Gratitude has always played a significant role in my daily life, and as we enter the holiday season its impact magnifies. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays and my oldest daughter, Lauren, celebrates her birthday this month. It’s a time of incredible blessings and a chance for me to reflect upon the past year. There are thousands of little lessons that I want to teach my daughters, but if they leave home financially confident and able to mindfully create joy for themselves and others, I’ll be a happy and proud Mom.
What is Money Happiness?
Personal finance is personal. We say it all the time in the finance community. But what does it really mean? To me, it means finding your money happiness. To use your money to create the life you want for yourself and your family without concern of whether everyone else agrees with all your choices. Because it’s likely they won’t. Seriously — when has 100% of the population agreed on anything? What matters to me, may or may not matter to you, and its value to me should not lessen because it doesn’t matter to you or vice versa. Our obsession with what everyone else thinks is what robs us our happiness.
5 Keys to Finding and Maintaining Money Happiness
Thou shall follow these five commandments and find your money happiness forevermore.
1. Money is a Gift
My father taught me money was a gift, but often times we tend to equally view it as a curse. A curse because we have less than others or are miserable due to debt. Typically the curse mindset stems from believing money creates happiness through having lots and lots of things. Whereas those who believe it is gift know that money happiness comes from how you use your money or the purpose you give it.
How Do You View Money?
- How does money make you feel? Do you tend to hoard it? Or give willingly. Does it make you jealous when others can do or have things you can’t? Do you feel self-righteous because the way you live is the “right” way? Are you afraid of losing it and being destitute? Do you feel guilty for having too much when others have so little?
- How do you feel when you spend money? Do you feel good about what you buy in the moment and later? Or just in the moment and the happiness is fleeting? Do you hide or lie about the things you buy? Do you spend more emotionally (i.e. “I deserve this”) rather than mindfully on things you intended? Do you feel as though you must justify what you want and buy?
Be honest with your answers. You want clear insight into your views on money, not the answers society would deem appropriate. Many people assume they have positive money beliefs only to discover that they have lots of guilt, fear, anger and jealously tainting their money perspective. Do not feel bad because you feel those emotions, but instead figure out what brings them out in you and understand how it affects your spending habits.
2. Figure Out What You Value
To make money truly a gift, you have to use it on what you value, and most people have trouble articulating what their values are. Inside they know, but when asked, they stutter and fall silent. They never really thought about it before or made sure they were honoring their values. You should know what your values are and be able to prioritize them. What things are important and matter to you?
Some of the things we value in our home are: family, friends, travel, college education for the girls, being healthy, gratitude and financial literacy. You may value many of these things as well, although how we value them may differ from one another and needs to be respected. Because I know my values, I know where to spend my time and money to create a fulfilling life.
3. Set Goals Based on Values
Knowing what you value or what you want from life is half the battle, but in order to make them your reality, you need to set goals around them. We took the time to figure out our values and what they mean to us. So for example, not only do we know how we’d like to spend our retirement, we also know how much money we need to save to make it a reality. It’s a goal of high priority, so we treat it accordingly.
We also tend to value/want things of a more materialistic nature, which can make people uncomfortable, as though they are bad for wanting such supposedly frivolous things as nice clothes, gadgets, cool cars, etc. There is nothing wrong with wanting or admiring those things. What you need to figure out is how much they mean to you and where they fit in within all your other goals.
4. Make Value-Based Decisions Based on Goals
The reason people often feel guilty about their spending is because they are not honoring their values. They are either spending emotionally or spending money based on another person’s values (i.e. the “keeping up” mindset). If you want to feel good about how you use your money, you need to use it in alignment with your values and goals. It was a principle my father taught me, and I found making value-based decisions changed my money perspective from guilt to joy.
Always keeps your goals and values front and center. When you find something you like, they act as your barometer and help prevent mindless spending. It forces you to slow down and think about your goals. I feel confident about money choices whether it’s investing for my retirements dreams or buying that new pair of shoes I want.
5. Let Go of Judgment
This is the hardest commandment. By nature, people are judgmental. We instantly decide if we like something or don’t. We label things right and wrong and good or bad. We worry about how others will view our money choices and values. Or we judge how other’s use their money and their values. Yes, people make foolish decisions with their money and make mistakes. Sometimes it annoys me too, but no one is perfect, including myself.
Do not waste your time and energy putting down others for the things they value or how they choose to use their money because they differ from your values. Respect that others value things differently than you do and focus on making sure your own choices appropriately reflect your values. There is nothing wrong with promoting or being proud of your way of life, but don’t assume it’s the only way to live. Because you will never find your money happiness if your attention is on what others do, both wrong or right. Focus on what you can control, which is your own life.
Money Happiness is a Choice
You hold the power to achieving your money happiness. It is not dependent on having more money than anyone else, but on how you use your money. When you form value-based goals and make value-based decisions, you’ll find that you spend your money with true joy.
How do you find your money happiness?
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