Beating yourself up about past financial mistakes will only keep you in a self-loathing pit of despair (to use a Princess Bride term – it’s a place where a machine sucks years of your life away, like the time you spend regretting your financial foibles rather than moving on and making different choices).
Our “I HATE Budgeting (But I Like Having Money)” support group discussed the topic of “Gentle Discipline” this month.
Discipline has a negative connotation. It conjures up thoughts of harshness, rigidity, control. Lack of self-discipline (read : self-control) is blamed for all of our short comings, be they with money, food, housecleaning (is that just me?) too much time spent on Facebook etc.
Allow me to share a story.
When our (very strong-willed) daughter was around 3 years old, my mother-in-law reminded me that the word “discipline” means “to instruct” (think of the men Jesus chose as his Disciples: those who would be taught).
I share that little nugget with you because I think most of us think that discipline means “to punish.”
And we can be brutal with ourselves when it comes to money.
A broader definition of discipline from Merriam Webster includes: “instruction, a field of study, training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character, control gained by enforcing obedience or order, orderly or prescribed conduct of pattern of behavior, self-control, a rule or system of rules governing conduct or activity.”
We had a great discussion about self-discipline. Being gentle and loving with yourself was found to be key; not only in terms of budgeting but in weight management and other life challenges.
Hating yourself doesn’t work.
It just doesn’t.
Choose kindness instead.
So how can you develop this gentle discipline?
- Learn / be proactive. Most of us have not learned much about managing money from our parents, perhaps because they didn’t learn, either, and are embarrassed. While our parents didn’t teach us per se, they did model certain behaviors, both good and bad. We may have received certain messages about money that have shaped our financial lives such as:
“We can’t afford it.”
(Could be a mixed message depending on whether it is true or not, can promote anxiety)
“Money doesn’t grow on trees.”
(Meant to stop overspending, but the message is usually lost on a child)
“How are we going to manage?”
(Teaches children to worry/feel a lack of control/develop a scarcity mindset)
And seeing your parents have nice clothing or cars but not having enough money to pay the electric bill.
(Sends mixed messages)
Break the cycle, choose to take control over this (very important) aspect of life by learning more about it. Read blogs, magazines, books, listen to podcasts and webinars, take some classes, join (or start) a group in your community dedicated to learning about money. Have honest (but confidential) conversations with your children. Here are suggested edits to the above financial statements:
“Let’s figure out what we can change in our budget that will allow us to buy that.”
“I know you’d like to (have this or do that), we’ve already decided how our money will be spent this month. Can you think of another way we could buy it?”
“It’s stressful since Dad lost his job, because we used the money from his job to help us pay for what we need. Sometimes life is challenging but we’ll figure it out, we always do.”
Remember, we can’t budget like our parents did because we live in a different world, one with computers, cell phones, and a lot more credit than what was available to them. But we can make choices that reflect our values, our lives.
- Develop a steady (versus a good-bad-good-bad cycle) thought process when it comes to money. One group member shared with us one part of the 12-step program: The thought and belief that, “The fear of economic insecurity will leave us.” It will. Too many people put money in too high of a position in their lives; elevating it to a deity – be it through worship or fear. Yes, if you fear money you may be making it a god in your life. Be very, very careful. Look under the bed, there’s no monster there. As Sarah Ban Breathnach, author of Simple Abundance (required reading for all women), says, “Worrying about money never paid a bill.”
- Stop with the comparisons. We humans are such social creatures, we’re naturally inclined to wonder what other people do or have. Is it any wonder why Facebook is so popular (and addictive)? But comparing yourself to others financially will only leave you feeling less content; either you’ll feel self-righteous or feel like a victim. Here’s a great blog to stop comparing yourself to others, not surprisingly it focuses on being grateful as well as defining and living your “good life,” (author Cathi Brese Doebler writes about that in “Ditch The Joneses: Discover Your Family”).
Creating a statement of personal and/or family values can go a long way in directing your finances. If annual vacations are a priority but a new car is not, the occasional car repairs are easier to make while also saving for the vacation. And there are some things you may choose never to purchase or do because they’re not in line with your value system, and when you know what that is, it makes it easier to put blinders on and confidently say, “No.”
Overcome your fear of spending money by creating a financial plan. My marketing coach is always bugging me to have a call to action, so I’m keeping her off my back by directing you to my website’s services tab where you can learn how financial planning can bring you a sense of peace and abundance (or, in Twitter speak, #PeaceAndAbundance).