Most personal finance advice is focused on spending less and saving more. The financial gurus love to target the overspenders and those who are living beyond their means. While saving and frugality are central tenants to a successful financial plan, there’s another side to the personal finance coin.

I’m talking about the super savers. The people who are hyper-focused on making money and socking it away for a rainy day. The frugal fundamentalists who go to extreme lengths just to save a buck. You probably know someone like this or maybe I’m describing you.

Being overly frugal and tight with your money isn’t necessarily a good thing. How much fun can life really be if you aren’t willing to part with some of your money to live that life? These obsessive savers are the ones who are hunkered down living in a money prison of their own creation instead of getting out and enjoying the world around them.

 

Healthy personal finance is about balance

A healthy life is about balance. It’s okay to enjoy a piece of cake as long as you’re also eating your vegetables. It’s okay to have a few lazy evenings curled up watching an endless stream of Netflix but you can’t do this every day.

The same is true for your finances.

 

 

You shouldn’t stop yourself from spending money once you’ve taken care of your bills, savings, and investments. Money isn’t meant to be hoarded. You don’t want to leave this earth with a full bank account and a life devoid of pleasure and experiences. You don’t want to cling to every dollar when you could be sharing your wealth and giving to the people or the charities you believe in.

And giving at death doesn’t count. You’re dead. You’re not doing anything much less giving. Besides, it’s much more fulfilling to give with warm hands than cold ones.

 

Money is a tool to maximize living a meaningful and fun life.

 

You should aim to strike a healthy balance between spending on today while also saving for tomorrow. Too often people put things off until later and miss the opportunity to live now.

 

“I’ll travel when I’m retired.”

“I’ll stop working so hard when I have three years of savings in my emergency fund.”

“I’ll start taking care of myself and treating myself when the house is paid off.”

 

No, no, no.

 

Stop waiting and start now. You never know how your life will change or what surprises are around the corner. What if you’d put off traveling until you were retired only to retire during a global pandemic that resulted in closed borders and grounded planes?

Give yourself permission to enjoy your money now and in the future. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Find your financial balance.

 

How to escape your money prison and find financial balance

If the thought of spending money makes you feel anxious, you are probably an (obsessive) oversaver. And, you are likely living in a money prison. A frugal fortress that has you trapped even if it doesn’t feel like it.

 

 

If you’re ready to escape your money prison and start enjoying your money now instead of saving for the future, here are some simple strategies.

  1. Discover your “Why.” Why do you feel the need to save so much money or refuse to spend it even when you know you have enough? Many people suffer from a scarcity mindset and it’s often passed down from generation to generation. If your parents or their parents grew up in extreme poverty or financial uncertainty, they can pass along their money habits and behaviors. Even if you are financially secure, you might still feel like you have to hold on to every cent because this is what you were taught.
  2. Make spending mandatory. This might sound counterintuitive to all of the other money advice you’ve ever read but hear me out. If you suffer from excessive frugality and it pains you to spend money then you need to give yourself permission to spend. Set aside a certain amount of money each month and spend it on something that makes you happy. Treat yourself to a meal from your favorite restaurant, get your hair done, or give to your favorite charity.
  3. Practice values-based spending. Values-based spending is when you consciously spend on the things that are most important to you. It’s about aligning your finances with what you value most. Since it’s difficult for people who are extremely frugal or have a scarcity mentality to spend, a values-based strategy can be a good way to dip your toes into the spending pool. This is because you are unlikely to regret making a purchase based on your values.

 

It’s time to start enjoying your life

Don’t live your life as a (miserable) miser. You’re not taking your money to the grave.

This isn’t an invitation to be irresponsible and senseless with your spending but instead a reminder to find your financial balance. Save for the future, have an appropriate retirement nest egg, but also remember to live your life and enjoy it today.

 

What are you making for Christmas dinner? A perfectly baked ham, your grandmother’s famous stuffing, or maybe a delicious Christmas pudding?

Regardless of your answer, I want you to think about why. Why are you making that particular dish?

For most of us, the answer is, “because that’s what we always do, it’s a family tradition.”

If you grew up having prime rib with all the fixings for Christmas dinner, then you’re likely to serve the same prime rib dinner to your children. No one told you to make the same dinner. No one had to. It’s tradition. It’s just “what we do.”

This is a great example of an invisible script (see eH blog What is a Money Script and Why Does it Matter?) that’s been passed down, from generation to generation, without nary a word spoken.

“That’s just what we do.”

 

That’s just how it goes. We follow our traditions instinctively, unquestionably.

“What? Are you serious? Get an artificial tree?? Are you NUTS!!?? We HAVE to have a fresh tree and we have to cut it down ourselves. You need help.”

The same goes for traditions around Thanksgiving, Easter, even birthdays. Now, this isn’t inherently a bad thing. Some of our fondest memories come from family traditions even if we don’t know why we partake in them or where they came from. For most of our traditions, “what we do” is answer enough. But, can we say the same for financial traditions?

What are financial traditions?

Just as we inherit holiday traditions, we also inherit financial traditions. Like our Christmas traditions, we don’t always know why we hold these financial ideas or behaviors, we just do. For many of us, our current money beliefs have been passed down from our parents and adopted without question. We’ve inherited financial beliefs like:


“Renting is a waste of money; buy a home as soon as possible.”

