When my daughter was four, I asked her what she wanted for Christmas. Her response shocked me.
“I don’t want money!” she yelled. “If you give me any, I’ll just throw it away!”
Now, I think her response came more from her being a creature who was then only beginning to grasp abstract concepts – meaning, unwrapping a toy was about 1,000 times more fun than opening up an envelope with a $10 bill in it. And yet, her comment made me take a step back. What had we been teaching her about money?
In the four years since then, I’ve done a lot of thinking, talking, reading and learning about money. Below are the 11 most important shifts I’ve made in my thinking about the Benjamins, and they’re the kinds of shifts I help my coaching clients make so that they make more of it in ways that feel great to them. I hope they help you start seeing the money in your life—or lack thereof—in new ways.
Because when you change your thoughts, you change your results. (Click to Tweet!)
- Money is neutral
I’ve come to see money as energy. It doesn’t care what kind of a person you are or what you do, it will flow where there are no barriers. Having it doesn’t make you a good person, not having it doesn’t make you less of a person. By the same token, your having money doesn’t mean other people have less of it.
- Plug any leaks
It’s totally a valid exercise to go through your regular bills—say, once a year—and make sure you’re using everything you’re paying for: phone, cable, gym, website memberships, website domains. This isn’t about contracting (or what my grandmother used to call “pulling in your horns”), or even cutting costs. It’s about making sure that you’re not spending money on things you don’t use, need or value, so you’ll have more of it to spend on the things you do.
- Know your numbers
How much have you made in the last three years? What have you paid in taxes the last three years? What are your monthly expenses? Are your costs higher in summer (camps, lawn maintenance and air conditioning) or winter (heating costs and holidays)? You can’t change a habit you don’t know you have, and you can’t track trends without capturing basic information. Also, seeing real numbers is always motivating, because I promise you they are different than what you think they are. I know there are tons of apps and websites to help you track this stuff, and if you have a favorite, please tell us about it in the comments. I use straight-up Excel spreadsheets for my business expenses and income, and an old fashioned-notebook for our family expenses.
- Keep it clean
This is kind of like parenting—your kids are bugging you for more Legos or Shopkins, but their current toys are in random piles all over the house. “Why would I want to give you more if you don’t take care of what you already have?,” you say. Just like you want your kids to be good stewards of their toys, you want to be a good caretaker of your money. So, literally, give the money in your life some cozy spots to hang out—a nice mug or bowl to collect loose change, a wallet you love, a clean file folder in an easy-to-access place for your bank statements, a useful but pretty place to store receipts… Keep the bills in your wallet nicely arranged instead of wadded up or stashed in different pockets. Something I don’t do yet but intend to start is keeping a stash of cash in some sort of cool fabric or leather pouch at home—in those times when the grid goes down, cash is king.
- Spend on things you value
I don’t pay $4 for a tea unless I’m meeting someone for an old fashioned face-to-face or I need a change of work scenery. Because while I really like tea, the tea I make at home is just as tasty to me as the tea I get at a café. (Also, tea at a café is molten hot! It takes 20 minutes before I can even take a sip.) Because I value having face-to-face meetings with people, a $4 tea is a bargain. If I were buying one every day just because it was part of my routine, that would be $20 a week that I may as well set on fire. What things are meaningful to you, and thus, worth spending money regularly on? And what things aren’t? These are my lists.
Things I value:
- Experiences (travel, conferences, events)
- Books (nuff said)
- Support (coaching, massages, Reiki, babysitting)
- Our home (I try to keep it minimal but when we need something—like a new couch—I will pay more to get exactly what we want; although I check Craigslist first!)
- Food (I pay up for higher-quality–$6/dozen eggs at the farmer’s market, for example, pastured meat which costs a fortune, I only go to Whole Foods because it is not worth it to me to go to two different grocery stores, ever, although when the food co-op in Providence opens, I’m going to re-visit that well-worn path to the grocery store)
- Shoes and bras
Things I don’t, particularly:
- Clothes (I hit TJ Maxx about once a quarter, my husband and I share a small closet and one dresser, it is plenty of space)
- Makeup (I’m sure it’s non-hygenic, but I can make a mascara last years)
Spend on the things you care about. Keep a lid on spending on things where you just don’t care that much.
- Pay yourself first
When you get paid, make the first person you give money to yourself. Meaning, put it in a savings account or an envelope at home. I swear, you won’t miss it. But even if you do end up having higher expenses than normal that month and need that money – your car breaks down, for example – you’ll be able to be your own bank and use the money you’ve put aside instead of automatically reaching for a credit card. And that is huge. Banks make money on loaning people money, after all. Make the person who profits from your high-expense moment you (by saving the money you would otherwise have to spend on interest).
- Think about debt differently
That being said, it is a mostly wonderful thing that we have access to credit. Yes, you have pay for that access to money and yes, you can absolutely dig yourself into a hole that is tough to climb out of. I currently have about $3500 on my personal credit card, but I am thankful for every dollar of it, because it represents important things, like the old, cracked fillings I had replaced (and I had a lot of them) and the watch I bought my husband for our 10-year anniversary because although I had signed a contract for a ghostwriting gig, the money hadn’t arrived yet, and a 10-year anniversary only comes around every decade. Giving thanks for your debt and your access to cash can help you shift out of any shame you may be carrying about your credit card balances. And that is going to help you be a lot more clear-headed about your credit card management.
- There’s more where that came from
I got this from Marie Forleo, and I love it. Every time you spend money, particularly in those instances where it feels some degree of painful, tell yourself, “There’s more where that came from.” The Federal Reserve prints more money every day. There are infinite number of ways that you can bring more money to you. Reminding yourself that there’s more out there will help you focus on your opportunities instead of your lack. And that changes everything.
- Love your expenses
Spending money is a beautiful thing—you can’t get by in this world without doing it. And you spreading your money around enables other people to do the same. The dollar you spend with a business, large or small, makes it possible for that business to pay its employees, who then buy things from all manner of other businesses, which then benefits all kinds of other people. Our checks have a great big smiley face next to our name and address, because I want to remember to feel good about sending those dollars out in to the world, where they can be fruitful and multiply.
- Bless people with money
I know it’s easy to secretly—or not so secretly—hate rich people. I used to roll my eyes at the ladies who pulled in to the Whole Foods parking lot in their fancy cars and Gucci sunglasses. But what happens when you label something as “bad,” or for “other people,” is that you subconsciously don’t allow yourself to receive it. It’s like the folks who win the lottery, only to have spent it all just a couple of years later—even though they technically received it, some part of them wasn’t comfortable with having money, and so it slipped away. When you see someone who clearly has plenty of money, silently wish them well. Whether it’s a “bless your heart” or a “you go, girl,” let yourself appreciate the fact that it’s possible for people to have way more money than anyone truly needs. It will help remove some subconscious roadblocks to wealth.
- Reach for it
This is probably the most important thing on this list. If you want more money, you’ve got to pursue opportunities to make more of it. If you’re an entrepreneur, create situations where you are having conversations with potential clients and pitch some new business. If you have a full-time job, start building a strong case for a raise by taking on more responsibility (or looking for a new job). If you want to get in to real estate, start educating yourself on the business by reading, taking seminars, and going to open houses. Resist the urge to get more money simply by spending less of it. Making more of it is a far more powerful strategy. My word for 2016 is reach, so this tip is near and dear to my heart. The money is there, but it won’t just hop into your bank account—you’ve got to extend your arm and move toward it.
What are your money principles? Do you have a favorite on this list? Do you think something I included is a load of crap? I’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment below.
Here’s to your wild financial success.