents handle money while you were growing up? What are your beliefs about money? How do you feel about people who have more or less of it than you do?

Our relationship with money is complex, but when look closer it will start to lose its hold over us. ‘The Energy of Money’ by Maria Nemeth is a good place to get started and is full of useful exercises and ideas to improve the ways we channel our money-energy.

2. Start a gratitude list

At the end of every day write a list of twenty things you can feel grateful for. Everything counts – an ice-lolly on a hot day, your gas bill being less than you expected, your cat’s purr, the blue sky, your raincoat for keeping you dry.

Commit to writing a daily list for four weeks and see if it gets any easier. You might want to do this with a friend and swap your lists at the end of a month.

3. Get creative

Be creative about the way you use your money. Instead of buying your sandwiches, make them at home. Sell your old books on Green Metropolis. Listen to free music at Spotify. Hold a ‘swapping party’ with your friends and bring along the clothes/books etc. you don’t want any more. Go to car book sales. Grow your own runner beans. Brew your own beer. It is possible to have fun while you’re saving money!

4. Pay yourself a ‘Splurge Allowance’

Put aside a little money every week to ‘splurge’ on yourself. The amount doesn’t matter – the principle is that you’ll spend it on something you want but don’t need.

If you only have £3 to spare then you could buy a magazine, a posh bar of chocolate, lettuce seeds, a matinee cinema ticket, or a bus ride to a different town. Or you could save up for something bigger.

5. Slow down and wake up

When you do spend money, make sure you savour it. Do you really need that daily pastry from Starbucks? Fine – as long as you don’t gulp it down without savouring every bite.

Try to become more mindful whenever you feel the urge to shop – are you spending because you feel anxious, bored or unloved? Keep a friendly eye on yourself when you spend and you’re guaranteed to learn a lot!

Our relationship with money goes back a long way. Like our other relationships, it is made up of many complex layers. It might feel uncomfortable or painful as you uncover the hidden layers, but even small insights can make a big difference to the ease of your relationship with money.

Gently encourage yourself to persevere. And enjoy the journey!

(Do share any money-saving tips or any of your own experiences with money in the comments section below)

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