MY EXPERIENCE WITH MONEY
If you are like me, you probably have some issues with money. For starters, you don’t even like numbers, right? It’s ironic, because I have an MBA and have been running my own business for 15 years; yet, I don’t like numbers. If I can skip over the parts of the document where they are presented, I most certainly do. My eyes jump over the charts and statistics anxiously looking for familiar letters. The girl who perused the class list in high school looking for anything but math class is still here, just in disguise.
It’s not that I don’t have experience with numbers. Mind you, I do. But, I need to force myself to exercise all the will power I have to actually sit and look at them. I can go months without going through my bank statements and when I finally do, it is because for one reason or another I am forced to. The truth of the matter is, numbers bore me, but at the same time I usually don’t like what I see.
The numbers usually are a reflection of impulsive spending, purchasing things I don’t actually need and poor consideration of where I shop or what brand I buy. I ignore it all because I can and I want to. Yet somewhere in the back of my head I know it’s not right, I know it could be better, and I know I am wasteful. This becomes even more of a reality when I go to purchase something I really want and I can’t afford it. That is when the suppressed thoughts, all that I have ignored, emerge and flood me with a guilt trip that feels like it has been turned on full blast.
I have been going on like this for years in my personal life. However, in my business, I have always been diligent in these matters. But honestly, I was probably exhausting all of my energy there and using the fact that I had to fight with numbers at work – sales forecasts, budgets reconciliations, tax savings allocations, investment plans – as justification for not doing it at home. Everyone needs a break, right? Give me one! I used to tell myself, “I am an entrepreneur! I can’t be fussing about how much I can save on a grocery item. My time and mental sanity are more important.” I still believe that my time is the most valuable currency I have so I must be careful in how I spend it. I also still believe my mental energy is limited and I cannot afford to pick apart my brain over such little details. So, even though what I was repeating to myself for years has some truth in it, I think I stretched the concepts a bit too far.
That’s why I want to talk about money, this inconvenient and uncomfortable subject we all try to avoid. If you are thinking, “why would I want to read about money on a travel and lifestyle blog?” I have a clear answer for you! Travel and a nice and pleasant lifestyle are both luxuries. Neither come cheap and money is always a limited resource. Thus, we need to be mindful of our spending habits instead of being consumed by thoughts of how much money we have (or don’t have).
A NEW CONCEPT: INTENTIONAL SPENDING
It was only recently that I came across the concept of intentional spending (Thank you to the incredibly bright Shanna Skidmore!). It’s name may sound self-explanatory. If it was for you, I’m glad. I know it’s meaning wasn’t as obvious for me. Personally, money was something I had to spend. You have to pay your rent, you have to pay to send your children to school, you need to buy groceries, you pay to buy take-out and monthly subscriptions, and then there are payments for licenses, taxes, and forgotten fees… you could keep listing where all your money goes! It always felt like I had to spend my money. Note the italicized part of the sentence: I had to. I felt like it wasn’t my choice, that I didn’t have a say in what was happening, and as time went on and our family grew, the more money I had to spend to provide for everyone and everything. Ultimately, it was like the more money I made, the more I spent. Then, the more I spent, the harder I had to work so I could make more money.
Then this concept of intentional spending hit me in my face. The concept is simple. Ask yourself: What do you really want in your life? What is the dream or goal you would like to achieve? For me, it’s a house in the country and a good retirement fund because I am an entrepreneur with no retirement pension. I want to be comfortable in my old age, have lovely walks with my many dogs, maybe own a little farm with an orchard, and have the time and money to travel a lot. Obviously this all comes after my kids have finished school and are settled so I can slow down a bit. I’m not sure if I really fancy to be unemployed, because I am lucky enough to love what I do. But I wouldn’t mind if one day, I could just take it easy and do whatever I want whenever I feel like it.
This is where intentional spending comes in. Say you have a dream to travel around the world. It doesn’t actually matter how much money you make or how many bills you have. What actually matters is how you decide to spend your money. If you haven’t sat down and thought about how and where you want to be spending your money, then you will continue being part of the rat race that says you have to spend your hard earned dollars mindlessly. Unfortunately, this only hinders you from coming close to your dream of traveling around the world. Then, because you haven’t made a conscious choice about where and how you spend your money, you may lose hope and give up on your dream.
To me, intentional spending is a revolutionary concept that shifts your focus from your present state, focused on your earnings and spending to make ends meet, toward your final goal. This allows you to look at every single entry of your checkbook with fresh eyes. Money then becomes something you can intentionally plan to spend. You no longer feel like you have to spend it or that you don’t have a say about how it is used.
HOW TO BEGIN
To bring this revolution to fruition in your own life you have to look at your checkbook. You need to sit down, go through your annual bank statements, look at your debt and your income, look at your net-worth and face those numbers. Whatever they are, this is where you start. Only then can you wear the new glasses of intentional spending and analyze what those numbers mean. Maybe you find that you don’t want to spend half of your earnings on private school for your children when public school is a great alternative. Maybe you find you are dumping money into restaurants and take-out and after realizing the food isn’t really that good anyway, you start to make all your meals at home. Or maybe you finally understand that you need to work more or that the work you are doing is not paying you enough and it’s time to look for better opportunities. You see, every little choice you make with your spending matters and with intentional spending you have the power to make new decisions. Every new decision can result in new savings that will take you a step closer to making your dream a reality.
Start this experience and you won’t regret it. To be honest, I still don’t like numbers, but I found this experience to be extremely rewarding and empowering. The knowledge and clarity you get from it makes you feel in control of your finances once again, even if you have only just realized you are not in control at all. As you begin this journey of intentional spending you will become confident in the new authority you’ve found over your spending habits. I know I was!
This is just the beginning. There is so much more about intentional spending and it all begins with choices and planning. We will talk more about money soon. Be intentional with your money today, this week or month.; however long it takes you, just get down to it.