This article was originally published on May 8, 2017.
If you think of money as energy, how does that make you feel? If you’re anything like me, you have been raised with a negative perspective of our monetary system. It’s corrupt and unfair, you might say to yourself. But what if that’s just one perspective? And maybe not the right one? A little while ago, I heard someone say that money is simply a tangible form of abundance that should be welcomed and spent in ways that align with our values. I’ve just spent a month analyzing if I actually spend that way, and I learned some unexpected things in the process.
It’s considered taboo to admit that you love money and want more of it. It seems garish and–ironically–cheap. But why is that so? If we want a satisfying life, surely we should welcome abundance of all forms, including money. We can’t be in the system, hating the system, and at the same time expect to be wealthy. That’s like inviting all your friends over and then locking the door so that none of them can get in! The key is being in the system, welcoming the abundance, and then spending consciously.
In order to properly gauge my relationship with money, I knew that I had to put my spending to the test. What was I really paying for each month? And more importantly, did those expenditures align with my values? It would involve recording every single purchase made for 30 days and then looking back and noting how each spend made me feel in retrospect. See, we humans are easy to excite and persuade. That’s why advertising works so well. But the temporary high of buying a pair of shoes on sale or a candy bar by the checkout wears off and with it, some of our monetary energy. What if we could all learn to purchase more consciously with a lasting feeling of worthwhile investment?
My aim was to pay attention to each purchase throughout the month. As an opportunity would arise, I would ask myself, “do I need this?” I then concentrated on how the exchange of money made me feel at the time, and finally, in retrospect when I acknowledged it at the end of the month. I wanted to know how many of my buys were temporary highs.
At the start of the month, I calculated my income and essential outgoings. This included rent, bills, and any wishlist purchases. This then revealed my disposable income and therefore, my budget.
As I made my purchases, I would subtract them from the budget. But one of the first things I noticed was just how many times I whipped my card out each day. Did I really make that many individual purchases? I mean, I guess so, but I had never really acknowledged that before. Was this an energy sap?
The days went by and I noticed a ravenous desire to spend. I felt this excited little person in me bounce around with joy as I scanned my favorite online stores and shop windows. But what was I was truly seeking? Was it that I wanted to possess more material items? No, because I consider myself on a journey towards minimalism. Or was it the feeling of control, because purchasing something is a decision I am making? Was it that little bit of power that I could exercise in a world that feels so out of control? Ding ding ding. I had hit the nail on the head. I didn’t want to admit it to myself, by I placed by hands on my gut and I knew that realization to be true.
So, I kept doing my thing over the next few weeks. I made conscious purchases and acknowledged the desire to spend but didn’t let it call the shots. I let it sit there and told it that it was all right to want to feel that way (it is important not to shame yourself in these instances) and then let it dissipate.
I got to the end of April and looked back over my purchases. Sure, there were a few juices I could have chosen not to buy and cheaper versions of my favorite foods if I really wanted to save money, but for the most part, I felt content looking at my spendings. I hadn’t been spending on material nonsense that I didn’t need; I had been buying experiences that enriched my life. I guess my minimalism journey is taking me in the right direction!
What I learned from the challenge was how much I use money as a coping experience or escape. It’s not even the literal spending of it, but the possibility of what I could buy. Having a small pot of money and the choice to spend it on anything you want sparks a positive feeling. It sparks potential. But, something else I realized is that it’s the exact same kind of potential that I feel when I engage in other creative pursuits. This challenge made me realize that I’m here in this life to create my reality, as are you, and if I channel that desire to spend into a creative practice instead, I’m doing more to design my life in the way that I want it to look. We serve ourselves far better doing practical things that require our talent and skills if we want to cultivate fulfillment. Anyone can spend a dollar, but no one can create like you can.
I encourage you to try this challenge yourself. Even if it’s only for a week, pay attention to how you spend and notice what feelings crop up for you. You might just learn a thing or two about yourself. At the end of your observation period, review your spends and check that they’re helping you to achieve your dreams, no matter how small a step you are taking each day. If so, give yourself a pat on the back. If not, your time is now.
Have you ever tried keeping a close tab on your purchases? What did they reveal about you?
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