“Always pay cash; never finance anything.”

“Student loan debt is a good investment; it always pays for itself.”

 

These seem like sound financial principles. And they are. Generally, speaking that is.

None of the statements above are inherently right or wrong. Renting can be a waste of money. Having no debt is usually a great idea. College is often an excellent investment. It’s easy to follow traditions like these because you only need to be “cocktail napkin” smart for these ideas to make sense.

But, there are many situations where adhering to these beliefs doesn’t work.

Let’s go through each examples one by one:

  • Renting is often a far better financial decision than buying. If you only have the bare minimum for a down payment, have no cash reserve, expect to move in a few years, or have just gotten divorced, renting might be a far better decision than buying.
  • “Never finance anything” makes every financial transaction only about the money and ignores what you’re getting for your money. Sometimes going into debt is the best way to get most out of life. Sure, you’ll pay more because of the interest, but you may gain something even more valuable than money – a special memory that will pay dividends for a lifetime.
  • The sentiment that college always pays for itself is simply not true .The price you pay for school matters, and college isn’t always a wise investment especially if you choose a major with limited job prospects.Emerging from your college years with $90,000 in student loan debt and a degree in art history (or the like) is almost always a terrible financial decision.

 

 

There is nothing wrong with using financial traditions as a starting point. But, that’s all they should be: a starting point. What is solid financial advice for one person could be disastrous for another even within the same family.

The problem is we adopt financial traditions as completely as we adopt cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving.


Why did I buy a house a year out of college? Because “renting is a waste of money.”

Why didn’t I finance part of my honeymoon and extend our trip? Because I should “always pay cash.”

Why do I have $75,000 in student loan debt and a lower income career? Because “college always pays for itself.”

 

You may be thinking, “Is it really that simple? Do we really take these family money beliefs and turn them into financial traditions without much thought?”

Yeah, pretty much.

Studies have shown when participants were asked where their core financial beliefs came from, they often identified their parents as the primary source. This isn’t particularly surprising. What is surprising is just how little they questioned these beliefs. Turns out, just as we make prime rib on Christmas because that’s what our parents did, we adopt financial behaviors in very much the same way.

It’s no fluke children who come from parents of “savers” are often “savers” themselves. Children of “spenders” are often “spenders.” The key is to recognize how your upbringing affects your financial decision-making today and reassess if what you’re doing is in your best interest. It’s okay to grow up to be “just like your parents” by choice. It’s another thing to do so by default.

How to create financial traditions that work for you

 

Question your financial traditions

Question your financial beliefs. Where did they come from? Are they valid for where you are right now? What options have you NOT explored because of your beliefs?

It’s easy to go with the status quo and keep doing what you were doing. But, easy doesn’t make it right. Broaden your gaze and consider financial options that conflict with your current belief system. If you do the research and your current beliefs are validated, great. If there is a better way, great.

Either way, you’re making a fact-based decision and not going with the default. Critically think your way to the right decision.

 

Educate yourself

It’s easier to create new and constructive financial traditions when you understand how money works.

If you have a lack of financial knowledge, invest some time and energy into learning the fundamentals. There’s a wealth of knowledge available, much of it free. Whether it’s financial websites, blogs, podcasts, or books, start small and you’ll be surprised how quickly you can grow your financial knowledge and capabilities.

 

Know your “why” and your “how”

Behavior change is hard.

If you feel like you need to modify some of your financial traditions, it’s important you know your “why.” Why do you want to change your ideas or behaviors?

Your “why” answers the “is it worth it?” question. If you have a compelling “why,” there’s a greater chance you’ll stick with it and do the work required of you. It’ll be “worth it.”

Equally important is your “how.” How are you going to make the changes required? What is your plan?

The “how” provides the discipline and structure needed to make a lasting change.

 

Are you ready to make new financial traditions?

Holiday traditions, such as cutting down your own Christmas tree, are usually harmless and fun. But, financial traditions are different and can have serious financial consequences if applied inappropriately.

Christmas is the perfect time to reflect and contemplate the origin of your core money beliefs. It’s the perfect time to reassess them and see if they’re working for or against you.

If you’re doing it right, there should be alignment between your money beliefs and your life goals. If there isn’t, it’s time to reassess even your staunchest financial beliefs. Not only do you want to get this right for you, but for future generations. After all, how you handle your money now becomes your kids’ or grandkids’ version of “that’s just what we do.”

 

 

Do you know how much debt you have? What about your credit score?

Do you know how much you’re saving for retirement? What you’re invested in?

Can you report how many subscription services you’re currently paying for?

Do you review your finances regularly?

Do you have a financial plan for the future?

If you answered no to many of these questions, you might suffer from a bout of financial apathy.

 

What is financial apathy?

Financially apathetic people are indifferent to money matters. They put little time or energy into learning about money and don’t strive to better their financial situation. They may complain about their finances but aren’t motivated to do anything about it. They don’t even seem to be concerned about it.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “uh oh, that sounds like me,” or, “hmmm, that sounds like my husband / girlfriend / daughter…”, don’t worry. Financial apathy is not a life sentence. There are simple steps you can take to get out of your financial rut.

