In my twenties, I hate to admit I spent way too much time and money buying stuff that, at the time made me feel successful. With credit card debt, student and car loans, and a very average income, many of the things I bought should never have been up for consideration. I wouldn’t buy it now so I know I had no business buying it then. It was emotional spending, meant to make me feel better. In reality, I felt worse, digging myself into a deeper hole to keep up with the Joneses.
Of the four core fears I talk about in Get Unstuck, Be Unstoppable, my core fear – disapproval – drove my spending choices. I spent money to gain approval and acceptance. Perhaps you can relate, or perhaps it is another emotion that drives you. You might spend on your kids to overcompensate for a parent who isn’t there or guilt for the long hours you work. Your super-competitive attitude might tempt you to constant “one-up” on others and keep up appearances. Or spending might just be a way to temporarily ease your loneliness or sadness.
When I decided to stop working so hard to look successful and started working hard to actually be successful, my priorities shifted. Although it didn’t happen overnight, I stopped worrying about impressing others and started being true to myself. What is God impressed by? Good stewardship. Humility. Generosity. Love. What does it mean to be true to myself? To honor my future self by taking care of myself through investments, climbing out of debt and valuing experiences and people over things. As I answered these powerful questions, I began to realize that moving from emotional spending to healthy spending would mean shifting what I liked to shop for. Rather than chasing empty symbols of success and believing they would somehow make me happier, I began to “shop” for things that would actually enhance my life. Whether you find yourself where I used to be or you just need a reminder to stay on track towards your financial goals, this week, I challenge you to make wise choices (not emotional ones) when it comes to your money:
- Shop for assets, not possessions.
Get excited about your financial future by researching and shopping for things you can invest in – stocks in profitable, responsible companies, real estate that will increase in value, business opportunities that will pay off. Look for assets – meaning they can become more valuable over time rather than losing value the moment you purchase them.
- Invest in experiences over things.
Research shows we gain far more happiness when we spend on experiences – classes, dinner with friends, a vacation – rather than things. We can savor experiences, grow from them and even strengthen the bonds of our relationships. Years later, we can savor the memory of an experience or leverage it for an opportunity while that thing we purchased is long since forgotten.
- Buy time when you can afford it.
Is there something you procrastinate about because it just takes too much time and energy? Could you budget enough to get someone to help? Whether it is housekeeping or taxes or errands or something else, some services are worth the money if you have it. Ask yourself, “How much time would I actually save? What would I do with that time that is a wiser use of my time?”
- Spend on others, not just yourself.
When you get that unexpected windfall, research shows you gain more happiness when you don’t spend every last dime on yourself. Carve out a bit to bless somebody, and it’ll bless you, too.
My challenge to you:
Do not spend out of insecurity, guilt, trying to impress someone, or self-soothing.
In what way(s) have you spent money emotionally in the last month? What was the emotion you felt and what triggered that emotion? If you could do it over, what would you do differently? What will you do next time you feel the temptation?