Frugal is more than a way to spend money, Part III
I know that emotional health leads to financial health first and foremost in my own life.
On one level, it's pretty straight-forward. When I'm tired, frustrated, angry, sad, or trying not to feel any of these, it's a lot harder to give a damn about my budget. When I'm caring for myself, getting enough sleep, dealing with my emotions or the people and situations that bring them in, then it's a lot easier to care about when and where I spend my money.
When I'm upset, it used to feel like my money spent itself, like I didn't have control over it. It was like there was an appetite inside of me that wanted to spend more, that thought that something empty will be filled if I simply bought more things. I'm lucky — I haven't gone totally out of control with this. But I do see the habits in myself and feel the urges, and know that there's something to all the talk about emotional spending.
I also see this in the lives of people I know. How many times have I tried to distract an upset friend with the words, "Do you want to go shopping?" or "I think there's a shoe sale at Target." In all honesty, it usually works.
Many before me have seen this trend, and have talked at length about practical ways to deal with emotional spending: how to avoid it, or get around it, or talk yourself into doing something else when the urge hits, so I'm not going to go into depth on it here.
A Deeper Problem
What I do want to talk about in more depth is this: The more happy and secure I am with myself and my life, the easier it will be for me to maintain financial health. The reason that the negative emotions set me off is that they undermine my security. They show me that my life isn't as safe and protected as I had thought it was, and that little things can still get in. They make me doubt myself and the life I've built, or the people I've chosen to have around me, or the things I've always found fulfilling.
However, the reason I've never gone out of control is that I know those feelings aren't the end. Even when things are bad, I have several beliefs that help me when I want to spend.
- I believe that things can turn around.
- I believe that I can get more sleep, or that I can do something with my emotions other than spend money.
- Above and beyond anything, I believe that buying things or living like I have more money than I do isn't the answer. It isn't going to make me feel better in the moment, and it's going to cause me more problems in the long run.
These beliefs allow me to walk off the urge to spend. They allow me to sit down and figure out what is really going on with me, when the urges come to buy and buy and buy. They give me the space to separate my financial decisions from my emotional state, and thus spend intentionally even when I'm upset.
I highlight these beliefs because I didn't always have them. I used to find myself spending (or wanting to spend!) money on things I didn't really care about, and not know why I wanted to do that. It was as I became an adult internally as well as externally that the beliefs became conscious and I was able to see what I had believed before.
- I had believed that whatever I was experiencing in the moment was going to continue.
- I had believed that I couldn't change my emotional state, so I might as well spend money and see if that helped.
- I had believed that maybe, just maybe, buying things would soothe what I was feeling inside.
These beliefs caused me to want spend when I was tired or upset, without thinking about my purchases or their cost.
I didn't ever approach the bad beliefs head-on until a bit later in my emotional journey. When I did, I realized that the good beliefs weren't directly connected to money, they were connected to my confidence, happiness with my life, and security in myself and my choices. To grow financially, I had to grow in all of those areas first, before I could even begin to look directly at the weird urges to spend that I felt when things were "off" inside of me.
Do I still feel those urges? Yes, and I probably always will. Do I act on them? Not usually, and when I do, it's not in any major sort of way. I usually feel the urges, and use them as signs that there's something else going on in me.
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