 

 

Why do people suffer from financial apathy?

There are many reasons people fall into a state of financial apathy. Some of the main reasons people become apathetic about money include:

 

Feelings of overwhelm

For many, they’re overwhelmed by money and the world of personal finance. Working through the barriers to financial success feels unreachable and far too complicated. Rather than talking about it or asking for help, they push down their concerns and hope they go away.

You know how that goes. Ignoring things just makes it worse as one bad financial decision stacks on top of the other and eventually collapses under its own weight.

Financial problems don’t go away when ignored; they compound.

 

Feelings of fear

Many people are afraid to take on the money-related tasks necessary to achieve financial success. For instance, investing.

You’ve probably heard someone say they’re too afraid to invest because the stock market is “like gambling” or it’s “too risky.” It doesn’t matter that this belief flies in the face of the fact millions of everyday people rely on the stock market to fuel their retirement and college savings plans.

Truth is it’s easier to hide behind our fears than it is to do the work of understanding how investing works and determining if those fears are warranted.

 

Trying to keep up

The pressures from social media (and those around us) can also cause financial apathy. When you look at the “perfect lives” of friends, and even complete strangers, all day, every day, it’s easy to want the things they have.

If you just buy that bag, that dress, that car, that house, then maybe you will be as happy and perfect as they are … right?

More like, “yeah, right.

 

 

People spend beyond their means trying to keep up, and they fall deeper and deeper into debt. Too much debt often leads to an “I’m just not going to look at it” mentality.

Rather than dealing with their financial issues head-on, they push it to the back of their minds, cross their fingers, and hope it’ll all just work out.

 

Lack of education

One of our education system’s more profound failings is the lack of financial education provided to our young people. Unless you grew up in a household where money talk was commonplace, you’ve had to figure out this personal finance stuff on your own. For most, this isn’t easy.

People rarely engage in activities they find difficult even if those same things are good for them (i.e., exercise, healthy eating).

Learning about money can be a frustrating and challenging road and all too often people simply give up. A lack of financial knowledge is one of the leading contributors to financial apathy.

 

 

How to overcome financial apathy

If you’re ready to stop making bad money decisions, or no money decisions, and get your financial life in order, here are some tips to get you started.

 

Admit it

“My name is X, and I am financially apathetic…”

Okay, that sounds a little over-the-top, but you get the point.

The first step in overcoming financial apathy is to recognize and admit to it.

This is a big step.

 

Educate

Becoming financially literate is one of the best things you can do to combat fear and apathy.

Find financial bloggers, podcasters, or YouTubers you enjoy listening to and spend some time getting familiar with them.

Also, don’t feel like you need to learn everything all at once. Start small by getting the basics down and then stack new knowledge on top. Before you know it, you’ll have a solid foundation from which to build upon and address more complicated financial concepts.

 

Automate

If you don’t like to deal with the day-to-day tasks associated with managing your money, and let’s be honest, who does, then you can use automation to “set it and forget it.”

Automating positive financial behaviors such as investing for retirement or paying extra on your mortgage is often the easiest and most effective way to manage your money.

Overcoming financial apathy doesn’t require a lot of time if you harness the power of automation.

 

Apps

There are tons of useful fintech apps available to help you quickly manage your finances. You can use banking apps to set up alerts and reminders to tell you when your funds are getting low.

There are budgeting apps like You Need A Budget to help you develop a simple budget and financial management apps like Mint to get real-time feedback on your bank accounts, credit cards, and investments.

Note: As per my ‘Budgets Are Bull****’ blog, I’m not a fan of traditional “budgets,” but these tools can help you understand where your money goes, which is a critical component to making smart money decisions.

 

 

Say goodbye to financial apathy

Succumbing to financial apathy is always easier than doing something about it, but it’s hardly better. Deep down, we know our money issues won’t just “work themselves out.” We know we need to be active participants to secure our financial future.

Getting over financial apathy is about not hiding from your money issues; it’s about taking action. Push yourself to learn about the financial topics that scare you, find your money mavens to guide you, and use fintech to make managing your money as easy as possible.

Financial apathy is real, but it’s also entirely within your control. It’s been said, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. When will you take your “first step” on your journey out of financial apathy? Why not make it today?

 

 

Your plans for the future are a story you tell yourself. Some of the chapters are easy to imagine and plan, like buying your first home, sending your kids to college, or picking out dream retirement destinations with your spouse.

But life has a way of throwing unexpected plot twists at you, such as, say, a global pandemic that upends how you live and work. If you feel like your story has lost some of its most important plot threads, use this three-step method to find a new happy ending.

 

 

1. Accept

An unexpected job loss. The death of a loved one. Losing your home in a fire. A major illness.

Life is never the same after you experience these kinds of unexpected transitions. Your lifestyle might change. Your relationships might change. Your daily routine might change. And your long-term personal, professional, and financial goals might have to change as well.

Letting in feelings like sadness, embarrassment, and fear can be challenging. If you’re having trouble expressing yourself to your spouse or another confidant, try journaling. Getting your thoughts and emotions down on paper can help open you up for the conversations you need to have as you navigate through this transition.

 

 

2. Edit

Now that you’ve accepted this change in your life, you need to figure out how you’re going to adapt to it. Significant transitions often feel so overwhelming that they can be paralyzing. Where do you start?

