Money is a regular part of daily life. We use it to pay bills and buy food and support important work in the world. How would you describe your current relationship with money? Like it? Loathe it? Fear it? When you talk about your finances, what words do you use? What stories do you consciously and unconsciously tell yourself (and the other people in your life) about money?
Even though money is something we use every day, most of us rarely have the opportunity to explore our own feelings about it. The narratives we hold about household finances shape everything from our spending habits to our savings accounts to our philanthropic giving. Our relationship with money relates to our spiritual lives as well.
Money deserves our thoughtful attention, and that’s especially true right now because we’re entering into a season in which many people participate in what economists call a "spending surge." In addition to buying gifts and traveling to be with family and friends over the holidays, this is a time of year in which charitable giving increases, too.
Approaching money with intentionality increases the likelihood that we can shape a life in which our behaviors match our actual values. The alternative is to live in financial avoidance. It’s tempting to pretend money isn’t really part of our lives, but that’s just not true. The longer we wait to honestly explore our relationship with money, the more time there is for outside consumerist influences to shape the way we live.
When you’re ready to take a deeper dive into this topic with openness (rather than judgment, fear and shame), here are some strategies to assist you:
Write a personal money autobiography.There are many free templates online that will equip you to honestly reflect upon your relationship with money. Type "write a money autobiography" into your Internet search bar for a host of options or create your own template with prompts like:
- How was money approached in your household growing up?
- How do you feel when you are asked for money?
- Did you grow up in a faith tradition that talked about money openly? What kinds of values were expressed by religious authorities?
Seek out trusted conversation partners.For many people, money isn’t something we have much experience talking about openly. It can be very empowering to find people with whom you can have authentic conversations about finances, spending, saving and giving. Trusted conversation partners can sometimes be friends and/or family members. Another option is to seek out a financial coach or online community.
Practice awareness.The first step in any personal growth journey is to practice awareness, which is about paying attention to our thoughts, feelings, behaviors and values. Rather than immediately attempting to "change ourselves," we can instead just begin to pay attention.
As you practice awareness as it relates to your patterns around money, please keep in mind that it’s never too late to write a different story. If your spending and giving are not representative of what you value, you can shift. Along the way, extend yourself a fair measure of grace. It takes real courage to slow down enough to reflect about anything on a deeper level. Thank you for having that kind of bravery as you consider your financial life.