So honestly, are you worried this is going to be you?
There is a part of us that fears we're doing it wrong. Instead of the financial prosperity and peace that we imagine we're creating, we will get to the end of the week/month/year, look at our financials, and discover a big black hole of "broke".
This week alone I've had several conversations with families about what's working with their money and what's not. In every conversation one of these 3 mistakes cropped up.
I get it! I've made them all myself and money was a pain in the "butt" because of it. But awareness is the first step to a financially peaceful family life so let’s pull up our big-girl yoga pants and dig in. (Besides, what looks awful and overwhelming, usually isn’t that bad!)
We’ll examine each in more detail and what we should do instead.
Mistake #1. Thinking a big pay raise or lump sum will solve all our problems.
Mistake #2. Not accounting for the unexpecteds.
Mistake #3. Not being OK with having more than enough.
Mistake #1: Thinking a big pay raise or lump sum will solve all our problems.
Unless you are completely unplugged you’ve heard of the massive Powerball that just happened this week. The biggest windfall in history: 1.6 billion dollars. Yes, that would be Billion, with a giant B.
And I bought tickets along with the rest of the world. :)
Hey, that big windfall of cash or nice pay raise is awesome and we've already planned what we'll do with it.
The mistake is not with wanting to win but with wishing and hoping that something ELSE will save us from ourselves. And that’s not something that 1.6 Billion can solve. It exists in our mindset and that’s where we need to go to resolve it.
Why do we do this anyway?
Part of it comes from a “savior” syndrome, where we want someone else to fix things. As children our parents did it for us. When we got married our spouse may have filled that role.
It comes from not believing in and trusting ourselves. We doubt our capacity and ability to create and live a truly abundant life.
Ancient Greek playwrights used this pattern frequently in their tragedies. It's called "deus ex machina", or "God from the machine", meaning that the only thing that could save the hero would be a "god" swooping down from heaven and rescuing him from impending doom. On stage, that was depicted by some actor or stage prop rigged to descend to the stage (the "machine").
How many times do we rely on something outside of what we already have to "save" us? When truly we have exactly what we need around us: our faith, our character, our ingenuity, our resources, and our network/relationships.
Instead, start with a money goal you want to achieve, and identify a small money habit that will support you in getting there.
Want to build your Emergency Fund? Save a set amount of every paycheck.
Want to pay off some debts or put extra into investments? Apply leftover grocery money towards them at the end of the month.
Or if you’re a natural saver (Accumulator) then “invest” in healthy family fun and entertainment by having an amount of spending money for extras!
Set up an automatic transfer so you don’t have to think about it. If you have a terrible track record with saving or will-power, let automations do it for you.
Warning: if you’re NOT naturally good at saving, then keep it SMALL! A small amount won’t be a “threat” to your survival, meaning that your subconscious won’t freak out about it and go looking for a problem to solve with that money you just put into savings. (Yes, it does that.)
If you’re a natural saver than give yourself permission to have an amount you put towards “fun”. This will likely make you squirm, that’s good! Same rules apply: start with a SMALL amount while you get used to investing a portion of your hard-earned money into extras.
Keeping it small at first then growing over time is the key to building a healthy habit. Small, consistent actions create long-term habits that give us better results. "Through small and simple things are great things brought about."
How long should you keep it small? You’ll know you’re ready to increase the amount when you don’t think about the money you set aside anymore. When it becomes your new “normal”. Then you can increase it in measured increments.
When I first started this for my savings slush fund it took me nearly a year before I stopped stressing about that money and was excited to save it. For my husband (who is a natural saver), it took him 6 months of having $10 monthly mad money before he was ready and excited about having $20. Everyone’s timeline is different, so pay attention to your feelings and reactions to your goal.
And use the prosperity principle behind Mistake #2 to give you cover while you develop your new pattern of behavior.
Mistake #2: Not accounting for the unexpected's.
We plan like it's all going to play out according to our budget. But then unexpected bills or crises happen and our plans go right down the drain.
I've seen this happen over and over and OVER again. It's so predictable that when someone starts saying "when this $ comes in, we'll take care of x, y, and z", I just calmly listen. And then immediately start teaching the prosperity principle behind Mistake #3.
