The other day I was listening to The Financial Feminist podcast.
As a child whose parents were greatly impacted by the 2007 Global Financial Crisis, let’s just say it wasn’t positive. Dunlap then delves into the common idea that psychology greatly impacts our relationship with money. Even as we enter adulthood and start earning our own wages.
While there are many tools and techniques to rewire our brain's subconscious money habits, one increasingly popular ideology is the practice of money mindfulness.
Mindfulness has become a buzzword in recent years. Synonymous with meditation, gratitude, and breathing techniques, to apply it to practical matters can seem a tad ‘woo-woo’.
But what if there’s something in it?
Mindful money practice is when you’re paying full attention to your finances. It means you’re present and aware of your financial thoughts, emotions, and actions which are tied up with your personal narratives and beliefs.
Where do our money habits come from?
No one is born being “good” with money. Like everything else, the way we approach finances is taught. If you grew up with parents who had to scrimp and save to afford essentials, you’ll have a very different outlook on finances compared to a person who is set to inherit generational wealth.
Financial trauma (not to be confused with financial stress) is a very real thing that can have an impact on your relationship with money for life. Money habits can also result from your current environment. Do you feel the need to “keep up” with your wealthier friends or to impress with material items?
If you feel like your money is controlling you rather than the other way around, then implementing some money mindfulness techniques may help in getting a handle on that runaway credit card.
What thoughts come to mind when you think about money?
To start becoming more mindful with your finances, the first course of action is to stop mindlessly spending or over-saving to the point it’s causing you stress, and ask what you actually want out of your hard-earned cash.
Once you've decided where you want your money and future to go, think about the emotions that come up when you check your bank accounts. Do you only ever check on payday before holding your breath at every transaction over the month? Or do you assess your money situation only when something’s gone wrong, like a failed bill payment?
By only looking at money when something is amiss, we’re reinforcing the belief (and feelings) that finances are a cause of stress. As someone who’s guilty of this myself, I’ve started checking my bank account once a day at a random point just to stay on top of what’s going in and out so I don’t get a nasty surprise when buying groceries three weeks after payday.
As well as checking your account balance, budgeting apps can help you to keep track of your in and outgoings as well as any money goals or “buckets” you’re working towards.
Other mindfulness techniques can include envisioning, working out, and writing down what your financial future will look like and how long it’s going to take to get you there. It may be nerdy to say but once you begin to focus on money mindfulness, saving and looking at your money goals can actually be kind of fun – or at least less stressful.
Walk the walk
So, we’ve become more mindful of our emotions around money but how do we take this out of the ‘woo-woo’ to become even more of a practical action? Rewiring our brains and habits can be a good way to change our perception of money.
If you’re in a position to do so, challenging yourself to No Spend Days is a great way to tangibly feel like you’re making a change to your cash flow.
A No Spend Day is what it sounds like; a day where you don’t spend anything aside from essential bills or groceries. This mindful money technique forces you to be more conscious of what you’re spending on rather than just “tap and go-ing” all over town.
This technique can also help you identify blind spots or triggers in your spending habits. Do you want to duck into Zara after a hard day at work? Or spend more on green smoothies when you’re feeling self-conscious about your body? Identifying when the urge to spend comes up is a fascinating look into our brains under capitalism and the often toxic “treat yourself” rhetoric.
When should we implement these techniques?
There's no denying that money is personal. It underpins the very fabric of our society. Therefore, we all have to find techniques and advice that work for our individual circumstances.
Similarly to exercising or reassessing our eating habits, building positive money habits and in turn, wealth, is all about consistency. It's also about giving yourself grace when you don't practice your money goals or visions as often.
By showing up again and again and assessing your emotions and spending habits, you can master some practical money mindfulness techniques to get on top of your finances – sans 'woo-woo'.
Please note that this information is general in nature and shouldn't be construed as financial advice.