What is “mindfulness” anyway?
Google will tell you that it’s: a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique. [Emphasis all mine]
So how can mindfulness help with our spending, just as it can help with our eating?
Well let’s look at what happens around food and money when we’re not mindful.
You walk into the house, starved. You’re beyond hunger. No one is home.
You’re about to go for it – you can feel it. You walk to the kitchen, straight to the cupboards and quickly open the doors to grab your first snack: pretzels.
You eat one, two, then three… fast… quickly!
The pretzels don’t do it so you grab chips and salsa, throw them onto the counter, devour the rest of the salsa and clean that chip bag to crumbs.
You then see a leftover sandwich sitting in the fridge from yesterday and think “what the heck, may as well eat that too.” You grab it, rip open the foil, and eat it while standing over the countertop, chewing too fast to taste it.
When you’re done with the sandwich you’re convinced you need something sweet and since you’ve “ruined the day anyway” you grab that gallon of moose-tracks from your freezer and dig your spoon straight in, without even closing the freezer door.
You end the snack fest thinking “I did it again.”
You don’t feel satisfied, your stomach is stuffed-tight, and you wish you could have had a nice meal… but it’s too late. You’ve already eaten all this other food. There’s no room for that nice dinner you’d intended to make.
You plea with yourself to do better tomorrow, feeling hopeless and thinking why does this always happen? WHO are these people who don’t freak out around food?
(I wrote a full post on this scenario here).
This scenario is not:
- focusing one’s awareness on the present moment
- calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations
What might it look like to “calmly acknowledge and accept your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations”?
You walk into the house, starved. No one is home, you’re beyond hungry.
You pull yourself back to the present moment. You take a deep breath, and you acknowledge that you’re hungry.
You feel the sensations of hunger in your body, and you remind yourself that these uncomfortable sensations will soon disappear once you eat. It’s okay. You’re safe.
You walk to the cupboard, calmly, to get something that will take the edge off your hunger.
You grab a handful of nuts and some dried mango, you sit at the counter on a bar-stool, you eat the almonds and the mangos, and then you ask yourself: “Ah, okay… the edge is off. What would I like to make for dinner?”
You choose what you’re going to make with what you have, you walk upstairs, change into comfortable clothes, come back downstairs, pour yourself a cup of hot tea, turn on some music, and slowly and mindfully cook yourself dinner.
It’s the same with money.
You walk into a store, you’re on a “high.”
You just moved into a new place and you want to get all of the things to decorate.
You envision your house being the PERFECT representation of YOU with all of your new things.
You MUST get them now. It’ll be worth it. Get it now, pay for it later. Who cares. You’ll be SO happy with your new things.
You get home, set everything up, you feel elated.
Two weeks later…
Your credit card statement rolls in, your electric bill is higher than you thought, and now your car need maintenance and your roots are starting to show.
HOLY COW. “Why does life cost so much money?!” you wonder.
Slowly, regret starts to fill and you’re frustrated that life is expensive.
The things you bought have lost the joy they initially gave you and now they almost feel like a burden. A load of debt that they put you in.
What might mindfulness have looked like that day you walked into the store, eager to decorate your house in a way that you loved?
You walk into the store, aware of how you want to feel in your home.
You have fun and take a look at everything you might like. You acknowledge these desires and feelings.
Then, you pause and think of everything you already have at home. You imagine your house exactly as you would want it and you recognize what you REALLY want is not all new things… you really just want a home that feels like “you.” Cozy, clean, warm, inviting, and wonderful to be in.
You commit to choosing just a few things that would give you a ton of joy in your new home: a candle, an indoor plant, and a throw pillow.
When you get home, you finish unpacking everything in your new house. Everything has a place, it’s clean, you open a window, light your new candle, and you feel grateful in your new place. “THIS is satisfying,” you think to yourself.
Two weeks later your electric bill comes and it’s about what you’d imagined because you’re mindful to turn off extra lights through the day.
The light goes on for your car maintenance and you don’t flinch. You’ve calculated this cost into your budget and you already have money set aside for when your car needs a repair. You call to set up an appointment.
Your credit card statement? It doesn’t roll in. You’ve got nothing on that card. You’ve worked hard to pay off the remaining balances of your cards and the last three months you’ve been debt free.
Life feels organized, empowered, and in control. YOU are in control.
Your mindfulness to stop, slow down, acknowledge how you feel and what you want, and make a choice that will leave your future self feeling happy has really paid off. Literally.
This mindfulness thing is awesome, you think. You feel abundant, present, and slow about rushing to spend your money or shove food in your mouth. You’re more grateful.
If this is the reality you’d like to work toward with money, I’d love to invite you to take my next Budgeting + Savings class where I teach you the exact tools that Marco and I have used for the last 6 years to:
- stay debt free
- build up an emergency fund of 3 to 6 months of expenses
- save for a down payment on a house
- live a life that affords us happiness
- joyfully give
Just enter your info below and you will receive an email to grab the class. (I’m sending it out on Sunday, the day before October 1st!)