This post is part of the 2015 Financial Literacy Awareness Carnival: We Are Financially Real. I’m excited to participating in the carnival again this year and highly recommend that you check out all the carnival participant’s stories. I know I can’t wait to read them!
For a long time I felt adrift. My life was overall fairly successful. I had a nice job, earned a good salary and had no debt. Life should have felt grand — right? But it didn’t. I felt aimless and lacked purpose. I spent mindlessly to fill that hole, which led to an overflowing closet, too many shoes (although still not 100% sure that is possible) and nothing that really mattered. Well, besides my cat, Emeril, he mattered.
During that time, I moved a few times and every time I would find clothes with tags still attached and lots of things I bought for no reason at all, other than I could. I shake my head today but back then, I didn’t see anything really wrong with it. Sure, I felt little embarrassed about wasting money but I easily brushed it aside because I had no debt. My attitude was one of who cares.
Connecting the Dots Between Spending and Happiness
I won’t lie that this attitude carried me for many years. It took me a long time to open my eyes and get Financially Real, largely because I didn’t think I needed to make any changes. Compared to lots of people, I was in a pretty good place. But I really wasn’t. I wasn’t spending joyfully, even though I thought I was. It felt good every time I bought that new outfit, or pair of shoes or purse.
However, if I was being honest with myself, I wasn’t spending with true or lasting joy. I didn’t even know that we really should. Then I got a job with Shannon (yup, that one) and she taught me about emotional competence and money happiness. I initially felt a certain amount of resistance because gosh, darn it, I was doing just fine — wasn’t I?
But … I wasn’t. It wasn’t until I got laid off that I connected the dots. For many people getting laid off was a terrifying experience, while I was excited about it. Financially I was okay and it was a chance to start fresh and try something new, so I was excited, not scared. Of course, old habits don’t die easily.
A few weeks into my unemployment, I found myself bored and shopping. This wasn’t anything unusual for me, but I’d been working before with money coming in, which wasn’t the case now. Still, I went to one of my favorite stores and picked out several jackets and tops to try on when it hit me — what was I doing? Beyond spending when I should be conserving, I didn’t need a single item I held in my arms. That momentary pleasure would be gone in an instant. True happiness should last longer.
Now that my funds were more limited, I needed to spend my money wisely and think first to make sure everything I purchased was worth my hard-earned dollars. I’d never really done that before. You’d think that might make me cranky or pout since I would have to start saying “no” to myself but it didn’t. It freed me.
Financially Real Helped Me Learn What Mattered
The new and improved me stopped buying everything I wanted and instead took the time to decide if the item was truly desired. I started budgeting so I knew how much discretionary income I had available. By thinking about how I wanted to use my money, I had better clarity on what really mattered. I stopped spending (okay, spent less) on the things that didn’t. To my surprise, I found that I didn’t need to buy myself something every weekend to feel happy.
I never realized how my fears and ignorance about money held me back. Nor did I realize how much money I spent on dumb things that could have funded the things that I truly wanted but never thought I could afford. In fairness, I couldn’t afford them because I spent my money on everything else.
I am still a work in progress but well on my way to becoming Financially Real. Sometimes I discover things about myself that I don’t always like but that’s okay. I am human and make mistakes. I also learn from my mistakes too.
It’s Your Turn to Get Financially Real
It was scary to peek under the hood and take a hard look at my money beliefs, habits and spending. But it was also incredibly empowering and gave me the ability to choose how to live my life. It will do the same for you.
Don’t forget to check out the other participants posts in the 2015 Financial Literacy Awareness Carnival.