Start with today.

Break the new transition into smaller parts. What is one thing you can accomplish today and can build upon tomorrow? If your doctor says you need to eat better, make a new core grocery shopping list. Need to exercise more? Buy a pair of running shoes. Ready to make a career change? Brush up your resume so you can start a job hunt. Register for an online class to help you make a career change. If it’s time to tighten the family belt, strip out all the “extras” and focus on what’s most important to you.

Racking up small, daily wins will make this transition feel more manageable. It may challenge you, but it may also be the catalyst that pushes you to create new habits leading to a healthier, happier, and more productive you.

 

 

3. Rewrite

In the moment, unexpected transitions can feel like an end. But, as you gain momentum from your new routines, you’ll start to see new opportunities ahead of you as well. As one difficult chapter closes, you begin writing a new, more hopeful one.

Some of the details in this revised chapter may be different than you imagined. Not all change is bad. Maybe, instead of retiring to that beachfront condo, you remodel the family home and are blessed to have your grandkids over more often. Perhaps, being “forced” to hang up your tennis racket isn’t the takeaway you thought it would be as it leads you to take long walks with your spouse and spend more quality time together. If one phase of your career is over, it might be time to promote yourself to the CEO of your own company or finally find the time to volunteer to the important causes in your life.

 

 

Some of life’s greatest moments happen after difficult or challenging times. We can’t control the world around us, but we can control our response to it. Approaching life transitions with an accept > edit > rewrite mindset can help you navigate life’s twists and turns with confidence and hope. As Winston Churchill famously said, “I am an optimist. It does not seem much use to be anything else.”

 

 

One major mindset shift is to realize we have a relationship with money. Yep, that’s right, a “relationship.“

I know that sounds a little odd, but it’s true.

Think about it. We pursue money like we pursue other relationships. We tend to nurture our money like we nurture other relationships. We ask of our money – to do things for us, as we do in other relationships. We have strong emotions about money. Money can control us. It can inhibit us. We fear it. Worship it. We can be jealous when someone has more money than we do. We show off our money as a status symbol.

So, yeah, we have a relationship with money.

And this relationship with money isn’t static. Sometimes it’s really good and is simple and easy. Other times, it requires so much work and you can just feel defeated. There’s also a history you have to contend with too.

As in all relationships, there’s a give and take. It’s not all give, it’s not all take. It’s about finding a healthy balance.

Ask too much from your money – like buying you true love, or ensuring a joyful existence – and you’re likely to be sorely disappointed.

Ask too little and you’ll end up disengaged, disconnected, and living a less than optimal life. Gathering money just to sit in an account, never to be used to live your best life is a travesty.

 

 

Our relationship with money affects every area of our life. Money is a multiplier, it amplifies who we are.

What would happen if we treated our money with the same care and attention that we apply to the most important relationships in our lives? Do you think we’d have better money-related outcomes? Sure we would.

We know how much a healthy personal relationship impacts our life. The same is true of a healthy money relationship. It’s a thread that affects everything. If we have a healthy relationship with money, it allows our best self to burst forth and do good in the world.

And no matter how we try, we cannot separate our money from who we are.

 

 

But, just because we can’t separate our money from who we are, this doesn’t mean our money defines us. We breathe life into our money, not the other way around.

In short, money isn’t a thing to be managed; it’s a relationship to be nurtured.

Are you managing or nurturing yours?

 

 

 

Have you ever heard some say, “I don’t want to be rich, I want to be wealthy” and were puzzled by what they meant? There’s this notion that being rich and being wealthy are synonymous. They’re not.

Being rich is best described as someone who makes a lot of money.

Being wealthy is best described as someone who doesn’t have to worry about money.

If you make a lot of money, you’re considered rich. But, a lot of “rich” people are deeply worried about money, worried about being able to make enough to maintain their lifestyle.

It’s common for rich people to have a lot of “stuff,” nice stuff – big houses, fancy cars, they take lavish vacations, they eat at the best restaurants. They also tend to have a lot of debt. In many cases, the rich are held hostage by their need to make money and to maintain the lifestyle they’ve created.

On the contrary, wealthy people aren’t worried about money. Their money or lifestyle does not control them. While it’s true many wealthy people are rich; it’s also true that many are not.

You can’t be rich without a lot of money, but you can be extraordinarily wealthy.

There are many people out there who are wealthy, not because they make or have a lot of money, but because they have few wants.

“Wealth is a relative thing since she that has little and wants less is richer than she that has much and wants more.”

 

 

Do you see the distinction?

I’ve seen this quite a bit. I’ve seen plenty of situations where someone makes, literally, 10x less money than someone else, but is far wealthier. And often, a lot happier and less stressed out.

Wealth is about having a good quality of life, about focusing on what makes life worth living. For many, you just don’t need a ton of money to live such a life.

This is not to say having a lot of money is a bad thing. It’s not. We’ve made it clear that it’s okay to pursue money and make it a priority in your life. But, there comes a point when you have “enough” and the pursuit of “more” works against you.

Which is great news.

It means money isn’t the sole determining factor. It means we don’t always have to go after that next rung on the ladder or kill yourself to close that next deal.

