A couple of months ago I went out with a friend to a trendy shopping outlet. It was fun “scanning” the boutiques showcasing the latest brands and styles. After about half-hour of grabbing up all that my heart desired, I hopped in line to pay for my items at the register. I felt a great sensation around buying my new treasures: cute shoes, a bag, a pair of jeans, and a sexy top to spice up my dated wardrobe.
As the line grew shorter, an overwhelming feeling of anxiety hit me. “Should I really spend this money on clothes.? I think there’s a bill due this week. Do I have enough money in my account? Why spend money selfishly on myself, today?” The chatterbox in my head was running at full speed. It was telling me to put everything back, even though I knew I had the money. I began to think of the overdue bills piled up in my room along with the school loans which had been deferred for several years.
Though we are not always quick to admit it, the above scenario is often felt by many — the difference being of degree. Many people are just not aware of their thoughts which are connected to financial behaviour.
There are so many emotional factors when dealing with money.
Our family, friends or media, at best, teach us our most early financial education. But, for the best, nay worst, part we continue to carry certain patterns into adulthood. Think about how the following words feel as you speak aloud – bills, kids, marriage, divorce, house, clothes, food, charity, investing, career, job, car, family, weight, holidays, and so on. Everything we do surrounds money.
Identifying financial behaviour
What most people understand, or think they know, by way of their emotional attachment to their spending habits, and finances, will also help you know you are not alone.
Even media mogul and billionaire Oprah Winfrey admits her emotions around money. Debt was considered a filthy word in her house when she’s growing up. Today, as a multibillionaire, she sometimes restrains herself from splurging for fear of creating debt. On the contrary, she often splurges gifts at any cost for her friends, fans, charities and family.
Now, the big question: how can we break an unhealthy but familiar reaction to money if we do not recognise its patterns? What can we do to emotionally spend properly? Answer: “Seek and Ye Shall Find.”
The emotional spender
The make-up of every economy complements our unhealthy spending habits. Credit card companies have created cards to remember where, when and how you make a purchase to target how you shop. They also offer products that cater to your personal habits and boost spending morale with fancy discount promotions. An emotional spender can quickly get swept away in the tide of unhealthy finances.
Here is an example of the “unconsciously” unhealthy spender. Brea is a gambler. Her occupation as a full-time mom and fitness counsellor stresses her out. Lately, she has been behind on her bills. Also, Brea is upset because she had a bad week at work. She wants to escape from her worries.
She opens her mail to find an advertisement that says, “Escape to Atlantic City for the weekend – only half-an-hour away! We will pay for your hotel accommodation, free buffet and one complimentary stage show at the Tropicana Casino! But, this is only good for this weekend only. Leave your worries behind, and we will take care of the rest!”
Without a second thought, Brea kisses her spouse and kids goodbye and redeems her complimentary room and board. Once she gets to her destination she is happy and starts gambling away to her heart’s desire… not thinking of a care in the world! By the end of her escapade she returns home feeling upset and broke. She has gambled enough to pay for her free room, food and two shows at the Tropicana – all in a two-day visit. The instant gratification of her gambling helped her temporarily, but her financial situation just became worse.
“Old Track Record” plays the same tune
With thousands of media advertising suggesting fabulous deals to comply with our emotional needs and wants, subtle distractions often clog our positive financial health. “How we deal with our finances has very little to do with the numbers themselves,” says Holistic Financial Coach Samara of Samarra Am Management Financial Coaching, US.
She explains: “There is an old sound track that is in control of our relationship with money. When this sound track or thought process is unconsciously playing it affects us because we think we are doing our own actions and thought processes. especially, when we are simply manifesting what we already believe is true.”
Our intuition from within alarms us and leads us to things that are off-balance in our life. Once we identify behaviour patterns as unhealthy we can begin a journey of financial growth. “Know [your intuition] and consciously press pause if your thoughts are not in a healthy alignment with your true passions. I do not know that we ever stop the soundtrack, but over time the faster we are able to discern what the soundtrack is and what our heart and soul are, the better,” notes Samarra.
