All of us have a very different relationship to money, which is most likely influenced by the myriad of messages we’ve heard about money over the years. “Money doesn’t grow on trees” “Money is the root of all evil” “There’s no point being the richest man in the cemetery” etc. Personally, my relationship to money has always been a bit of a love-hate one. I remember at the age of about 12 singing along to the Calloway song I want to be Rich* thinking that I was one day going to be a millionaire. I don’t think at that stage that I knew what I was going to spend it on, or how exactly I was going to get it, but I wanted it. And perhaps that mentality is partly what drove me to study Finance and to eventually led me down a career path of becoming a financial planner. The problem with me wanting money so badly was that in some way it led me to fear it. A fear of not having enough, of losing it and ironically of spending it – because isn’t that the reason we want it in the first place?
Materialism is a huge problem in today’s society (although Joe Hockey probably wouldn’t agree). It pushes people to buy things they don’t need and to rack up thousands in credit card debt, but not spending is just as big a problem – perhaps not for your credit card, but for your self esteem, your relationships and ultimately your happiness.
So how do you overcome a ‘non-spending’ habit? Hubby suggested that I buy a Porsche (good try baby). I said I should go and buy some new shoes (probably on sale). The amount needed to be large enough for me to feel uncomfortable, but not so large that I risked bankrupting us. The other point was that it needed to be something that was for me alone. You see I have no problem buying new clothes for my 3 year old, buying the perfect gift for a friend’s birthday, or shouting a round of drinks, but my blocks around spending seem to be mainly about spending on myself. For some reason spending money on myself seems ‘selfish’ ‘indulgent’ and ‘irresponsible’. Sort of the opposite of the L’Oreal campaign….
Eventually I decided that my comfort zone challenge should be to take a holiday. A break, just for myself. Since becoming a Mum the idea of going on a retreat has really appealed to me – this would be the perfect opportunity to spend money on something just for myself (I’m feeling squeamish and embarrassed even writing this). The problem came when I started researching where to go. It turns out that going on a retreat is really expensive. I know that was the point, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I grappled with it for weeks. My head was going around and around in circles “No, I can’t, it’s too much. Isn’t that the point? It will be amazing. I’m so selfish. That money’s better off in the offset account. Do it! No, don’t. Ahhhh!”. By now you’re probably thinking I’m a crazy person – ‘Just fucking book it, how hard can it be?’
So I did. I booked a 7 night detox retreat at Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat in the Gold Coast hinterland and I put down a non-refundable deposit over the phone, just so I couldn’t back out. Making the final payment was painful, but now that I am back from Gwinganna I can assure you that it was worth every penny! One thing that I have learned from this Comfort Zone Challenge is that while I don’t like materialism per se and I will probably always be a minimalist to some extent, spending money isn’t all bad. Spending money on yourself can oftentimes be an investment. Gwinganna was an investment into my well being, allowing me to stop for a week and take a look at how I feel about myself and how I treat myself. I started to reassess how I treat myself physically, with the food I eat and how I exercise, and emotionally in how I speak to myself and spend my time and money.
The reality with money is that it only has power over us if we let it. We are the one’s who attach a meaning to it; we are the ones who decide whether it is good or bad, scarce or abundant, or the ‘root of all evil’. Doing this one comfort zone challenge hasn’t shifted how I feel about money overnight, but it has started to help me ‘look through’ to where these money stories come from and question their validity. It has started to make me analyse what I do and do not spend money on. I guess in a sense it has started to make me more mindful of what is driving my behaviour. I have started to think about financial freedom not so much as a number in my bank account, or paying off the mortgage, but of how I feel about money. I don’t want to fear either having or not having money and I don’t want to attach unnecessary value to it or to allow it to have power over me.
Money is such a touchy subject, and I’m sure that just by writing this I will ruffle a few feathers. You might be thinking how self-indulgent this is, or what a ‘first-world problem’ it is. Everyone has their owns views on money, their owns stories and dare I say their own issues. I am not saying that you need to go out and spend $3,000 on a health retreat (see, I just lied there, it was $3,380), but I would suggest that you become more mindful on how you spend, or don’t spend. Are you spending to fill a void in your life? Are you not spending because you feel you deserve it? Or because you think people might judge you? Or is your attitude about money one of abundance, of generosity and of complete freedom? Whatever it is, maybe just ask yourself this – What is Financial Freedom to me?
From me to you, with abundance,
*Yes, I have a thing for bad 90’s R&B!