Stuck moment: I didn’t skip her party because I don’t care. I’m just trying to be responsible about how I spend my money. That means pulling back on the fun stuff. But she doesn’t understand — she doesn’t know what it’s like to struggle.
* * *
Money is important. It’s hard to get by without it. We do our best to earn more, save well, and spend wisely so we can do the things we want to do. But sometimes it feels like it’s never enough.
That’s when we start worrying about the things we can’t afford. We don’t take that vacation. We bail on an outing with friends. We can become so frugal that we get stingy with ourselves — and lose sight of why we’re saving money in the first place. We might even get resentful.
When financial discipline turns into self-denial, we need to check our attitude. Take a look at the three beliefs below — they seem rooted in reality, but they can be signs that we have a skewed view of money’s role in our lives. If any ring true, answer the questions to help gain perspective, then try the tips to adjust your financial focus.
I CAN’T AFFORD THE THINGS I NEED.
Zoom out: What are the things that are important to you? What do you already have? What do you need to feel satisfied?
Adjust your financial focus: Grab a piece of paper and draw this spectrum on it:
Think of all the things you want and need to enjoy life and place them in the appropriate spot on the spectrum. Then rank them in order of importance. For everything you already have, take a moment for gratitude. For everything you’re working toward, pick one or two of the most important. Focus on these for now. Leave the rest for when you’re ready to take on more.
SPENDING IS DANGEROUS. IT’S SMARTER TO SAVE.
Zoom out: What are you saving for? What are you neglecting in order to save? Is there a better balance?
Adjust your financial focus: Keep up the smart saving but get comfortable with smart spending, too. Practice loosening the purse strings with small but meaningful investments in yourself: Maybe it’s related to a goal, like enrolling in a class, or something that brings you joy, like buying a thoughtful gift. Even when hardcore saving is necessary, you can set milestones for treating yourself. Saving becomes a happier process when you can enjoy what you’ve earned. (Responsibly, of course!)
MY PROBLEMS WON’T GO AWAY UNTIL I HAVE MORE MONEY.
Zoom out: What situations do you think money would solve? What steps can you take right now to address them?
Adjust your financial focus: We think about windfall solutions when the problem seems too big to manage. Money doesn’t have superpowers. You have the ability to solve your problems. Start by putting a positive spin on it. For instance, if you feel weighed down by student debt, remind yourself how you’ve benefited from your education. Then break down the problem, and your plan for the solution, into chunks that you can tackle over time. Celebrate your progress. The small wins will keep you from feeling defeated.