Many years ago, when I was using a budget like it was etched in stone, every month was a lesson in failure. Month after month I tried to accurately plan out our spending to the dollar only to have an unexpected bill or extra expense derail our plans.
"We would have stayed within our budget if we hadn't needed to buy an extra tank of gas." or "The kids grew out of their one pair of school shoes and needed new ones so we spent more in this category."
This became the conversation every month as we reviewed our numbers. Finally my husband suggested that instead of trying to predict our exact expenses, I should estimate HIGHER than I thought we needed and give our family a cushion to absorb these unplanned needs.
The idea rocked my world. Wait, What?! We should over-estimate?
This simple shift gave our budget the wiggle-room it needed to really be a productive planning tool rather than a stick to beat myself with every month.
Instead of budgeting every single penny, give yourself a cushion. I know this flies in the face of some very loud and dominant voices in personal finance right now. But please, do yourself a favor and plan your monthly budget so that the remaining total is several hundred dollars in the black. And DO NOT assign that money to anything.
Resist the impulse to "give every dollar a name", it only keeps you in a mindset of lack where you HAVE TO get every month perfect or you’re a failure with money.
You’re not. Trust me.
Recently I taught this principle to a coaching client and when the words came out of my mouth I could feel the electric shock through the computer screen. Her eyes got really big, her mouth formed an “O” and she immediately started writing notes like crazy.
She explained that she’d always been taught to plan right down to the penny, giving every dollar an assignment. But what it created for her was this overwhelming burden of always having to “get it right at all costs”, which is impossible.
Month after month she failed at being perfect with her budget or her money. This belief contributed to her anxiety and depression, leaving her incapable of nurturing and caring for her family, emotionally, physically, or financially.
Now that she recognized the faulty belief she could step back from over-planning money and become comfortable and confident in her ability to just roll with the unexpected’s in her life.
We’re all human and humans make mistakes and learn and grow. Give yourself some financial peace of mind by planning for unexpected’s and “rolling with the flow” a little bit more.
Your family will feel the difference and you will stress less when your kids have a growth spurt. ;) It’s definitely a different approach to money, but one that will give you some much-deserved enjoyment and prosperity around money.
Next, I suggest you immediately start working on the principle for #3, or you will "create" a problem that will need the extra money you have now created in your budget plan.
Mistake #3: Not being OK with having more than enough.
This is closely connected to Mistake #2, and goes even deeper. Not planning for unexpected's is a planning paradigm. But not being comfortable with having more than enough is a deep-seated mindset belief.
Perhaps we don’t believe we’re worth it.
Or we don’t feel comfortable or safe having extra to invest and grow wealthy because the wealthy people we’ve seen are total jerks and miserable and we don’t want that to happen to our families.
Or we don’t believe that there is “more where that came from”. There just isn’t enough money or opportunity and so we have to use all the money in front of us now.
In many cultures, particularly the American culture, frugality and thrift are hallowed virtues, whereas anything that sounds like consumption is considered wasteful and shallow.
To be respected and saintly it is better to be poor and humble. This perspective has been ingrained in so many families for so long that I have seen people choose to stay broke rather than become prosperous, because prosperity looked conspicuous and outrageous.
The old adage, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." is a product of this attitude. Replacing something before you had used it up was wasteful. And having more than enough of something, be it cars, clothes, rooms in your house, etc, was just obnoxious.
Really quickly, I'm not advocating conspicuous consumption. I'm opposed to buying and owning something just for the sake of having it. I'm border-line minimalist and always utilitarian. That being said, I also love beautiful things because they fill my soul with wonder and joy. But I don't have more than is needed to fulfill that stated purpose.
When I talk about having more than enough, I'm talking about giving yourself permission to have more than enough of anything you require to fulfill your purpose in life.
Do you need x amount of income to provide for your family's Needs, Goals, and Wants? Then it's ok to have more than that amount (you still need that buffer)!
Do you need x amount of clothes to have fresh items for the week without having to do laundry multiple times a week? Then it's ok to have more than 7 pairs of something.
Do you see the pattern here? Giving yourself permission to think that there’s more than enough releases the pressure on you to always get things right.
The opposite is NOT having permission to make mistakes. Now you know what that looks like. How do you react when a child spills an entire gallon of milk, breaks your sofa from wrestling on it, or leaves your power tools outside in a rainstorm where they get ruined?
