Deep within the recesses of your mind are primal, animalistic urges to spend more than you should. We are born and bred to consume and prosper – shopping comes easy. As the Black Friday madness shows, we can easily gorge on the materialistic desires that haunt us. When we set budgets and realize our fallibility, the urge to spend can easily be replaced by grit to overcome. It is at this point that we are effectively fighting our demons and the unbalanced budget.
Fighting is tiring
But have you ever been in a fight? Whether emotional or physical, fighting is tiring and draining and scary. It strikes a similar but different evolutionary instinct, and can lead to severe psychological distress. Frequently, future frugalers get frustrated by their urges to spend, and punish themselves by cutting credit cards and focusing on creating a rock-solid monthly budget. I’m afraid this energy is misdirected, at times.
Oft-repeated cliches about making more than you spend and creating an emergency fund are abstract concepts, goals that miss the steps needed to get there. More fundamentally, even the steps ignore the reasons behind your desire for change – to become more frugal. What is motivating you to save money and have a better life?
From foundations comes successes
See, what the personal finance world is missing is credit for the psychological foundations. Everyone comes with a certain amount baggage and history. This past influences how we treat money and save (or not). Without recognizing this past, we may not be able to recognize where we err in the future.
In the past, I had a piss poor habit of going to malls to browse and shop because I loved the smiles and energy. The aromatic storefronts welcomed me, clothes glistened from spotlights, and the service was friendly. The problem was most pronounced when I felt alone and/or unfulfilled. Bottom line, for me, shopping and spending beyond my means was directly related to loneliness and purposelessness.
Realizing your own need shopping and/or unbalanced spending leads to a foundation for change and budgetary hope. A house cannot be built without a foundation. But more fitting, a house cannot be afforded without a budgetary foundation. How do you become aware of your motivation for wanton spending?
The metaphor of quicksand
Remember those old movies where the bad guy falls into a pool of quicksand, and the more he struggles, the faster it sucks him under? In quicksand, struggling is the worst thing you can possibly do. The way to survive is to lie back, spread out your arms, and float on the surface. It’s tricky, because every instinct tells you to struggle; but if you do so, you’ll drown. –Russell Harris
Debt and financial despair is like quicksand. The more you fight to get out of it, the harder it seems. It is easy, when you’re working to improve your situation, to berate and punish yourself for these ills. Fortunately, there’s another way – a paradox of sorts to becoming frugal and financially solvent.
As the quote says, if you build a foundation for a different reaction to your struggles, you may find calm. In calmness, we can begin righting our course and find a balanced budget. Deficits can be defeating, but they don’t necessitate a battle.
Fighting, flexing, attacking, and breaking your need for spend is a recipe for disaster. Rather, relax and reason are the solution for a positive future. Now, you’re ready to save money with mindfulness!