It means we have the option to choose, to decide if the trade-offs required to reach that next level on the corporate hierarchy are: 1) necessary and 2) are they worth it.

I’m convinced we’d have a ton more “wealthy” people in this country if we changed the paradigm from “More Money is Better” to “Enough Money is Best.”

 

 

It bears repeating: change the paradigm from “More Money is Better” to “Enough Money is Best.”

If people truly understood the implications of the statement “Enough Money is Best,” we’d have a lot more people making Quality of Life decisions versus More Money decisions.

You’d see:

      • More people choosing to retire earlier
      • More people choosing to leave the office earlier to spend time with their kids
      • More people choosing to take time to nurture their passion projects, to do what they love
      • More people choosing to donate their time and money to the important causes in their life

I’m a good example. If I subscribed to a “More Money is Better” mindset, enlightenHer wouldn’t exist.

If “make more money” was my driving motivation, I would never have created enlightenHer. It would have made far more financial sense to focus all of my time, energy, and resources into my other, already established business. I would never have started a new company like this particularly one that is founded more so on advocacy than economics.

But, I mean, hey, I get it. To many, it’s safer to have too much money than to have too little, right? I get that.

But all too often, we blindly pursue more money without ever questioning if that’s what we really need or want. We forget there’s a cost to always wanting more, always wanting better. There are so many people out there who are miserable and selling their souls in the quest for more.

How much better off would they be if they changed their goal from “having more” to “having enough?”

They’d have more time to spend with the people they care about the most.

More time to do the things that brought them joy and life satisfaction. It would allow them a chance to pause and breathe, to lift up their heads and look to the horizon instead of looking down all the time at the road directly in front of them.

Truth is, sometimes, making less money is the best thing to do. It’s the best option.

If our work life is in greater balance with our personal life, and we have “enough” money to live this more balanced life, isn’t that worth exploring further?

More time. Less money. Enough money.

 

 

 

In Ken Blanchard’s bell-selling book, Who Moved My Cheese?, he uses the analogy of a ladder against a wall. Imagine the wall is the obstacle you need to climb to reach your goal, which is at the top of the wall.

So, you grab your ladder and place it against the wall and diligently begin climbing. After much focus and effort, you finally get to the top of the wall only to discover you’ve placed your ladder on the wrong wall!

You look around you and realize you should’ve placed your ladder on the wall over there.

You were so close and yet so far. All that time, energy, and effort expended, and you’re not even in the right spot—what a waste.

Placing your ladder on the wrong wall is an easy way to visualize making an honest, well-intended mistake. You deliberately chose the wall to place your ladder on. Then you diligently climbed every rung of the ladder. You finally got to the top of the ladder, expecting to be rewarded for your efforts, and quickly realized you made a mistake, your ladder’s on the wrong wall.

This is a good analogy for people and money.

 

 

 

We often think we’re using our money in the right way, only to discover we’re not being rewarded adequately for our efforts. We’ve placed our ladder on the wrong wall.

So, what am I getting at here? I’m talking about our consumption-driven society. More specifically, I’m talking about the societal pressures that come with a ‘More is Better” or a “Bigger is Better” mentality.

Now, no one comes right out and says, “yeah, I’m a materialistic person; that’s just who I am, and you should be one, too.”

Does anyone do that? No, no one does that. It’s just the opposite. They say things like, “yeah, we don’t really spend that much money, we don’t go anywhere, we don’t buy anything; we’re pretty frugal.” And then I look at what they’re actually spending, and I’m like (head explodes), what?

That’s how twisted it gets.

No one admits to being materialistic or driven by money or status. They don’t vocalize it. It’s subtle. But boy, they sure tell you all the same, don’t they?

They primarily “tell” you through social media, through their perfect IG and FB posts. They show you this ostentatious life as the pathway to happiness and success. They dine at the best restaurants, have flawless skin, take luxurious vacations, live in 6 bedroom homes, and so forth.

We’ve been taught we need a lot of money to be happy. We equate financial success with how big our house is or the type of luxury cars we drive. We tie our self worth to the suburbs we live in, and Heaven help us if we don’t live in a ritzy zip code.

We’ve been duped into thinking the American Dream is about having “more,” that “bigger is better,” and what we already have is never enough.

We’ve placed our ladder on the wrong wall.

Not only is now the right time to reassess and create a new money mindset for ourselves, but it’s also the time to help our kids create the proper money mindset right out of the gate.

Instead of trying to change bad financial habits, we have the opportunity to instill the proper financial habits right from the start and help them avoid the costs associated with placing their ladders on the wrong walls.

The best way to do this? Be a good example.

 

 

Show them what it means to be content with what you have instead of always wanting more (save the “always wanting more” stuff for personal development). Give your excess to those in greater need of it. Turn your focus inward on what truly drives your happiness. Have a grateful heart and live that life.

Don’t wait for others to lower a rope and pull you up to the top of their wall.

Grab your ladder, find your wall, and get to climbing!

 

Are you a spender? A saver? Do you love money or do you see it as the root of all evil?

Have you ever wondered why you are the way you are with money and where your beliefs and behaviors around money come from?

Enter money scripts.

What is a money script?

A money script describes our beliefs about money. Money scripts are developed in childhood and we are largely unconscious of them. Our money scripts tend to be passed down from generation to generation (thanks mom and dad).

