Today I have a very healthy relationship with money, but like most people, it didn’t start that way. When I was a child, there were times where I silently worried about money or didn’t allow myself to buy things I wanted and could afford. Money felt more burdensome than joyful. Thankfully, my father helped me shift my perspective and discover the joy in using money in alignment with my values and goals. Following in his footsteps, I have done the same with my daughters.
It makes me incredibly happy watching them embrace handling their money wisely and joyfully. To slow down and consider what truly makes their hearts happy long-term versus in the moment. However, when I look around, there is so much money unhappiness in both adults and children. People are consumed by money thoughts and fears, which makes it very difficult for us to feel joyful when we spend.
Let’s take a look at some of the more common reasons why money makes us unhappy and most importantly — how to turn it around and find our money happiness.
We have a natural tendency to compare ourselves to others. Sometimes the outcome is positive as it can help motivate us to make needed changes when we see others thriving. Other times, we feel that we are being left behind, so we try to keep up or outdo those around us. This is often known as playing Keep Up with The Joneses. Many people fall into this trap and spend their money to impress others, often on things they don’t really care about or even want.
Eventually this leads to money unhappiness. Beyond any potential credit card debt they accrued in their attempt to keep up, they now also realize how few of their purchases brought them any real joy. They are unable to do what they truly want because they spent all their money on other things.
If you don’t know what you want, then take the time to create authentic goals (see #3). Now you can put your attention and money on building the life you want. Another key to eliminating your keep up desires is gratitude. Instead of feeling jealous or judgmental of how others are using their money, be grateful that you are spending your money wisely. Put your focus back on you, not them.
One of the great ironies about consumer debt is that often times people go into debt because they think credit cards give them freedom. Initially it seems true as you are able to extend your income and potentially do things you wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. At some point, the debt becomes heavy and spending money no longer seems fun. It only creates more worry and stress. You realize instead of freedom, you are now a prisoner to your debt.
As obvious as the answer is, it is not always easy to eliminate debt. You have to make a real commitment to changing habits and beliefs to successfully pay off debt and not repeat the cycle. First and foremost, you need to understand what caused you to overspend and live beyond your means. Were you playing keep up? Spending emotionally? Did a lack of goals make it too easy to spend? By understanding what causes you to spend, you can address the issue. Now you are in a position to stop overspending and that is where a budget (see #5) comes into play.
You’ve heard me talk about the importance of giving your money purpose. When you don’t have goals and spend mindlessly, it doesn’t feel quite the same. You feel as though there is something missing. And there is — your joy. There is real joy when you spend money on things you know make your heart happy. You feel the pride and satisfaction of achieving your goals, along with the memories you create from experiences or the pleasure of having an item you truly want. Those are potent emotions that linger much longer than any temporary happiness you felt when you purchased things mindlessly.
Knowing how you want to use your money is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. Now you are in the position to create the life you truly desire because you have a reason to stop playing keep up and to say “no” when other items tempt you to say “yes”. Give yourself the time and space to sit down and really dream. Don’t limit yourself. Write down everything you would like to do and have. Afterwards, start weeding down the list to the things that make you the happiest. Once you have your list, keep it front and center to keep you motivated. Review it regularly to make sure you’re still on track and to adjust goals as needed.
We all want to know our place is this world. What we were meant to do and the mark we were meant to leave behind. When we feel unsatisfied in our work or purpose, it tends to influence other areas in our life, including how we spend our money. For some people, they will spend to make themselves feel better. For a short period of time, it may work. Those bursts of happiness will grow shorter and shorter until they eventually disappear, and you are back to feeling dissatisfied. Others will struggle to find joy in spending because nothing seems to make them happy. In some, this could lead to depression, and you should seek the help of a professional to ensure you receive proper medication and support.
There is a lot of pressure to finding and living your passion today. I do feel blessed because I love what I do, but there are others in my life who struggle to find their passion. They worry they don’t have one or one that seems “important” enough. I believe everyone has one, but it may not be “glamorous” or something you could build a career around. It may be your kids or your pets. Or a hobby that gives you great joy but doesn’t create income. And that’s okay. Your passions should make you happy and won’t necessarily make you money. Stop comparing your passions with others and spend your time and money on things that make you happy. Once you do this, you’ll find your money happiness (and overall happiness) returning.
Many people feel unhappiness towards money because they are not in control of how it’s being spent. Their emotions drive their spending habits. Or they are a prisoner to their debt. They don’t know where their money goes and feel powerless. Money becomes their enemy and they blame it for their unhappiness.
If you don’t have a budget, it’s hard to know whether you’re spending your money wisely. I know lots of people who swear up and down that they track their spending in their head. After I convince them to track their spending for a week, they are often surprised to see they were spending more than they realized. Budgets are a bad word to many people. I believe it’s because they make them too complicated or worry that they can no longer have fun if they use one. A good budget is one that keeps you honest (and shouldn’t be complicated) and by knowing where your money is going — you can now make sure you’re spending it on the things that truly matter. A good budget gives you freedom.
Tell me what gives you the money blues and how do you get rid of them?
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