Do Gratitude and Spending Money Mix? (I Say Yes)

Spending Money

As the day after Thanksgiving, it’s technically Black Friday. A national day of so-called bargain shopping. Am I the only one who feels dirty about a national day of frenzied buying and spending money coming right on the heels of a day of giving thanks? There’s a disconnect there, right? 

Also, have you noticed that the things you buy because they’re on sale tend to be things that you don’t end up using or appreciating all much? It’s one thing if there’s something you truly need or want and you’ve figured out what you want and you’re waiting for the Black Friday sales to get it at a discount. That to me is savvier and more thoughtful than getting excited about a bin of sweaters or bags or widgets marked down for one day only and getting intoxicated by the thrill of a deal.

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There is research that shows that the money you spend on experiences. trips, meals, events—elicits more feelings of gratitude than money that goes to purchasing more stuff. Such as, couches, handbags, clothes. I realize it’s harder to spend money on experiences right now. As things like plays, concerts, recreational travel, and in-person events aren’t really happening. 

Support Small and Local Businesses This Holiday Season

But I am here to suggest that instead of focusing on buying what’s on sale, you think about your holiday spending as a way to express your gratitude for the businesses that sell the things you buy. The small business that always donates to your school fundraiser. Now’s the time to patronize them instead of ordering from an online behemoth (cough, cough, Amazon). The restaurant you would be so sad to hear if it closed—give gift certificates. The hotel where you stayed on your honeymoon, maybe get your partner a robe from there to help them stay afloat through this winter. 

I know, gratitude seems like this really wholesome emotion that can only come through heart-felt thanks, and money can seem like a crass, slightly dirty part of life. But money is really just energy in numeric form. It’s neutral—it’s only our thoughts about it that make it ‘good’ or ‘bad.’  Money is how you demonstrate what matters to you. You know, like the phrase, ‘put your money where your mouth is.’ Or the wisdom that says if you want to see what you value. Take a look at your checkbook register and credit card statements. 

Several years ago, I ordered checks that have a smiley face on them.

I wanted to re-wire some beliefs I had that spending money was a necessary evil. Or that it somehow left me more depleted. I wanted to be reminded to be thankful for the things I was spending money on. The mortgage payment that meant our house belonged to us and not someone else. The bills that meant we had heat and lights. And the donations to nonprofits that are taking care of important issues.

It’s kinda silly looking. Definitely not ‘adult’, ha. But it does remind me to think about why the thing I’m spending money on makes me happy. And if it doesn’t make me happy, like writing a check to cover a speeding ticket, for example. It helps reinforce the idea that I don’t want to do that thing again so that I have more checks and more dollars. And more smiley faces! Leftover for the things that do. 

So why not let  spending money for the holidays be an exercise in gratitude this year?

Spend at the places that you’re thankful for, and let your dollars be your means of thanks. Shopping can be a real win-win-win. For the person you’re buying for, the business you’re buying from, the people that business employees. The businesses and people that create the thing that business sells. And the city services that the taxes that business pays make possible. The ripple is actually quite large if you look for it. 

Daily Tiny Assignment

Think of the people or businesses you feel appreciation for and want to show some love to. And let that guide your spending decisions during this annual kickoff to holiday shopping. Just try thinking about spending as a way to spread and express gratitude instead of just trying to find the cheapest price. You can go back to prioritizing price or convenience next week, if you like. But I’m going to bet that infusing your shopping with gratitude is going to shift how you think about spending money. 


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