Financial psychologists Bradley Klontz and Ted Klontz coined the term “money scripts” and identified four major money script categories:

 

Money avoidance

“Money is the root of all evil.” “People with a lot of money are greedy.” “I don’t think I deserve to have money.”

Money avoiders often hold conflicting beliefs. On the one hand, they believe that having more money could solve their problems and increase their status in life. On the other hand, they hold many negative beliefs about money and see money and those who have it as corrupt.

When it comes to their behaviors they often give away most of their money which can leave them in a tough financial spot. At the same time, they might be working overtime in an effort to make money. It’s confusing!

 

Money worship

“If I had more money all of my problems would be solved.”

Money worshipers believe that the only way to be happy is to acquire more and more wealth. At the same time, they also believe that they will never have enough money.

Money worshipers are often chronic overspenders because they are constantly trying to buy their own happiness. They are likely to spend compulsively and often put work ahead of their relationships in an effort to make more and more money.

 

Money status

“My net worth is my self-worth.” “I only buy name brands.”

People who identify with the money status script believe that success is defined by the amount of money you have in your bank.

The money status script can get people into financial trouble because these individuals tend to spend above their means to appear more “well-off.” They are also more likely to become involved in behaviors like gambling in an effort to win big and prove their self-worth.

 

Money vigilance

“I need to save my money in case of an emergency.”

Those who identify as money vigilant are concerned about their financial well-being. They pay their bills on time, only make purchases they can afford. They work hard for their money and they don’t believe in financial handouts.

People who identify as money vigilant can become overly anxious about money and don’t like to discuss money with others. Often people who are money vigilant find it difficult to spend money on things that are fun or would make their lives better.

Of the four money scripts, the first three are associated with poorer financial health (lower net worth, lower income). Money vigilance is the only script that is associated with better saving and frugally and in general it’s the best of the four money scripts to have.

 

 

 

 

Why does your money script matter?

Identifying your money script can give you some insight into your beliefs about money. There’s a strong association between your beliefs and your behaviors. So, if you’re interested in changing some of your undesirable money behaviors (overspending, not savings, compulsive shopping, gambling) you can start by getting to the bottom of your money beliefs.

Money scripts are also useful because they can be used to predict disordered money behaviors like compulsive shopping, gambling, or financial dependence. For instance, those who identify with the first three money scripts (avoidance, worship, and status) are significantly more likely to exhibit compulsive buying.

Money scripts are also predictive of financial health. Research has found money scripts to be associated with income levels, net worth, financial behaviors, and debt. Those who are categorized as money vigilant tend to have higher income levels and net worths, and they are less likely to carry debt.

 

Can I improve my money behaviors?

If you identify with a money script that you’re not happy about, or you have a few undesirable money behaviors that you’d like to change, no problem! The good news is that change is possible, it can be difficult, but it’s possible.

Here’s one small thing you can do for each money script to improve your money behavior.

Money avoider: work on becoming more financially literate. You know the saying, “knowledge is power?” Well, it’s true. The more you know about your money and how it all works the less likely you will be to try and avoid it.

Money worshipper: focus on people over things. Instead of heading out shopping, invite a friend over for coffee, or go for a walk with someone you love. Refocus your attention on your relationships instead of brand names.

Money status: try to slow down. Life isn’t just about working and making money. Take time to enjoy your relationships and work on maximizing your physical, mental, and emotional health.

Money vigilance: have some fun! Each month, assign yourself some “fun money” and make sure you use it. Yes, it’s important to save for a rainy day but you also don’t want to wait your whole life to enjoy some of the money you’ve worked so hard for.

 

 

 

 

How will you rewrite your money script?

Now that you’ve identified your money script, do you want to make some changes? Do you have a few money behaviors that you’d like to eliminate? Or, are you the perfect balance of money vigilance (you like to save and you know how to have a little bit of fun here and there)?

The great news is, now that you’ve identified any problems, you can go ahead and start making positive changes! You get to decide how you will rewrite your money script!

 

Did you grow up in a household where money was always tight and you constantly heard the message, “we can’t afford it”? Or, did you experience a household of abundance where money was spent without thought but never discussed?

Do you remember how your parents talked about money when you were a kid? Or, perhaps money was a topic that was not to be discussed openly.

The messages we hear about money and the behaviors we witness during childhood often form our core beliefs about money and drive our financial behaviors in adulthood.

There’s value in understanding your money personality so you can identify potential issues and make improvements. By fixing your own money problems, you can model healthy financial behaviors and messages to your kids.

If you’re curious to know your money personality and your teenager’s money personality, read on to see which traits you identify with the most.

 

The Money Personalities

 

Spend-thrift

Do you love to spend money? Do you love to spend extravagantly? Do you buy whatever you want without considering the price?

While there’s nothing wrong with spending money, a spendthrift spends in a way that is often reckless and wasteful. For instance, someone who gets paid on Friday and is flat broke by Monday or spends all of their money on expensive shoes.

Spendthrifts often find themselves in a large amount of debt due to their inability to stop overspending. Their money behaviors can also lead to fighting with their partner who doesn’t agree with their poor financial decisions.

