I hate spending money. My Scottish-Dutch genetic makeup combined with my upbringing in a Depression impacted family has turned me into a person that gets anxious any time I head to the cash register. You know how some people call shopping “retail therapy”? Well, shopping has never been that for me. The act of spending money starts an internal debate going in my head about if I need to spend that money or not. A few things I’ve noted about internal chatter: it slows down my decision making, it tends (under-exaggeration) towards the negative and it keeps me up at night.
Then I changed because I got tired of feeling guilty and anxious all the time. Spending money happens on an almost daily basis. I was beating myself up everyday! It was mentally exhausting and I couldn’t keep doing it.
How did I stop the guilt and anxiety I had around money? I didn’t do much; all I did was make a decision. What I decided to do was to start believing in my spending plan.
I’ve always been a bit of a spending plan fanatic. Each month, I add up everything I spent during the month and I add it to my money tracking spreadsheet which I have had going for the past five years. Then a couple of times a year, I look over what I’ve spent and I update my spending plan for the upcoming year. My monthly tracking is not as onerous as it sounds, it takes me about two hours a month.
Even though I’ve always tracked my spending and I’ve created spending plans for years, I never really bought into the process. For one thing, I never went back to a prior year spending plan to to see if it bore any relation to my actual spending. Plus, I never critically looked at my plan to see if I was spending in areas that I wanted to spend in. I think I also never came close to spending what was in my plan. My spending plan was just a process I was doing that I thought I should do as an financially responsible person. I still agonized over every dime I spent and spending still made me feel horrible and guilty. All my spending plan was doing for me was consuming my time in creating it. I had this spending plan – but I was ignoring it and choosing to continue to feel bad when I spent money.
So I recognized that I no longer wanted to feel guilty and I also wanted my spending plan to be of use to me so I decided to start believing in it. How did I do this? I decided to analyze my spending plan and this is what I discovered.
My spending plan was based on my life and choices that I have been making for years. It was a financial reflection of my beliefs and values. After all, I do not spend money easily, so if it was spent and ended up in my tracking spreadsheet, I must have believed in it at least a little. My spending plan is therefore based on what I think is important to spend money on. I noticed that my spending stays fairly consistent year over year and also that I had built a cushion into my spending plan for unexpected expenses. Oh and another important part of my spending plan? I had enough money coming in to cover my spending going out.
So then I realized that if an expense is in my spending plan, it is ok to spend money on that expense. I’m even allowed to spend on the unexpected because there is a cushion in my spending plan. All this spending is allowed without the guilt!
This change to believing in my spending plan is taking time and I’m not completely cured of my money guilt. I still don’t like spending money but that doesn’t hold me back in my decision making anymore or lead to days of anxiety (well mostly). For example, September is a fairly brutal month for expenses for me. It is when all my large business expenses come due and when children related expenses like after-school activities, hot lunches and school fees kick in. Before believing in my spending plan, I would have been in paroxysms over this spending. I would have felt horrible for days on end and would have questioned my decision to go into business for myself. I might even have decided to pull the plug on my business. I would have been more focussed on stopping the money bleeding than on driving my business and life forward.
This year when things came due, I felt a little icky and I know I still complained about the high cost of doing business as a sole proprietor, but then I told myself, this is in my spending plan and therefore it is ok to spend. I am not going to make myself feel bad for buying professional liability insurance!
Do you have money anxiety and fears? The best cure is to start tracking your spending and to build a spending plan. If you don’t have a plan, then every time you spend money you might be questioning it and causing yourself anxiety. With a plan, you too can move forward with your life with clarity and decisiveness.