Making Peace with Money

woman-working-on-finances“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.

© Copyright 2013 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Nicole Urdang, MS, NCC, DHM, LMHC, therapist in Buffalo, New York

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • david beacham

    david beacham

    July 15th, 2013 at 10:19 AM

    very much want to do this but never seem to have the willpower. i have let things that our parents would have thought frivolous become like necessaities to me, have a hard time differentiating anymore between the things i need and the things i want

  • Christine Mathieu

    Christine Mathieu

    July 15th, 2013 at 1:28 PM

    Beautiful article Nicole–well said! I have found that clarifying what “wealth” means to you is a great place to start. It helps you in gaining some perspective of what in life is truly important and meaningful…deciding needs vs wants becomes easier as well. :-)

  • Dean

    Dean

    July 16th, 2013 at 4:24 AM

    But still kind of telling about what is most important to us when so much of our self worth comes form the money we make and our ability to manage it.

  • Melody

    Melody

    July 17th, 2013 at 4:30 AM

    Money is not the root of all evil, but it sure does feel like it sometimes. I think that we can all look at ourselves and friends of ours and see just how much damage placing too much of a priority on it can affect us in a way that is not good. Making peace with our finances is something that is a whole lot easier to do if we have had good financial role models in our lives but if you have never had that kind of guidance then it is hard to know where to start. Sometimes the only way we learn is by making some terrible money mistakes, and yes we may learn a lesson but then there is all the stress from trying to dig out from under that for maybe years to come. Easy to see really why this is such a big issue for so many marriages.

  • Nicole

    Nicole

    July 17th, 2013 at 8:17 AM

    As for willpower, David, it’s like anything else: practice is the key, along with starting small.
    Simply delay making a purchase for a few minutes and watch what emotions come up. Whatever emerges, and it is often anxiety, breath into it. Ride it like a wave, knowing it won’t last. In time, you will discover you can delay those urges for longer periods of time and feel increasingly comfortable, rather than deprived.
    Another tried and true method from Dr. Albert Ellis is asking yourself “Must I have this simply because I want it?” If you answer honestly, it will help bolster your willpower and make you feel more in control.
    Good luck!

  • Nicole

    Nicole

    July 28th, 2013 at 4:59 AM

    Here are a couple of interesting studies I just found that support the idea of giving increasing one’s happiness:

    plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0039211

    news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2008/04/money-spent-on-others-can-buy-happiness/

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