It's important to give ourselves (and our children) room to learn. We don't have to be perfect. In fact, we shouldn't expect it of ourselves or them.
Organizing our money in a way that expects perfection only leads to failure. Instead build in room for error. You get to have space in your life and money for trying new things, new ways of doing money, testing this way or that way and learning what works best for you. And especially make space for the cost of raising children into functional adults.
Believe that there is more than enough for you and you change. Instead of being an uptight, stressed person you can roll with the punches. You won't freak-out every time a kid breaks something in your home because you know that it's replaceable and you have the resources to do it.
You can start changing this one today.
Take a few minutes, close your eyes, and breathe deeply in and out a few times. This gets more oxygen to your brain so you can do some deeper thinking.
I like to put my hand on my heart for this because it reminds me to connect my conscious mind to my subconscious mind (which is activated by strong emotions).
So, hand on heart and eyes closed, repeat "I have more than enough. I have more than enough money/resources/food/work/time/etc." Do it with whatever you feel you are lacking. Remind yourself of what you want to have, even if it hasn't "arrived" yet.
Keep repeating and breathing deeply until you can feel your gut twist or your heart hurt. That's predictable, your mind either won't believe you deserve it or feels guilty that you're suggesting it.
Keep going. Keep repeating and breathing deeply until you arrive at a peace-filled spot in your mind where the fear and skepticism and doubt have been left behind. Sometimes it takes several minutes. Sometimes it takes several days of repetitions.
If you have never tried to change a deeply-held belief before your mind may be really stubborn. That's ok, you are not your enemy. You are working with where you're at and giving yourself permission to level-up to a healthier and more prosperous paradigm.
I have also found that keeping a "Money journal" has helped me track my progress. I like to record experiences or memories that bubble up to the surface of my mind. Usually they are painful and I write them down on my long list of people or things that contributed to my faulty paradigm. I get to forgive these and let them go.
Wherever you are with your attitudes about money and your prosperity, there's always more to learn, there's always more to forgive.
Which brings me to our Bonus Mistake…!!
Mistake #4: Thinking that you know all this and there's nothing left to try but to squeeze down harder on your budget and spending.
This might be the biggest mistake of all.
Trust me on this one. Being the best accountant in the world or the tightest tight-wad won't get you past these mistakes. You will only have the prosperity you think you deserve.
That’s the real problem with the Lottery. People don’t THINK they deserve it, or rather, they’re not used to having that kind of money. Their mind interprets “not used to it” as being “uncomfortable with”. And that means a “threat to survival”.
When the brain receives a message that it perceives as a threat to survival it immediately goes into “fight or flight”. This is where we function on instinct, don’t make decisions from a place of strength, and engage in destructive behaviors. All to protect ourselves.
And that’s why Lottery winners frequently go broke fairly quickly. They’re not used to having that kind of money around and they feel worried, stressed, and uncomfortable with it so they’ll spend through it all to get back to where they feel “safe”, their status quo.
Some might say it’s because they don’t know how to “manage” money. And they’d be right on the surface. We manage our money according to what we believe. Not the other way around. It always comes from what we believe about ourselves.
If you're still skeptical about anything I’ve taught in this article and want to know if any of this actually works, I'm going to give you a challenge...
Try the mindset exercise above on one of your faulty ideas for one week. Choose one thing that came to mind as you read this article and apply yourself to working on it first thing in the morning and last thing at night before you crawl into bed. Begin on Day 1 with recording the belief and where you’re at in a journal or notebook. Do the exercise every day for 7 days and then record where you ended up on Day 7. I promise, things will shift.
In fact, I think you'll start to feel the difference in a few days.
Success in money doesn't go to the smartest or the most careful.
It goes to the bravest.
It takes bravery to pull your head out of the sand and become aware of how your thinking created where you’re at. Be brave.
Face whatever fears you have around money. You are not your enemy here. You are your solution. Give yourself permission to fail and build that buffer into your money plan. Record it all in your money journal.
Awareness is the first step to changing your beliefs. Action is step 2.
Take my challenge with the mindset exercise and then let me know: which of these money mistakes have you been facing? And where did you end on Day 7?
I’m excited to see your prosperity and peace grow!