Four Things to Change Your Money Story.
Your money story is in the driver’s seat. Learn what it is and how to re-write it, because it needs an update periodically.
You spend your money with intention. You really consider all the angles before putting down the credit card. Much laboring occurs before you hit the “add to cart” button on Amazon.
Sure, there’s the surface questions: Do you need a new vacuum? Yes, so you buy it. Of course, you need groceries. But what about the second layer of motivation? The money story is in those details.
I have a friend who lives in SoCal. Her rent is really low for the area. She’s in a studio apartment and the original owners she rented it from never raised her rent. For seven years. Imagine the irritation of new owners as they realize she is paying less for this studio than probably anyone in the area. She’s got a great deal, and even as they raise the rent each year, as is legally allowed, there’s no way she’ll be paying market value for that place.
My friend has a good job in the entertainment industry. She makes a comfortable living and could afford a bigger place. She’d actually like one. But every time she’s thought about it, her money story kicks in.
At one point early in our friendship she was divorcing and had no place to live. Enter my spare bedroom. She was grateful for the space and eventually got on her feet, but the memory never left her. More specifically, the anxiety the situation produced, never left her.
She’s made a decision based on her money story.
Conversely, I have another friend who lives in Denver. He lives in LoDo (the hipster area downtown). Rents are through the roof and he splits the rent with his roommate to live there. This man has a deep-seated desire to create a certain type of visual lifestyle. He was raised in a household that lived paycheck to paycheck and his mother spent on the kinds of things he’s spending on.
He says things like, “I deserve to live here.” I’m not saying he doesn’t. But that’s his money story talking right there.
Very different money stories. One is not necessarily better than the other. They’re just different ways of reacting to one’s history with money.
Analyzing why you spend the way you do is worth some private conversations with yourself. This isn’t a public shaming fest. Just go off on your own and ask yourself some questions. See if any of them jog your memory about why you feel the way you do about money.
What’s your first recollection of money?
For me, I have two distinct memories of money from early childhood. I remember I wanted a package of Oreos but I didn’t even try to ask because I knew we didn’t have enough money for extras. I could see the concern on my mother’s face, mentally adding up the total each time she put something new into the basket.
Then I remember the nightly task of helping my mother count her tips from waitressing. We’d sort them and then roll the coins into the paper rollers so she could take them to the bank the next day.
It’s no shock that my original money story is rooted in scarcity. And for a long time I operated off of that model. At the risk of sounding New-Agey, I manifested some underwhelming money. I made decisions based on trying to hang on to the money because I emotionally didn’t know when I was going to get more. Never mind that I had a job. My money story was doing the driving.
With each phase of life, I’ve worked to change the story. I haven’t let go of the original narrative and some would say that’s defeating.
Acknowledging the story and the reasons why it lives with me are important. I look back and I can see the path from the little girl I was, to the grown woman I am. The story just sits with me. I allow it to stay.
But it is no longer my money story.
It belongs to the little girl.
Look at your story with brutal honesty.
Don’t justify it. Don’t heap tons of hate on it. Just look at it. Don’t judge yourself harshly. There are actual reasons why you react to money situations in a certain way. Many of the reasons probably came into play when you were young and had zero control in matters of finance.
How do you want to feel about money?
My old story had me in knots a lot of times. I’d make problems that weren’t even there just because I worried over not having enough.
That’s not how I wanted to feel.
I wanted to feel calm and unconcerned. I wanted to be secure in the knowledge that I had money coming in, even as money was going out.
And I got it, mostly. I’m not perfect and I work hard to reframe how I see money. I spent years in scarcity, so changing it is a daily practice. You can do it too.
So let’s recap:
- Learn your money story. Often going back to your childhood and thinking about how you reacted to money can help.
- Don’t beat yourself up. Acknowledge all of the stuff that you feel, but also recognize you can change the soundtrack.
- Write a new money story. How do you want to feel about it? Work on it. Practice the small things like reminding yourself that you have money in your checking account, or patting yourself on the back because you didn’t stress out over the call to fix the dishwasher.
- Practice Every.Single.Day.
You can have a different life if you change the money story.