There used to be a day when I could drop a thousand bucks and think nothing of it.
Jobs were different.
Family size was different.
Priorities were different.
My idea about debt was different.
This attitude of “spend like it’s your last day” was unhealthy for sure.
When everything came crashing down I developed the opposite feeling about money. When you go through an extended period of time in which you don’t have enough money it changes you. I’m not talking about needing to borrow a few extra bucks one month, I’m talking about living an entire year with the constant worry of “do we pay rent or do we buy food?”.
When you are put in a position where there really is no win, when you have to make these tough decisions every single day, it messes with your head.
Here’s my confession: I get nauseous when I spend money.
I have major anxiety attacks and feel like I am going to throw up when I spend money, especially if I spend money on myself. And we’re not talking about large amounts of money, this happens with the small stuff too.
This attitude isn’t any healthier than my previous attitude, in fact it’s probably worse.
So, what can I do to help myself?
1. Realize that money is an inanimate object.
Money has no feelings. A dollar bill won’t feel hurt if I save it, spend it or hide it in a sock somewhere. By realizing that money isn’t a sentient being I am giving myself permission (as strange as it sounds) to not revere it.
2. Go over our financial goals.
Our goals aren’t the same as they were 3 years ago. While we’re financially stable at this point, we are looking at some big expenses (college!) coming up in the next few years. Instead of avoiding those expenses until the last minute we need to take the time NOW to write them down and start planning for them. This will free us from the bondage that we often allow money to hold over us.
3. Take a deep breath.
When I get really anxious about money I remind myself that we won’t be back where we were. We are so much smarter now than we were several years ago. We have a back-up plan. We have emergency funds that we can access if we really need them. We have learned to live with so much less than we thought we wanted and needed, and we’re happy about it. When these feelings creep in I need to stop, take a step back, breathe for a few minutes, remind myself of where we are, and just move on.
4. See money as a tool.
Money doesn’t put food on the table. Money doesn’t pay for new shoes. Money is the tool that allows ME to buy food and shoes, to pay the power bill and take a vacation. I am in control of how the money is spent and saved. I am the one in control, the money does not dictate how I live my life or how happy I am.
5. Have faith that in the end we will be ok.
At the end of the day we’ll be fine. We have to be fine because we have no other choice. We may have to sell things that we love, or perhaps not buy something that we really want. Maybe we have to postpone college for a year or go back to one vehicle. All of that is ok and nothing to become upset about because these tough decisions are just what grown ups do when it has to be done. If we keep our goals in mind and act on them, while staying flexible enough to change our goals (and ourselves) as needed, we’ll be ok.
Poverty or Poor Attitude?