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Building a positive relationship with money: part one

Part One: Spending money

Money is one of the things we think about most in our lives. No matter how much we have, we tend to always want more. And the more we have, the more we tend to worry about losing it. 

Yet, do we stop to think about the underlying relationship we have with it? Do we spend enough time evaluating and shaping the relationship we have with money, vs. allowing it to rule us?

For most of us, we become submissive to money, thinking it’s far more powerful than we are. We don’t think of it as a two-way relationship that we can shape. That’s why I’ve decided to write this two-part series on our relationship with money. Part one is about how we spend money. Part two will be about how we make money.

The mystery of money is something I’m only just beginning to unravel for myself. But I’ll share what I’ve learned so far.

1. Align your spending with your values

Are we spending our money in ways that serve us? And are we spending our money in ways that help create the world we want to live in? Maybe, or maybe not. Perhaps we haven’t clearly articulated our own values well enough spend in alignment with them. Or sometimes our values change but we keep spending money in old ways – out of habit or a sense of obligation to other people. Or even out of forgetfulness or lack of scrutiny. 

In 2018, I went through my biggest lifestyle adjustment. Up until that point, I pretty much followed “the script” in terms of going to college, then grad school, then progressively getting better and better jobs, with higher pay and better titles. I paid off my student loans. I bought a nicer house than I would have ever imagined living in. I was pretty much set. Except that I unfulfilled and I knew there was something else out there I was supposed to be doing instead. By this point I’d strengthened my connection with my Higher Self and knew I was being guided to make my own path. So to make a long story short: I sold my house and quit my job, and I began reinventing myself.

I’ll save the most of what happens next for part two of this blog. But for this topic of spending – I radically, shifted my spending behavior in 2018. I stopped sending thousands of dollars a month to a bank to pay a mortgage for a house I couldn’t justify living in. I stopped paying for services that I could do myself if I prioritized my time better. I stopped buying new clothes unless I had a specific purpose in mind for it, not just a whim or an attempt to fill an emptiness. And so it went for every category of my spending. I scrutinized, cut back, and stopped spending money on anything I decided was a passing desire and not a necessity or a truly intentional choice. 

I invested most of my spending into two key areas of my life: self-development and building my business. I decided to use my money to create newness – a new to the world business and a better version of myself.

I prioritized buying things from small businesses – ones that I ideally know the name of the person who runs it. I worked even harder to find sustainable products and companies to support. I articulated my personal values of keeping my money in our local economy and supporting businesses that work to make our planet better for humans and non-humans alike.

2. Challenge the “I can’t afford that” mindset

How we spend our money says less about what we can afford, and more about what we value. Every time we say, “I can’t afford that…” it reinforces the scarcity mindset. It continues the narrative that we are a victim to money and it has power over us. 

Think about the last time you said, “I can’t afford that.” Were you saying you couldn’t afford a trip to the moon alongside Leonardo di Caprio? Because that’s probably true. But more likely it was something you could afford if you changed your priorities and mindset. Have you ever said to yourself, “I can’t afford a vacation” or “I can’t afford a massage” or “I can’t afford a to go to the dentist”? Often, we prioritize things that are for ourselves, for self-care, much lower than we should. So what does that say about our values?

Next time you say to yourself or someone else, “I can’t afford that…” challenge yourself to ask if that’s really true or not. It may be true. But it may also be that you haven’t aligned your priorities in that way. Or it could be that you don’t value that. Or it could be you’re not aligning how you spend your money with your values.  

Try saying instead, “I’m choosing not to spend my money that way.” Give yourself the power, not the money. Or if it’s something you value, say “I’ll have to reprioritize.” Or “I’ll start saving for that.” And then do it.

3. Be mindful of how you spend your money

I feel like our ancestors had a huge advantage on this one. I imagine my great, great, great, great…. grandmother carrying around her purse full of gold coins to the market. It was pretty easy for her to say, “I have 10 gold coins. That costs 11. I’ll have to pass.” But when we live in a digital age with credit cards, apps, and smart phones giving us a number on a screen, money seems so much less tangible. Which can make it easy to lose track of how we’re spending it.

I personally made a resolution this year to end any subscriptions that were not for my business, such as mission critical software. I did this after realizing 24-Hour Fitness never canceled my gym membership after I’d asked them to do so six months earlier. I was pretty upset with them. But I also realized, I was partly at fault because I didn’t review my credit card statements as frequently as I should. I realized I need to build a healthy habit of reviewing my credit card statements every month before I pay them. And I decided until this becomes a habit, I won’t subscribe to anything new and I’ll cancel all my existing subscriptions. 

There are lots of software tools out there that help you track your budget and spending. I won’t recommend a specific one, but in general, I find they are helpful to get a handle on everything. I also recommend using a credit monitoring service to make sure you understand the impact of your spending and get alerted to anything fraudulent immediately.

Worksheet: Take charge of positive spending

Lastly, I created this worksheet to help you build a more positive relationship with money. I hope it gives you the opportunity to reflect on the three principles we’ve discussed and make a few changes.

Until we meet again – in part two of this article. Wishing you prosperity and abundance.

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