 

 

Tips for the Spendthrift

      • Track your spending. Seeing the actual numbers on paper might be the wake-up call that you need.
      • Automate your savings. Have your savings automatically come off of your paycheck. This way, you take care of your responsibilities (saving and investing) before you even see that money. Whatever is left can go towards spending.
      • Choose cash over credit cards. While it’s important to build your credit, it’s essential to avoid large sums of debt. Credit cards make impulse purchases too easy. Switch to cash so you can physically see the dollars leaving your wallet.
      • Try a “no-spend challenge.” Choose one week each month and do a “no-spend challenge.” The name is pretty self-explanatory, you simply spend no money for an allotted time frame. If a week sounds impossible, try one weekend or even one day a week.

 

Gucci Girl

Do you only shop for name brands? Do you always need the newest and best quality things? Is your sense of self-worth linked to your net-worth? Well, then you might identify as a Gucci Girl.

It’s okay to like nice things and, if you can afford to buy name brands, then that’s your prerogative. The problem with the Gucci Girl personality type is when you begin to link your feelings of self-worth to the amount of money in your bank account or the type of car you drive.

This personality type can be exhausting because you’re always trying to keep up with the Joneses and continually comparing yourself to those who have more than you. Often Gucci Girls find themselves in a great deal of debt because they make purchases they can’t afford to look successful or wealthy.

 

 

Tips for the Gucci Girl

      • Spend some time on introspection. Whether this comes in the form of journaling, deep thinking, or even professional counseling, it’s critical to get to the bottom of why you are tying your self worth to your net worth.
      • Give to others. You will see that giving to others, whether it’s time or money, will make you feel better than buying a new pair of shoes that you can’t afford.

 

Fear-based

Do you feel like you never have enough money? Are you always worried that you could lose it all? Do you find it challenging to spend money? Are you always looking for ways to save a buck?

Often people who grow up in an environment of scarcity develop fear-based relationships with money.

While a fear-based money personality can be good for your bank account, because you are continually saving, it can prevent you from spending on anything fun. Those who are always afraid of losing it all are often incapable of spending on fun experiences and end up missing out.

 

 

Tips for the Fear-Based

      • Determine the root of your fear: Try to understand why you are so afraid of losing it all? Is there a particular experience that has made you fearful of a lack of money? Consider counseling if your feelings of fear are getting out of control.
      • Find balance: Continue to save for a rainy day, but also remember to enjoy some of your money. Make it a goal to spend on a fun experience each month. Also, ensure you’re investing your money so it can grow and aren’t just stuffing it all in a bank account or under your mattress.

 

Wise-Beyond-Years Wealth Builder

Are you good with money? Do you have emergency savings? Do you only make purchases that you can genuinely afford (meaning you have the necessary amount of cash in your bank)? Well, good on you. You have a healthy relationship with your money.

The only issue to look out for with wise-beyond-years wealth builders, is that you don’t become overly anxious about saving every cent. Remember, it’s important to save for the future, but you also need to have some fun in the present.

 

 

Tips for the Wise-Beyond-Years Wealth Builder

      • Allocate fun money. If you find it difficult to spend, then create a “fun money” account and make sure you spend it on something that you enjoy each month.

 

I Don’t Give a Fu*& (IDGAF)

Do you avoid looking at your bank statement each month? Do you pretend that your money issues don’t exist? Do you have a negative opinion of money? Do you think “rich” people are greedy or selfish? Do you spend without much thought or concern or give sums of money to charity or friends when you actually can’t afford it.

The IDGAF personality can get into trouble financially because they simply aren’t aware of their financial situation. They avoid looking at their bills and statements and choose to disregard any money issues.

 

 

Tips for the IDGAF

      • Increase your awareness. You aren’t doing yourself any favors by sticking your head in the sand and pretending your money issues don’t exist. The first step to fixing your money issues is to become aware of where you are financially, so it’s time to make a budget.
      • Give your time instead of your money. If you can’t afford to donate money, give your time to the causes you care about.
      • Remember, money is a tool. Money is not inherently good or bad, it’s a tool. Remind yourself that having money doesn’t make you a bad person, you get to choose what you do with your money.

 

What personality do you identify with?

So, what is your money personality? Did you find one that you identify with the most? Or, are your money habits spread across a few of the different personalities? Perhaps you identified with different money personalities at different points of your life.

Do you see your teenagers taking on similar money personalities to you or your partner? Or, are they adopting certain traits from each of you?

Now that you’ve identified your money personality, you can see where you might have financial challenges and how you can improve. Just because you identify as a “spendthrift” or you see your teenager as a “Gucci Girl,” this doesn’t mean that you are each stuck in your ways forever. You can make healthy changes to your money personality so that you can model the money behaviors that you really want to pass down to your teen.

 

 

We all have deeply ingrained beliefs about money. Whether you’re a saver, spender, or money avoider, each of us acquires thoughts and behaviors about money that frame our financial identity.

According to research by financial psychologists Brad and Ted Klontz, these deep-seated beliefs about money are born in our childhood and passed down from generation to generation. These beliefs are largely unconscious, and yet they drive many of our financial behaviors.

This means the money messages we heard when we were kids, and the spending and savings behaviors we witnessed, have shaped how we think about money in adulthood — thanks, mom and dad!

