Getting emotional about money
The value you place on money is hugely driven by emotion. Behind every dollar you spend, there's an emotion attached to it. Get clear on the emotional driver, and you get clear on your relationship to prosperity.
I tend to think of money in the same way I regard time: It's a form of energy. It comes and goes according to my intentions. The clearer my intentions, the more the money flows. Before I decide if I'm going to spend my coin on something, I weigh out the potential for results and pleasure.
“Pleasure” has a great range. Sometimes delight is the measurable, but other times we're aiming for circuit-blowing ecstasy. And as we all know, in terms of commerce, circuit-blowing ecstasy can be achieved with something as indulgent as a piece of chocolate ganache or luxy as private race-car driving lessons or as noble as making a donation to your favorite cause.
Money Is a Tool
Before you reach for your wallet or click on “Buy,” ask yourself:
- Is this going to make me feel fantastic in a way that it actually improves my well-being? If spending is about improving your well-being, that helps rule out impulse and stupid big-ego purchases that are mostly about looking cool.
- Is this going to help me get the results that I'm aiming for? When you're focused on creating an amazing future, you tend to value the present more.
- Is this going to help other people (including the people you're purchasing from)? Is this going to make things easier for me, and free me up so that I can pursue more . . . pleasure? If the pleasure potential matches your budget, then you've got full clearance to proceed.
When I spend, first I consider if something will energize me, and second, I consider the actual dollar cost. This means I can act like a wannabe baroness or a total cheapskate in the span of a minute. Like I did one afternoon in Vancouver International Airport.
I had missed my flight cutoff time by five minutes. For years I'd been dreaming of having an experience at a certain spa in New Mexico. My spa package was booked, and if I didn't arrive that day, my whole fantasy was going to be blown away like a tumbleweed in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. I did some quick emotional math. I could book a new flight, toss the old one, charter from another hub. What was this experience worth to me? How much more was I willing to pay to prevent dream devastation?
I decided I'd go as high as two thousand bucks to rescue my plans — totally frivolous, and not something I'd ever tell my mother. I resolved to do whatever it took to get there, rationalizing that the euphoria of my mountain healing time would make me more productive and, therefore, I'd make that money back in a snap.
Luckily, I had to pay only a $150 re-booking fee. I was elated that my fantasy holiday was about to come true, and I felt like I was $2,000 ahead in the game. It felt sexy knowing that I was willing to go sugar mama on myself: “Damn, girl, you treat yourself fine.” I picked up my boarding pass, walked to the snack shop, and put some glazed almonds on the counter.
“That'll be fifteen dollars.”
“For these?” I asked.
“Uh-huh,” said the cashier.
“You're kidding. I'm not paying fifteen dollars for a bag of almonds.”
Fantasies fulfilled: Worth it. Getting ripped off: Not going to happen. Emotions: In check.
There are unlimited ways to create the positive feelings you want in every interaction you have with money. But some of us need to start by overcoming negative emotions tied to money. You can build awareness of how you feel about money by following these steps.
Answer the following questions as honestly as you can. How do you feel:
- About your debt?
- About your income?
- About your savings and assets?
- About anyone who owes you money?
- When you pay for experiences and outings?
- When you go grocery shopping?
- When you shop for gifts?
- When you shop for clothes?
- When you shop for decor, art, or collectibles?
Identify what pure positivity with money would feel like. If you have negative feelings that showed up in some of the above answers, think of the positive feelings that counter those. For example, if how you feel about your debt is heavy, burdened, or resentful, perhaps the positive contrast would be promising, empowered, and grateful.
Choose just one positive money emotion — the one that feels the most vital and exciting to you — and think of one action you can take in each of the money areas below that will help you feel that way:
- How you spend money
- How you save money
- How you give money
- How you receive money
- How you manage money
For example, if the feeling you want the most around money is gratitude, what can you do when spending your money to feel grateful? Is it keeping a gratitude journal for the things you buy, or being extra-polite to sales clerks, or saying a quiet “Thanks for the ability to pay my bills,” when you're writing a check to the electric company?
Say your most positive feeling is security. What can you do in regard to how you manage your money to feel that way? Create monthly cash flow projections, join an investment group, write your will, start a new savings account?
All of us have an emotional relationship with money, for good or ill. But not everyone is conscious of why they feel the way they do. Recognizing how money influences your emotions can help you make smarter choices and lead to a more prosperous future. That's something all of us can be happy about.