Enough not enough
In the past, it was pointed out to me that I complained a lot about not having money. I would fill my subconscious with negative thoughts of being broke and poor. One day, I was complaining about not being able to afford something when I was told by a dear friend to stop and breathe for a moment. Once I did, she asked me to utter the amount that I had in my account aloud. I was asked to do the same thing for the item I wanted to purchase. The result was that I had enough money for the item. In fact, I had enough money to afford a couple of things I wanted, but my mind decided to choose the negative suggestion of low abundance. It was a perfect match to my low-self esteem.
Along my journey I learned that I was repulsed by money and did not want to deal with it, though my actions were programmed to elude my efforts to obtain it. It created an unhealthy cycle of crazy thinking.
The cycle consisted of obtaining a large amount of money, including anxiety around having it, and spending it, bit by bit, till everything was gone.
There are many alternative ways to healing financial anxiety in relation to our money/spending habits. We can start by creating something new in our subconscious. Empowering our minds as well as our wallets is a healthy way to modify old inner programming.
For the most part, we are not aware that our subconscious mind is at war with our positive growth process. Patricia Stanford, a hypnotherapist and Director of Therapy, at Positive Changes Hypnosis Center, US, has a great analogy about adults changing old financial behaviour patterns. “Imagine a small child, around the age of four, getting ravished by a wild dog; he’s hurt and bruised. Now, picture a strapping, 6’2″, tall, dark and handsome young man that breaks into cold sweat at the sight of a Chihuahua. He’s still that four-year old boy.” “Once the subconscious and the conscious mind are aligned, only then can permanent and positive changes occur.”
Using positive and healthy affirmations inserted directly into the subconscious can benefit in many ways. Instead of the constant tug of war with the conscious and subconscious, we can gain access to our core selves by permanently eliminating negative thoughts around finances.
Some analysts suggest that one’s degree of self-esteem will determine how people spend. “High self-esteem people are very good at repairing themselves after a difficult situation, and low self-esteem people tend to do very well in interpersonal interactions in similar circumstances,” says Kathleen Vohs, a consumer marketing and psychology researcher, from the University of Minnesota Research Facility in Minneapolis, US. Vohs adds: “[However], threatening situations can cause people with high self-esteem to act rudely, or selfishly.”
Vohs also suggests, that under certain conditions, “People who show low self-esteem under threat are more likely to buy for others in a retail environment, while high self-esteem people are likely to buy for themselves,” states Vohs [Source: UMN News, 2006]. This would also suggest healthy esteemed people are self-centred and low-esteemed folks are kind-hearted victims. But, better listen to what your mind, body and soul tells you first.
It’s simple! Just open your subconscious to create an abundance of wealth. You get the point. Spirituality is often incorporated into many aspects of wealthy people’s lives; though stereotypically the rich are considered high-powered tyrants. Even Donald Trump believes in a higher being, and thanks God for every great moment in his life.
When we are more aware of our blessings in life, down to the tiniest detail, money becomes a much-appreciated gift that we treat with honour. But, if our spirits are low and we are depressed, money can be used as a “quick-fix” for immediate gratification to fill our emptiness.
Imagine becoming fulfilled entirely, feeling loved within and completely self-empowered. These specific and self-induced feelings can assist by demolishing the need to spend emotionally. If we feel healthy inside, we will be healthy and productive on the outside. Of course, we will feel low at times, but if we can alternate the times we are down and feel like using some of the tools, we touched upon in this article, change can occur.
5 Tips for the Emotional Spender
- Take responsibility for your actions. Keep a log of everything you spend for one week
- Pay attention. Acknowledge how you feel the moment you spend
- Get into conversation. Ask a trusting and supportive friend, coach, or family member to listen to your observations and feelings around money
- Create a short-term goal for yourself. Plan what your financial goal is and how you can achieve these goals
- Seek out community. Find resources such as books, seminars, a coach, or people that offer a positive healthy approach to finances.
Source: Samarra Am Management – Holistic Financial Coaching