Updated: 19 hours ago
MONEY. MONEY. MONEY.
What a charged and ever-present topic. Money can hold meaning in significantly different ways for all of us, symbolizing access, status, struggle, or those things we want most that are just out of our reach.
My relationship with money has always been complicated. A lot of money drama as a kid, created a sense of lack or scarcity as I grew into an adult that needed to forge my own relationship with the stuff. This sense that money wasn’t reliable was an ever-present feeling. So, I worked hard to save as much as possible, but even then it never felt like it was enough.
MORE THAN DOLLARS
As I got older, I noticed a pattern. No matter where I landed on the spectrum of having or not having enough money, my relationship with it - how I spent and saved it - all came down to how I felt about it. Those feelings can be the difference between money having control over me, or feeling in control over my money.
The most surprising finding for me, is that it really doesn’t matter how much money you have. On the extremes, there are billionaires that lead a tragic and unfulfilling life, and on the other end, there are monks who have no worldly possessions and rely on others for all of their needs, and yet are some of the happiest people on the planet. What this illustrates is that our relationship with money has less to do with how much we have, and almost everything to do with how we feel about having it.
MONEY AS A TOOL
So it got me thinking, how can I start to feel better about money? To see it as a tool, a gift and a necessity, so that I can have a fighting chance of a better relationship with my finances.
Even beyond childhood, money has been a volatile and charged topic. Over the course of my professional life, I’ve either had more than enough or barely any at all. One of the patterns that emerged as I looked back was that my perception and feelings about money have mostly come from how I spend it. Since I never had a plan for my spending, it always felt willy-nilly and out of control, even when I spent on real necessities. I always had a sense that I should have bought fewer groceries, or I should drive less so I don’t need to fill up as often. And beyond the necessities, if I wanted to enjoy something like dinner out or a spontaneous purchase, the guilt would kick in and I had trouble enjoying it anyway.
What a wicked game I was playing. Without a doubt, money had the upper hand, and because it felt out of my control, it was always taking more than it gave. The worry around how much I had, was based on how little of it I had saved. And savings was a tense subject because I did so love to travel and be spontaneous, but I also was diligent about never missing a bill and always paying on time.
It got me wondering, can the two coexist?
So, a few years back I decided to figure this out. I was tired of this particular bad relationship, and since neither of us were going anywhere, we had to figure out how to get along. So, I went into my on-line bank account and I created a whole bunch of savings accounts attached to my checking account. With each paycheck, I would pay my bills, and then I divided what was left amongst the savings accounts. Almost immediately this was the most fun part of my month, which had never been a feeling I got around a paycheck before. But it really was fun, filling all of those accounts and watching them grow. It started to feel like a challenge - how fast can I get that one to a thousand, and that other one to five thousand? How much can I not spend this month so I can save even more?
MONEY AS A RELATIONSHIP
Even more miraculous was that beyond the challenge and fun, this started to feel like a healthy relationship where every facet of me had a victory. I had an account for impulse buys. Another for car repairs. I kept one for summer camp and another for summer vacation. There was tuition, clothing, home improvements and my IRA. There was an account for almost everything, so when that bill arrived, or a contract was due, or I felt like buying a new pair of shoes, I had that covered.
It sincerely changed my life. For the first time I did things I enjoyed without guilt, because I had planned for it. I covered big payments without much thought, because I had planned for it. After about a year, the most miraculous thing happened: I started to like money and it felt like money liked me. It was amassing. It was, in some accounts, overflowing. It was coming at me every two weeks and it wanted to play and be responsible, just like me!
What a game-changer. I worked for money, and then my money got to work for me.
In this process, I realized that, for me, money is less about how much I have and more about how it allows me to experience life. I don’t need more stuff, that’s for sure, but I sure do need more of this version of freedom from guilt and anxiety over my financial future.
If, like me, your relationship with money has got you in a bad way, then hop into EP 24: How to Have. a Better Relationship with Money and Have It Work For You, on the podcast, where we talk about improving our relationship with money, so that our lives can truly strike a balance between wants and needs. It’s worth a try. You never know, it might actually be fun!