Emotional Competence

Finding Your Money Happiness at the Empowering Mothers Benefits Brunch

Finding Your Money Happiness

Last Saturday, I had the great honor of joining my friends, Christine Havey Smith and Stephanie Dreyer at the Empowering Mothers Benefits Brunch. It was a wonderful event where we celebrated motherhood with a healthy dose of knowledge, laughter and inspiration. I had the privilege of helping these Moms find their money happiness.

As you already know, I am passionate about financial literacy, especially helping our children become financially confident. Another passion of mine is public speaking. I love engaging with a live audience while we chat about one of my favorite topics. While doing these presentations the past few years, I spotted a troubling trend: Women, in particular, struggle to spend joyfully. I wanted to help these women (and you too) discover the pleasure of mindful spending.

Cultivating Your Joyful and Mindful Spending Mindset

Money is emotional and many of the emotions we evoke when we spend are not very joyful. Instead we often feel guilt or shame for being able to buy things others cannot. We spend in anger or frustration over a break-up or some other slight, real or imagined. Or we try to cure our boredom or loneliness with the swipe of our credit card. I felt the same way until my father helped me find my money happiness through giving my money purpose. This doesn’t mean I stopped feeling those emotions or the urge to spend money to placate them, but now I see those emotions for what they truly are and deal with the issue at hand.

Know What You Want to Do with Your Money

When I meet people who struggle to spend joyfully, more often than not, they do not have goals that truly matter to them. The goals they set are vague or made to satisfy others. So when they spend money, it’s often with unease because they are uncertain whether they should have bought the items they did, even if they could afford them. Deep down, they worry their money would have been better served elsewhere.

The very best way to feel good every time you spend money is to give your money purpose, then prioritize your goals because not all goals are created equal. Now that your money has purpose, you can make decisions that honor your goals.

And don’t forget, it’s okay to set goals and save money for things like a new designer purse, laptop, big-screen TV, video game console, barbecue grill, a vacation or whatever makes your heart happy. Wanting those things doesn’t make you bad or superficial, you just need to know where they fit within all of your goals. In other words, retirement and college education goals probably rank higher than your goal for a 50-inch TV. Once you’ve set aside the money for whatever goals are most important to you, you then happily save for that big-screen TV and buy it with joy once you can afford it.

A Word of Caution on Joyful Spending and Children

As helping parents raise financially confident kids is my mission, it would be remiss of me not to talk about how we spend money on our kids. Today, many parents seem to correlate their success as parents by whether or not they can always tell their children “yes”. I get it. It is one of my greatest joys to see Lauren and Taylor’s eyes light up when they get something they want too. And it is joyful spending if I am buying that gift on my terms, not because they expect me to buy whatever they want.

Don’t mistake joyful spending with being able to always tell your kids “yes”. You may end up inadvertently creating entitled kids instead. I spend joyfully because my money has purpose so whether I buy a want or need—I am making a mindful choice. This is what joyful spending looks like and how I’m teaching my girls to use their money.


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Leave a Comment


  1. Friday, May 23rd, 2014
    I'm glad the brunch went well! I couldn't agree more with this -> "When I meet people who struggle to spend joyfully, more often than not, they do not have goals that truly matter to them." I think you can also add "earn joyfully" into the equation. Because I have goals in mind that I'm pursuing financially, I am much more joyful when it comes to work versus if I was just mindfully saving/spending money.

