My friend Amanda has always loved to shop. Finding good deals is a sport to her. But for a while, her shopping habit made things stressful in her marriage. No matter how much money she and her husband made, Amanda almost always spent more than they had. Her husband tried to be understanding, but he was deeply frustrated. Knowing her marriage was on rocky ground, Amanda went to counseling to figure out the root of her problem.
What she discovered was eye-opening! Her shopping habit was actually a reaction to growing up with excessively frugal parents. They were humble people who had learned to survive with very little, but they’d do things like save the bags out of cereal boxes “just in case.” After 18 years of living like this and she was on her own, Amanda started shopping just because she could.
Once she realized what was behind her shopping habit, she began to permanently shift her buying habits from that point forward. Amanda still enjoys shopping today, but she’s no longer driven by the impulse to do it—and it’s no longer a source of conflict in her marriage. She figured out the why behind her behavior, and it changed everything.
There are many reasons why we spend or save money the way we do. Some factors might be:
- How we experienced money (or the lack of money) growing up
- What our parents told us or modeled for us about money
- The natural way we’re wired
- Our emotions in the moment
So, what money habits do you want to change? Maybe you wish you were more generous, but when a worthy cause comes along, you hold your money tight with a closed fist. Maybe you’re fearful over what the economy is doing, and you’re tempted to pull your money out of your investments. Or maybe, like Amanda, you can’t seem to stop spending.
I don’t know your exact story, but I do know that if you do some digging, reflecting and learning—you can change it. You don’t have to dread the end of the month because bills are due. Every conversation about finances doesn’t have to turn into a money argument with your spouse. You don’t have to feel whatever guilt and shame you’ve been associating with money your whole life.
My challenge for you is this: Write down one big money habit you want to change. Get to the root of that habit. When did it start? Are there certain times you feel it creep up? What do you think is driving it? Write it all out. If you’re married, talk it through with your spouse. And then, decide what must change so you can break that habit once and for all.
You see, money is never just about dollars and cents. Money reveals your values, fears, doubts and dreams. Sure, confronting those things head on might make you feel vulnerable. But getting that stuff out in the open is the first step toward making a plan and moving forward!