You may remember that one of my goals/intentions for New Year 2016 was/still is to improve my relationship with money. The choice not to refer to this as financial wellness was deliberate. I wouldn’t want to write about it and I doubt you’d want to read about it. I decided to reframe it from the former language with connotations of “get out of debt” or “save for retirement” because let’s face it, if saying those words kept anyone motivated we all wouldn’t be setting the same goals year after year. I decided to call this fresh initiative “spending in alignment with my core desires.”
I spent a lot of time identifying my core desires; you may remember the many posts near the beginning of the year on those. Each purchase or non-purchase is supposed to pass the Spending in Alignment Test—does this purchase support my core desires? I keep an accountability list from month to month, much like a running list of success for my monthly highlight reel. Every dollar I spent was recorded, why I spent it, and which core desire was allegedly supported by the expenditure.
It’s been working well. You’ve seen evidence of that in my monthly highlight reel posts. I paid off my car loan. I committed to buying non-essential clothing only four times per year (with a spending cap). I gradually stopped spending money on things I can do for free. Keep in mind this wasn’t a cold-turkey renunciation. It’s a practice. In some cases I had to talk myself into it by talking myself out of the crappy justifications that I’d built up over the years.
For example, running was one of those things upon which I spent a ton of money: race registrations, travel expenses, memberships, gear, subscriptions, etc. My former justification was that running supported my core desires and while that sounds great, the issue wasn’t the running. The issue was spending money on running. I can run for free. I can get every social and health benefit from running for free. Racing is optional. Racing is an exorbitantly expensive option. It took a while for those realities to settle but one truthful choice led to another. A little at a time my relationship with money improved.
Sometimes it was the smallest actions that led to the biggest changes.
- I deleted all the shopping apps from my smartphone. Amazon, Ebay, Etsy, Paypal; I needed to make it harder, not easier, to spend money. I still use these services but I have to go home and then go to the PC to do so, which gives me extra time to think it over.
- I did the same with apps that let me pay retailers with my phone. If I have to use real money or at least a card to buy it, a slightly more laborious transaction gives me another chance to consider whether or not I am spending in alignment.
- I put a freeze on my credit. No new credit accounts means no new debt. Experts will argue that this hurts your credit–not if you don’t want any new credit, bucko.
- I set a rule that if I knew I couldn’t pay off the purchase in full within 14 days, it couldn’t go on a credit card.
- No one needs more than one credit card, folks. Any purchase that comes with a deep discount as an incentive for opening a credit account is going to cost us deeply in the long run. I learned to say No even if it meant paying full price. Paying full price is not stupid. Paying four or five times the price in interest is stupid.
- I dumped the reward cards. You know, the ones we get free with an email address and mailing address? They aren’t free. Coupons make us shop. I became militant about no notifications of sales in my inbox or my mailbox. I didn’t need anyone reminding me to buy things I didn’t need.
- I unsubscribed from as many mailing lists and newsletters as possible so that I wouldn’t be tempted by limited-time offers. No members-only deals. No friends and family weekends. Online-only special is code for online-only sucker. In-store parties make us shop–especially running and yoga stores. Online challenges make us shop. Every sign-up gets our info put in front of another advertiser and tailored ads make us shop.
- Social media—this one surprised me. I didn’t realize it until I quit but social media made me shop. Social media is gone. You’ve already read all the other good reasons why.
- I picked one charity—ONE—and politely refused all the others. I know that sounds mean but honestly I think it prompted me to give more because I didn’t feel I was spread too thinly across so many good causes. I chose one charity dear to my heart for all my charitable giving, set an annual donation, and made it in one lump sum. The lump sum was key—a big payout up front helped me say No later on. Little kids waving buckets at me on the sidewalk got a warm smile but none of my spare change.
Sounds like I got it all figured out, right? Yes and no. I’m proud of the work I did. I am celebrating an improved relationship with money. However, in September I hit a plateau. Everything was still working well as long I as worked at it but I felt that by October I should have picked up more momentum. January is only three months away. I wanted a shot in the arm to finish out the year all dewy-eyed and giggly. Maybe it’s a symptom of withdrawal. It takes a long time to unlearn the addiction to achievement—this too is a practice.
Enter Anna Newell Jones. When it comes to debt-busting for real people, she’s a heavy hitter. Her Spending Faster philosophy was just the thing I needed to take Spending in Alignment to a deeper level. I signed on anonymously because I wasn’t sure I could do it. I also resisted the urge to write about it until I could speak from direct experience. To be fair, I didn’t even go all-in. I decided to try a spending fast for just one month to see how much more I could really improve my relationship with money. This meant nothing non-essential for 30 days. Mmhmm. And I promised myself I wouldn’t write about it until it was over.
This doesn’t mean that I didn’t spend money. I did spend money. I had a co-pay for an eye exam—that’s an essential. My eyesight has gotten worse so I needed new glasses—that’s an essential. My car needed a minor repair—that’s an essential. Gasoline in the car—essential. Mortgage payments—essential. Taxes–essential. But I didn’t get a haircut. I didn’t get any new clothes. I went into the jewelry store to get a watch battery replaced and didn’t buy the earrings on clearance. When my pre-paid coffee card was exhausted I didn’t reload it. There was more but you get it; only essentials for 30 days.
Yes, knowing it was only 30 days helped ease the pain. So how much did I save? $352.00; only I didn’t save it. Saving it means I will spend it, which is contrary to the point when we are still carrying debt. I immediately paid it toward what’s left of my consumer debt. If I keep going at the same rate that’s $1,408 by the new year. Imagine if I went all-in for a year like Anna’s program suggests. That Anna chick is smart, by the way. If this sounds too daunting she also promotes a Spending Dieter plan, just in case you’re not ready to fast and would rather diet.
Assuming I do this I’m already thinking ahead to the things I’d do without for a year. This knee-jerk reaction means I’m approaching it with a mentality focused on scarcity rather than abundance. Instead of imagining how much extra money I’ll have I automatically jump ahead to the stuff I won’t get. This is why a healthy relationship with money is important; why it is a viable aspect of our wellness. I have so much money I can waste it on stuff that is non-essential. That’s the truth. My disordered relationship with money only sees sacrifice and lack and need, when in fact this practice would make sure I spend my money on exactly what I need.
I’m declaring this shift in perspective the star of my September highlight reel. Honorable mentions: I started cooking again—twice a week—to give the Chef a break. I resumed running again after my August break—slowly building mileage and consistency. I have stuck with the Tinas project for another month—almost done! I decided NOT to do 30 Days of Something for the month of November because I’m already going 366 Days of Tinas. 366 Days of anything is enough. I have enough. I do enough. I am enough. Say it with me, friends.
— Ferndet Gaspins