“I am indeed rich, since my income is superior to my expenses, and my expenses are equal to my wishes.” —Edward Gibbon
Self-love, self-respect, and self-compassion are all helpful when it comes to creating inner balance and a healthy outlook. They are also prerequisites for a good relationship with money. Interestingly, one’s relationship with money often mirrors one’s relationship with oneself, as changes in either affect the other. So, if you decide to do some financial house cleaning, you will reap rewards in increased self-confidence, self-respect, and self-compassion.
Let’s take a closer look at how that actually plays out. If you are saddled with debt, for example, you can easily feel stressed, self-doubting, insecure (both financially and emotionally), strained in your relationships, and limited in future plans. Luckily, though, there is something you can do about your fiscal situation, and it’s far easier than you might think. Read Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez; there is an updated version (2008) and the original (1999), both of which should be available at your local library. It is a quick, easy read that has the power to change your relationship with money. Unlike many books preaching financial freedom, this one really shifts your perspective on some essential levels. In other words, it is not about investing—it focuses on day-to-day choices and how they impact your present and future financial life.
Let’s take one example of how financial neglect can have deleterious effects on mental and fiscal health. We all know people who say they never balance their checkbook, which is fine if it works for them. However, I think a balanced checkbook can mirror a greater feeling of balance in other areas of life, as it can be one more area that feels under control. You can’t control whether your boss fires you, if the stock market falls, or whether you suddenly get sick; however, you can decide to consciously manage your money by taking the reins of your spending habits. Every dollar you don’t spend translates to less money you need to make, which lowers your stress level.
It is amazing how modern-day life has made past luxuries into necessities. I am certainly not exempt from these societal shifts, whether it is eating chocolate daily, watching what I want when I want from Netflix, or simply doing yoga any time of day or night. And I take all these luxuries for granted. That said, the chocolate doesn’t break the bank, I subscribe to Netflix because I cut my cable years ago and bought a Leaf antenna for a one-time fee of about $35 (which saves me a small fortune yearly), and my subscription to My Yoga Online costs me only pennies per class. The point is, by making some minor changes, I cut my expenses and still enjoy three daily pleasures. With just a little forethought and intention, it is possible to live well for less.
As counterintuitive, and almost shocking, as this next tidbit might seem, there is anecdotal evidence that doing your finances will relax you. Again, it is probably the increased sense of control and mastery that accrues as you handle your money in ways that provide more choices and fewer unknowns.
Paradoxically, among those choices is giving more away. By now, most people are familiar with the studies that show a greater sense of well-being comes from being charitable. The same pleasure centers light up in the brain when you are being generous as those that light up for food and sex. It need not be writing a check—it could be volunteering or simply giving things you aren’t using to people who need them. By developing a regular practice of sharing, you will not only be helping others, but getting an endorphin high and clearing out some clutter, leaving more space for all that lovely energy to flow.
Getting back to the original concept, the more you keep your fiscal house in order, the more you will feel self-loving, self-respecting, and self-compassionate. That, coupled with a slightly different spin on your true wealth, will help you resist impulse buying (no small feat in our current point-click-buy Internet culture), and encourage you to take joy in saving, planning, and consciously choosing your purchases.
Note: Much debt in America these days is from health expenses that most people simply can’t afford no matter how diligently they might have saved. Naturally, this article is not directed at fellow travelers in those challenging and anxiety-provoking situations.
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