    Hope you have a wonderful weekend!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Friday, May 23rd, 2014
      Excellent point, DC. When your money has a purpose, it makes earning the money so much easier and joyful. That's definitely the sweet spot and where I definitely want to be too. Have a great 3-day weekend!
  2. Friday, May 23rd, 2014
    The brunch sounds like it was a wonderful time, and I couldn't agree more, Shannon, with your words written here!! It seems us moms either go crazy with spending, or don't spend anything out of guilt. Either way, the guilt has to go - it's unproductive all the way around.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Friday, May 23rd, 2014
      Bless us Moms - we do seem to go to one extreme to the other. Guilt definitely needs to go because it unproductive and serves no one. And for me, setting goals and prioritizing them, helps eliminate my guilt. Have a great holiday weekend, Laurie!
  3. Friday, May 23rd, 2014
    "The very best way to feel good every time you spend money is to give your money purpose, then prioritize your goals because not all goals are created equal." I could not agree more Shannon! It's so easy to get caught up by thinking we shouldn't spend on whatever it is because of how it looks. That's why I think it's great to set up goals for your money. Not only does it allow you to adjust things based off of your convictions, desires, etc. but it also can help motivate you to reach those things. That said, sounds like the brunch went well. Have a great weekend Shannon!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Friday, May 23rd, 2014
      I often find it fascinating how tend to go from extremes - buying things to "keep up", then not buying things because we don't want people to think we are superficial or look at us funny. We definitely need to set goals that we want, not what others want for us. It's very hard to find the motivation to achieve something you don't feel invested in, but then you still feel guilty when you don't achieve them. The brunch went fabulously and I had so much fun. You have a great holiday weekend too!
  4. Friday, May 23rd, 2014
    I think of how many times I experienced buyer's remorse because I wasn't being conscious of my spending. It feels great or like a high in the moment, but once you open that cc bill. :((( Right now I'm the opposite and afraid to spend ANY money on wants in fear of freelance work drying up this summer, and I can feel that spending urge bubbling up as there are things I truly want that aren't so crazy, like replacing shirts with holes in them. lol! I need to find that balance. Or a full time job. :)
    • Shannon Ryan
      Friday, May 23rd, 2014
      There is definitely a high when we spend money or splurge on a treat for ourselves that can get very addictive. It can be a challenge when your income fluctuates to find that balance and feel comfortable spending. But I know that you've also done a good building up an emergency fund to help you through dry periods too. Have a great holiday weekend!
  5. Girl Meets Debt
    Friday, May 23rd, 2014
    First of all, you are so gorgeous Shannon! :) It sounds like the event went well, but with you helping to organize it, I had no doubt it would. Right now my number one money goal is to pay off my debt but I also have no problem with joyful spending. ;)
    • Shannon Ryan
      Friday, May 23rd, 2014
      You are so sweet, GMD and completely made my day! The event went very well, and it was so much fun presenting to all those Moms. You are doing great paying down your debt and still allowing yourself to spend joyfully on the things you truly love. I'm very proud of you for finding that balance! Have a great weekend!
  6. Friday, May 23rd, 2014
    Interesting that it's harder for women to spend joyfully. I guess I can count myself in that group. I tend to be happier spending on other people (especially buying gifts) than to actually spend on myself. I've had issues with saving for a specific goal and then not buying the item because I've had too much time to talk myself out of it -- unless it's a trip. I'm becoming a money hoarder!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Friday, May 23rd, 2014
      For whatever reason, women tend to second-guess themselves a bit more. It is much easier to spend joyfully on others and it's good to spend joyfully on others, but we also should be able to conjure up those same happy emotions when we spend mindfully on ourselves too. I've worked with clients who have saved diligently for something they wanted and then struggled with buying the item too. Sometimes it is a sign that you no longer want that item and sometimes it's sign that you have some money fears that you need to resolve so you can enjoy spending your money with joy. Have a holiday great weekend, Erin!
  7. Friday, May 23rd, 2014
    I am so happy to hear that the lunch went well!! I was actually meeting with one of my retired widow clients last week and we were talking about this very thing. She has plenty of money to last her a long time (especially because she is crazy frugal) and we joke that I am her financial advisor but I beg her to spend money. She really does have a difficult time spending it joyfully; however, she is working on it and one of the first things was a trip with her daughter. It was my idea and she and her daughter are very excited about it.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Friday, May 23rd, 2014
      Thanks, Shannon! Sometimes we have to plead clients to stay focused on their goals and other times we need to persuade them to actually spend and enjoy their money on the goals. A trip with her daughter is a great way to put her on the path to joyful spending. She's lucky to have you! Have a great holiday weekend!
  8. Friday, May 23rd, 2014
    Glad the brunch went well Shannon! :) you are right; your goals and your spending have to be alligned. Took me awhile to figure that out ;)
    • Shannon Ryan
      Friday, May 23rd, 2014
      Thanks, Mackenzie! You are not alone. It's not something most of us see but once we do - it makes a lot of sense and easier to make good money decisions.
  9. Friday, May 23rd, 2014
    I love the concept of spending joyfully. I think being resentful of expenses or purchases is a good indication that you're not really spending in line with your values.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Friday, May 23rd, 2014
      Absolutely - there is a reason why you feel resentful and a strong signal you're making an emotional purchase. Have a great weekend, Stefanie!
  10. Friday, May 23rd, 2014
    That's a cool concept of making your spending purposeful and therefore joyful. I can get behind that instead of feeling guilty with every purchase made.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Friday, May 23rd, 2014
      Absolutely! A lot of women feel guilty about their purchases, which is definitely not a happy way to live. And you can spend joyfully, even on things like purses and shoes, but you need to give your money purpose first. Then you know where those purses and shoes fit in so when you buy them - it was joy and no guilt. Have a great holiday weekend!
  11. Sunday, May 25th, 2014
    Sounds like a great event, and what a wonderful picture of strong-minded women! I'm sure you inspired many at the event as you do with your readers every week. :)
    • Shannon Ryan
      Tuesday, May 27th, 2014
      Thanks for your kind words, Anna! I truly appreciate them. :) It was an honor to present with Christine and Stephanie and I do believe the audience left inspired. I know I was!
  12. Thursday, May 29th, 2014
    I like the term "mindful spending mindset." Afterall, I lump all of my weekly spending items into what I call my "mindfulness needed" category! It helps me remember to keep that mindful spending mindset, which to me means not losing sight of my goals and weighing my purchasing against those goals - similar to your statement about putting off a big screen TV in lieu of retirement/college if those savings goals are unmet. I WILL say this has robbed me of the joy of a mindless shopping spree that I enjoyed as a very young adult, but I have found even deeper joy knowing that we are seeking financial peace. And the day will come when I can hopefully indulge in some minor mindless spending sprees - or even better some giving sprees! Thanks as always for what you share!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Friday, May 30th, 2014
      You're welcome, Stacy! The great thing about mindful spending is that you are truly getting the things you want because you know what those things are and make them a priority. Financial peace is truly priceless. And then you'll truly have the freedom to choice how you want to spend your money whether it's a want or need as long as your budget and goals support it.
  • Meet Shannon

    "As a Certified Financial Planner, it is my passion to help individuals and families build a healthy relationship with money. I look forward to helping you raise financially confident kids.” - Shannon Ryan