The Worst Way(s) to Think About Money

Money is really weird, right?

Everybody has their own relationship with money. Some people think it’s the root of all evil. Some people spend their whole lives chasing it. Some people love giving it away. Some people hate anybody who has too much money.

We all have this strange and emotional connection to our money, and sometimes the ways we think about money can cause some real damage to our lives.

“I’m going to start yoga, so I need to buy new pants.” 

For so many of us, money is the medium through which we express our identity. Let me explain. When I started painting, I wanted to fill my space up with things that would make me a painter. I bought brushes, papers, paints… then more brushes, more papers, more paints. Then some containers for my paints. Then a book about painting.

I was spending a lot of money without actually painting anything. I thought the things that I bought would make me a better painting, when (obviously) the only thing that would make me a better painter was, um, practicing painting?!

Lesson learned, right?

Then, I wanted to start gardening. Soil. Fertilizer. Seeds. Little containers. Big containers. Plant food. A grow light. More containers. More seeds. Little shovels. Little watering cans. Bigger shovels. Can you see where I’m going?

I wanted to be a painter, so I bought painting stuff. I wanted to be a gardener, so I bought gardening stuff. Sure, there are some necessities for any hobby, but usually, you can get by with a bare minimum when you’re starting out.

When I wanted to start painting, I could have spent $20 on student grade supplies and just painted and painted until I used up all my papers. I probably would have improved, or at least figured out that it was something I wanted to stick with before spending tons of money on it.

Instead: Think about the things your new hobby ABSOLUTELY requires. If it’s a dance class, you might need special shoes. Can you rent those, or find them used? Commit to doing a new class a couple times before you invest a lot of money into it. Find out what you really enjoy doing, and THEN see if you feel like you need all the latest accessories. Chances are, you’ll discover you don’t need that $40 set of watercolor brushes. (I know! I’m ashamed of myself!)

“I have to buy a new outfit for this date/interview/concert/vacation.”

Before I started my last job, I went out and bought a designer bag. I wanted to project an idealized version of myself, a version of me that has tons of money to blow at Kate Spade. (Spoiler: I did not have tons of money to blow at Kate Spade.) Did I love the bag? Hell yeah. Do I love it as much now, a year later? Not really. It’s too fancy to be practical for the way I live, and I don’t even bring it to work that often! Ugh.

Instead: Do some thinking about what’s motivating you to spend money for this event. Be honest with yourself! Are you insecure about You can probably find something you already own to wear.  Try to force yourself to get rid of something in your closet whenever you buy something for an event like this. For example, if you can’t get rid of last year’s bathing suit, you probably don’t need a new one for your upcoming vacation.

Emotional Spending – “I reached my goal, I deserve this new thing!” Or, “I’m sad, buying myself this thing will make me feel better.”

This is one of the hardest ones to conquer. I have been 100% guilty of emotional spending in the past. I tend to spend money on myself to feel like I’m important. Like, obviously I believe I’m worthy of love because I believe I’m worth the $50 I just dropped on liquid eyeliner.

Instead: It’s especially tough to stop yourself from spending when you’re in a vulnerable place to begin with, like when you’re feeling isolated or depressed. I try to plan things that don’t cost much to make me feel better in those circumstances. That way when I start feeling anxious or upset, I already have strategies to deal with my emotions that don’t cost anything.

Then there’s the other end of the spectrum with emotional spending. Birthdays, engagements, new jobs…. I feel like there’s always something coming up that makes me want to blow a ton of money.

I hate being the bummer who’s like, “Sorry I can’t come to your birthday brunch! I’m saving for retirement!”

It has always helped me to have a plan and a budget. I have a ‘fun’ money bucket that I dip into when I want something special. Now, when something comes up I don’t have to choose between celebrating or busting my budget.


How do you stop yourself from falling into these money traps? 


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