Money is kind of boring.
It doesn’t do any tricks, it doesn’t entertain, and it can’t talk to you.
It’s just a tool. It’s just numbers. It doesn’t feel anything.
Money literally has no meaning past its monetary value until we give it meaning.
Often times those meanings are a result of our own personal thoughts, desires, and unfortunately, fears regarding money. Those meanings then translate into the way we treat our money.
While it can be easy to see the immediate impacts of the way we treat money, you just might be underestimating how much this impacts your financial future.
So here are 3 subtle ways you may be inadvertently limiting your own growth.
#1: Thinking money will burn a hole in your pocket
How do you react when you get paid?
After your bills are paid, is your natural inclination to put it in the bank, pay off debt, or invest?
Or are you just ready to spend it because you can and feel you should?
This might be a shock, but your paycheck is not burning a hole in your pocket.
No, but seriously, it’s okay to just hold on to some money.
The “I work all week, I should be able to spend what I want” mentality can drain your finances if you aren’t careful.
Buying new “stuff” with each paycheck is money that could’ve been used for your emergency fund, a down payment on a future home, or for some other vision.
The habit can also turn you into one of Pavlov’s dogs to the point you start salivating at the thought of what you can buy before you even receive the check.
Don’t get me wrong, I am NOT saying it’s wrong to spend on what makes you happy.
After all, that’s an essential element of financial well-being.
I’m also not saying you shouldn’t treat yourself from time to time. Trust me, I look forward to my Friday veggie pizzas.
But just take some time to consider the cost of the decision, whether the money could be better served in other areas, and where you are in your financial journey.
If you haven’t yet reached your desired financial results, the “should” spending mentality might be keeping you stuck.
To get it into check, reflect and act on the following:
- Dig into what’s driving the “should” spend mentality. Is that a message you grew up hearing, or did it develop over time? Work to pinpoint the why behind the mentality so you can address/challenge the thoughts surrounding it.
- Challenge your thinking on having money in the first place. It’s ok to have money! Just because you earn it, doesn’t mean you HAVE to spend it. It will feel good to open your bank account and see your money growing.
- Check in with your goals. Check in, but also keep it in perspective. I wouldn’t beat yourself up over treating yourself to a jumbo margarita every other Friday. But if you are “should” spending hundreds each month while lacking in supporting your goals, it’s time to re-prioritize. If you haven’t set any goals, check out this post on how to create goals you believe in.
- Consider low-cost or free alternatives. Nothing wrong at all with wanting to enjoy the fruits of your hard work. But also, don’t be hesitant to consider alternatives that don’t cost money. For example, you can still have a great evening going to a local free concert with friends.
- Budget in the fun: When you get in the habit of intentionally telling your money where to go, you can give yourself permission to spend. A balanced budget is key to that. This post on creating a budget you can be happy with will help you get there.
- Re-connect with your values. Don’t forget what’s really behind your desire for financial well-being. Whatever the value, lock in with it. Chasing the short-term spending euphoria will slow you down.
In order to reach financial well-being, you need to be in complete control of your money. Control means spending with intention, not being paycheck triggered into spending.
#2: Allowing stress to spend on your behalf
I get it. Maybe you’ve had a rough week and work was a real pain in the behind.
The stress can mount and it can be easy to want to indulge in some retail therapy to soothe the pain.
Just like “should” spending, stress spending can be a slow killer on your pockets.
It may not happen immediately, but emotionally associating spending money with temporarily relieving stress can cost you a fortune over your lifetime.
Upfront, you have the cost of the item/service. If charged to a credit card, you may start heading down a path of increasing debt and incurring interest.
Beneath the surface, there’s also the cost of missed opportunities.
Every dollar you emotionally spend is a dollar not going towards improving your financial situation.
That’s robbing your efforts in paying off debt, stacking your savings, and investing.
Over time, that can end up costing you thousands or even tens of thousands in missed growth potential.
Is the temporary emotional numbing really worth all of that?
Having a go-to coping mechanism of spending highlights the need to check in with yourself to see what’s really behind it.
To help, try these approaches:
- Try to pinpoint when/why the behavior began. Start thinking back to when it all started and what triggered it. There was likely an earlier point in your life where this became a coping option.
- Observe spending patterns. Categorize what you typically stress spend on. This info can help you to focus in on problem areas.
- Determine the types of stress triggers, and the frequency. When you recognize what triggers it, you can proactively address the underlying root of the stress.
- Find healthier approaches to coping with stress: For example you can take a walk, hit the gym, or try talking with a friend. Finding a healthier and more productive alternative to coping with stress can protect your pockets and enhance your overall well-being.
- Re-connect with your core financial values. The stress spending likely isn’t inching you closer to satisfying your underlying values.
So far, I have only focused on spending triggers. But on the opposite spectrum, you have those that hold onto every penny like their life depends on it.
#3: Being too cheap to see potential value
I admit, there was a time when I wouldn’t ease up off ANY money.
I’m talking “wifi only” super cheap. “Turn the air off”-cheap. “Don’t even look at the appetizer menu” while on dates-cheap.
To some degree, frugality and resisting the urge to overspend is what good personal finance is about.
I mean, it’s not easy to accumulate wealth when you’re buying drinks for the whole bar each weekend. You do have to exercise a certain level of financial prudence.
The problem comes in when you are afraid to spend anything; even if it could benefit you.
The unwillingness to spend money can keep you from pursuing valuable opportunities.
Perhaps its attending worthwhile professional conferences, taking a training that could enhance your skill set, or hiring an advisor to help you with more rewarding investment decisions.
By being unwilling to cough up some money, you might be leaving an insane amount of money on the table. Anything from potential promotions and raises, to investment income.
You never know what you missed out on by being too cheap. If you aren’t careful, trying to hold on to a dime will cost you a buck.
Don’t be afraid to invest in your future.
To get a healthier grip on your wallet:
- Check your mindset. A scarcity/fixed mindset just might be the culprit. Holding on to your penny because you don’t think there’s more pennies out there will cap your potential. There is no shortage of money in this world; you can and will accumulate more.
- Compare the savings to the opportunity cost. Frugality in keeping your water bill low is totally different from passing up a valuable opportunity just to save $20. Weigh the cost of holding on to your money for it might be more than you think.
- Start an “opportunity” fund: You can start setting aside money to fund future opportunities. Pick an amount you are comfortable with that won’t freak you out. By doing this, you are giving yourself guilt-free permission to spend on anything you deem has growth potential.
- Don’t forget your overall well-being. Choosing to DIY your life might save you money, but it could be costing you time and adding stress. Sometimes it worth paying just to save the aggravation.
When it comes to strengthening your relationship with money, the trick is understanding what influences your behaviors. That includes the underlying emotions, beliefs, triggers, and fears.
They can be subtle, but once you acknowledge them, you can explore them.
If you have found yourself having any of the above responses, here’s the good news: you can change.
Take the opportunity to reflect, address where appropriate, and keep growing.