Money is a cultural obsession. Whether we accept it openly or just silently nod, money is central to our life. Not in a binary sort of way, where when someone likes money, they don’t care about other virtues in life or if they never talk about money, it must make them a saint. But money as means to an end; A channel that takes you to a better place than where you were 12 months ago. As an input to your growth and a resource for creating an enriched life.
I grew up with a scarcity mentality believing that I had to relentlessly work until retirement and save enough money. This thinking underscored pretty much all the decisions I made in life. Decision fatigue before deciding how much to spend and what to spend it on – Expensive trainers to Peloton – and immense guilt for not using the purchase enough. This spin cycle calcified my growth for years.
Over the years I transformed my relationship with money. I am sharing 3 timeless principles that can help you re-evaluate your relationship with money.
1. Trade money to buy time
Our lives are busy and despite the pandemic, our to-lists are still as long. This makes time a premium commodity. Pick anything you are working on – a project report, a side hustle, designing a house, producing a song – often, it always takes up more time than we budgeted.
Can we buy back time? The goal here is to buy time back so you can use that time to nurture your priorities, creative pursuits or micro-goals for the day. I like to keep things in the realm of a day as that keeps things bite-sized and more relatable.
A 16-hour day can soon get chipped away with various things that come our way. Some of these things are on our to-do list and we know will need our attention but then there are a whole lot of unexpected things that pop up and hog our time like unexpected calls, emails, social media. All these things slowly add up & before you realize, an hour is gone.
So, if you start with the assumption that some unknown things will surely come up and allocate time for them, that makes a great starting point. You could look at the last week and assess how much time those things consumed. That helps you get into a pro-active mode. Start with the weekly unexpected ratio and your accuracy at predicting it will get sharper by the week.
“Empty pockets never held anyone back. Only empty heads and empty hearts can do that.” – Norman Vincent Peale
2. Find the source for the way you think
The relationship we have towards money is based on the behaviours we saw when we were growing up. How our parents, our role models and that favourite loopy uncle engaged with the topic of money. Was money discussed at all over dinner, whether it was scarce or in surplus? Or whether money often had to be borrowed or was lent to a friend or relatives? Was the lent money ever asked to be returned? These are just a few shades of how we sub-consciously end up absorbing money-conversations. Not just that we also absorb the emotions, the reactions & the statements that got spoken and lo & behold, they become our rules of engagement with money.
But not all viewpoints may fit into the architecture of our thinking process and ultimately our life. So, it becomes very important to pause & check about who you are taking money advice from.
Money is not an isolated topic but underscores the type of life we live, the books we read, the adventures we make and whether the tip we leave in a café is accompanied with a smile or a friendly wave.
If you don’t like the way money undergirds your life decisions, then ask yourself the question – how did you come to think this way? This question often takes you closer to the source of where the thinking took shape and that gives you the choice on whether you want to change your relationship with money or not.
“Don’t tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money and I’ll tell you what they are.” – James W. Frick
3. Cost versus value
Over the years I started asking the question, “what value do I get from spending a certain amount?” Value = which problem of mine will get resolved. Cost = the actual dollars I dish out.
All this while I looked at things from a perspective of the dollar amount, I was paying. And the size of that figure was usually the deciding factor if it was a go or no-go.
You could argue that ‘value’ is the degree of improvement you get in your life. Would I pay almost 60% more for a pair of earphones, (not a fan of the cordless ones) because they don’t tangle up each time & travel well? Would I bother saving $100 on the best phone or laptop, something that I will use every day for a few years at least? Will I think twice about helping a friend’s fund-raiser? Not a chance.
Value is something that solves my problem and improves my life. I see it as removing irritants so I can stop jacking around and get on to things like working towards my goals or increasing my downtime.
Our relationship with money is lifelong. Re-hash it on your terms.