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HOW TO STOP STRESSING OUT ABOUT MONEY
Do you ever feel that money is this thing you work so hard to make and yet it never sticks around? You make more of it – at least a little more- each year, but you still feel like you are playing catch-up all the time. The bills just keep coming, college tuition is looming on the horizon, and retirement feels like a beautiful mirage in the desert you are never going to get to. If this feeling is familiar to you, you are in no way alone. The majority of people you and I know are in the same boat tossing around in the rough waters of modern American life. And we are supposed to be the lucky ones!
One simple reason is that there is a big gap between our income and our ability to spend. Our resources are limited but our needs, wants, and desires are potentially limitless. First, there are the basics - life gets more expensive all the time and the bills only go up. You cannot seemingly do much about your mortgage, your grocery or your phone bills. If you have kids, the after-school activities alone can take a huge bite out of your paycheck. You do what every other family around you does - so that must just be the way it is. Right?
We can all think of countless ways to spend money – a bigger house, a nicer car, a fancy vacation, private school, you name it. Temptations abound and they are only a few clicks or swipes of a credit card away. We feel that we deserve to live a little and spend more on nicer things. After all, we work so hard all the time and life is so short – it is only natural to want something special.
If we are not thinking about ourselves, we are thinking about our loved ones and how to use our limited resources to help them. Whether it is our kids or our parents, we feel like we must contribute to their lives. So we end up paying for graduate school, financing our kids’ new business ventures, paying for our parents’ care. The cycle never ends.
A significant reason for our constant lack of money is our ability to spend every additional dollar we make. We do it automatically, subconsciously almost. Think back to your last raise. What did you do with it? Did you sit down and calculate how much more you could save and invest? Or did the raise just get absorbed into yet another bill and felt like it never happened? If you think of your income ten or fifteen years ago and now, you are probably making quite a bit more. But do you feel any richer? Any more secure in your future?
"... a bigger house, a nicer car, a fancy vacation, private school, you name it. Temptations abound and they’re only a few clicks or swipes of a credit card away."
Is there a way to change this situation? There is although it is a formidable task. It requires us to look at ourselves and our lives differently. Or rather, it requires that we stop and consider our lives for a moment, something I suspect few of us ever find the time or the courage to do. We know that our present ways are not good for us and we need to find something that is better. But how do we find what is better?
We need to start treating ourselves better. It may seem like a paradox because after all, are we not treating ourselves well by buying nice things? Not if our buying habits are making us feel tied down or unhappy. If our need to make more money to live a “better” life is wearing us out, then we should recognize that we are getting way more than what we bargained for. We must value our emotional well-being as much if not more than our material well-being. If the two are in conflict, our emotional distress will prevent us from enjoying the material luxuries we worked so hard to acquire. It is time to redefine our priorities.
SO WHAT'S THE SECRET TO DE-STRESSING?
We have to to recognize the limits of our resources and be OK with it. It is OK to accept that we are not millionaires and our incomes will not grow exponentially anytime soon. We all work hard in often a brutal system where our employers hold all the cards. It takes considerable time, effort and plain luck to make more money. It would be good for us to consider why exactly we are doing it and if it is worth the price.
We need to understand that we cannot do it all and that is OK, too. We are often loathe to accept our limits and stretch ourselves too thin. The majority of us do not pay off our credit card bills every month and pay way more in interest that we want to admit. Wouldn’t it be better not to take on the debt in the first place? Learning to say “no” to ourselves and to our loved ones may feel uncomfortable at first, but it is all a matter of attitude and habit. Developing control over our impulses is beneficial both for our wallets and our souls.
Finally, we must develop the courage to live the lives we want. Knowing what we want is not easy for sure. As members of human society, we sometimes replace society’s expectations for our true wants. Even if we feel at some level that something is not right, we do not have the skills to figure out what we should do differently and how. But that does not mean that we should not look. The work is great, but the rewards will be worth it. You will stop stressing out about money if you are too busy building a life that brings you true joy.