Sometimes we fall into the same patterns as our parents. Other times we see the mistakes they made and avoid them. Regardless of whether or not you’ve adopted your parents’ financial beliefs, almost all of us develop money mantras we use to justify bad money behaviors.

Let’s talk about three of these bad money behaviors and the ways we try to justify them.

 

3 Ways We Justify Bad Money Behaviors

 

“That’s Just Me – I’m a Spender”

We all know someone who overspends. They go into a store for a new pair of jeans and come out with a new wardrobe. If confronted about their spending, they tend to say something like, “Oh, you know me, I’m a spender.”

 

 

Saying things like “that’s just me, I’m a spender,” is often a deflective answer, but it also might be true. Because we develop our money beliefs and behaviors early in life and the process is often unconscious, it’s hard to fight against these beliefs. Over time, these bad money habits can become a part of who you are.

No doubt, some people have a proclivity towards spending, just as some people have a proclivity towards saving. That doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it.

A few easy adjustments you can make involve changing your environment to make it harder to spend. Change your route to work so you don’t drive past the local mall or Starbuck’s. Delete all shopping apps from your phone. Don’t store your credit card information online and force yourself to dig into your purse and pull out the credit card before making a purchase.

These may sound like simplistic ideas with little chance of working, but don’t judge them before you try them. If you’ve been around the block once or twice, you probably know how far-reaching little changes can make in your life. Besides, what have you got to lose by giving it a shot?

The bottom line is there are ways to overcome your overspending habit. Blindly saying, “that’s just me, I’m a spender,” is a defense mechanism; it’s something we tell ourselves to protect us from the guilt and shame that often accompanies overspending.

 

“I Deserve It”

Here’s another phrase we tell ourselves when we really want something, but know it’s outside of the budget and shouldn’t get it. This one taps into our sense of fairness. “I work really hard, so I should be able to spend my money however I want.”

“I deserve a new shirt.”
“I deserve a new computer.”
“I deserve” a new car.”

 

 

Perhaps you do deserve some acknowledgment for all of your hard work, but twisting that into purchases you can’t afford is something entirely different.

The “I deserve it” mantra can be difficult to overcome because we’ve always been told, “work hard and good things will come to you.”

The “I deserve this” argument is an emotional argument. It’s rooted in our expectations of how things “should” be. I should be able to buy that big house because I’m killing myself at work. I should be able to afford a new car because I work really hard. But, is the feeling of “I should” and “I deserve” worth the negative consequences of buying something you can’t afford?

If you feel like you need a reward for your efforts, make sure it’s something that won’t put you into financial hardship. There are many things you can do to treat yourself that don’t cost a ton of money and will make you feel like a million bucks.

      • Take a day off and go for a hike in nature
      • Buy your favorite bottle of wine and savor it with a delicious homemade dinner
      • Invest some of that hard-earned money in your future by actually investing it

And, if you have worked really hard and you really can afford to buy whatever your heart desires — go for it!

 

“You Only Live Once”

We’ve all heard someone utter these words. Usually followed by some brazen act that makes for a good story later should they live to tell the tale.

Yes, it’s true, you only live once. But, that doesn’t mean you should throw caution to the wind and spend as if there’s no tomorrow. Odds are, unless you have a serious medical condition, you’ll live far into old age as opposed to dying young.

 

 

Saying, “you only live once,” is another way of saying, “I don’t have a plan for my financial future.” This may be a cute or acceptable thing to say when you’re 18 and don’t have a clue — not so much when you’re in your 30’s or 40’s.

It’s essential to find the right balance between spending now so you can have fun and experience a rich life, and saving enough for a future that is sure to come.

On one hand, you don’t want to save every penny you make and put off your dreams to travel or learn to sail until you retire because … what fun is that? Using some of your money to live your best life RIGHT NOW is critically important to your well being.

On the other hand, just because we want to live our best life today doesn’t mean we should spend and live like there’s no tomorrow. Do that, and you’re destined to live your worst life tomorrow. Do you really want to struggle later in life when you’re less able to care for yourself?

Research as otherwise.

 

Stop Justifying Bad Money Behaviors

If you are guilty of uttering one of these money mantras, you’re in good company. Many of us do the same thing.

Don’t worry, all is not lost. 

First, identify your bad money behaviors. Because many of our thoughts about money are learned in childhood and largely unconscious, it’s crucial to identify how you think about money and the changes you want to make.

Second, start by implementing small changes. Start tracking your spending in a spending journal. How do you feel when you overspend? What prompts you to go on a shopping spree? How do you feel when you resist the urge to spend? Just becoming more mindful about your spending can help you to make more intentional decisions.

If you feel like you deserve something because you work so hard, assess why you feel this way. Do you really think buying another “thing” will make you feel better? Or, is there something larger at play? We all know that warm feeling you get when you buy something new is fleeting. If you must reward yourself and want to feel happier longer, opt for an experiential reward. Perhaps, a dinner out with your family or a relaxing day at the spa.

Lastly, if you feel overwhelmed or confused about how to start, reach out to a financial professional for help. A competent professional can help you create a financial plan you can get excited about. At the very least, she can get you pointed in the right direction and give you some forward momentum. As the old adage goes, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step!”