Mindfulness is one of the best things you can incorporate into your life. This is true with your finances as well. Practicing mindful spending can bring you peace and joy (and help you save money).
A lot has been said about the so-called latte factor. I firmly believe that small purchases add up to make a difference in your finances. My blog is literally called “A Dime Saved.” I believe that every dime makes a difference. So why do I get annoyed when I see all those tweets and blog posts shaming people for $5 cups of coffee if that is my ethos? I am all about frugality and every conceivable way to save money, and I write about every money-saving tip.
I dislike this advice so much because, besides the fact that I don’t think that people are actually buying $5 cups of coffee with any regularity, I think that advice like that is focusing on the symptom, not the issue.
The symptom: the fancy cup of coffee
The real problem: not practicing mindful spending
Spending Money Is Not Bad
Spending money does not bring happiness… until it does. Buying a fancy cup of coffee is wasting money… until it isn’t. There are times in your life when you need a pick-me-up or a treat, and a fancy cup of coffee is exactly what you need. Here I go again, talking about coffee when it’s not about the coffee! It can be the snack you buy, the subscription you have (Hulu anyone?), or the taxi you take at the end of a long day even though you could take public transportation.
There are times when you need to spend money, and there are times when spending money on something (anything) will bring a lot of joy into your life. Having little treats and special items can brighten your day; they can make your life easier and make life better. However, cutting out these indulgences for the sake of spending less money will not help you get your finances in order, just like making your coffee at home will not make you a millionaire.
The “trick” to getting your financial life in order is to stay within your budget and not overspend. You need to save more money and spend less. Make more money and cut down on your living expenses in order to save for the future: save for retirement and save for emergencies. You need to stop living paycheck to paycheck, get on a spending plan, and pay off your debts.
It’s all easier said than done, and it all sounds so pat. So how do we reconcile those needs and ideas with the fact that we cannot (and should not) spend our lives depriving ourselves of everything we enjoy and of everything we think is important just to pay off student loans or retire early? These things are important and just as important as living your life.
Although we do like to make fun of the cup of the coffee trope, mindless spending without a budget is a real problem for many people. While everyone can and should allow themselves to buy luxuries and special things, you should also be aware that mindless spending does add up. Every dime counts. Many people do rack up thousands of dollars in credit card debt just by not taking the time to think about every purchase made (whether important or not!).
You don’t want to stress over purchases, but you do want to appreciate every purchase. Mindful spending takes time out of your busy life and makes you realize all you have.
Creating a budget that works and has room for you to spend on the important things will help you stop mindless spending and increase mindful spending. When every dollar has a purpose, it’s not very difficult to be purposeful in your purchases.
As a bonus, once you start practicing mindful spending, you will see that so many things that you spend money on are unnecessary and unneeded. When you stop spending money on things that you don’t need or don’t bring you joy, you will save a lot of money!
When you spend mindlessly, then not only are you being reckless with your finances it also very rarely brings you joy. On the other hand, mindful and purposeful spending and budgeting can bring you happiness and peace. By spending on things that make your life happier and fuller, you make a concerted and conscious decision to use the money to bring you happiness. What this looks like in practice will look different for every person.By spending on things that make your life happier and fuller, you are making a concerted and conscious decision to use the money to bring you happiness. Click To Tweet
Practicing mindful spending gets you to the point where you are spending money on the things that bring you joy. This goes hand in hand with what I wrote about trying to do an austerity budget in your life. You should go on an austerity budget every once in a while because when you remove things from your life and then add them back in, you will have such a new appreciation for it. You will have a renewed gratitude for the basic things in life that we so often take for granted.
So how do I practice mindful spending?
Mindful Spending is spending money on what you need and what brings you joy and acknowledging that. Mindful spending means taking the time to appreciate where your money is going and what your money is doing for you. Mindful spending allows you to have joy and contentment when you spend money wisely.
This means that you need to first know what you need and then know what brings you joy.
First needs and then joy. I’m guessing you know that already. Once you have figured out what brings you joy- which by the way, is easier said than done, then you can decide to spend purposefully on those things. Depriving yourself of things that bring you joy doesn’t help anyone- least of all yourself. Spending on things that don’t bring you joy also doesn’t help anyone and is a waste of money.
For some people, saving for retirement (and saving as much as The Trinity Study tells you to) or having an extra-large emergency fund makes them happy. For some people, just amassing wealth makes them happy. So, if this is you, until we get to the ethical issues of hoarding wealth, then go right ahead! But, if that is what truly makes you happy, and you know it, then that is practicing mindful spending, and we don’t even need to talk about coffee ever again! (except that we probably will.)
When you make a purchase or pay a bill. Stop. Think. Think about why you are spending this money. Why are you buying this item? Why are you paying this bill? Is it purposeful?
This is pretty easy when it comes to essential bills. Stop. Think. Say out loud (or quietly if you are embarrassed)- I am paying my water bill to have water in my home. I am grateful that I have the ability to pay for water in my home. This will bring you more peace in your spending and increase your gratification for the things you have. Also, if you feel resentful about any of your bills, this can help take away some of the negative feelings as well.
If you are a parent and say these types of things out loud in front of your kids, you will be teaching them to have gratitude for the things they have and the value of money.
If you are purchasing a want, then do the same thing. Stop. Think. Say, “I am spending this money on a new top for myself. This shirt will make me happy and make me feel confident. I am happy that I can buy pretty shirts”.
Doing this exercise every so often will help you focus your thoughts and spending on the things that bring you joy. This is mindful spending. Every purchase has a purpose. Every dollar spent is spent on something that is important to you. So bringing joy and light into your life is a valid reason to spend the money that you have.
Mindful Spending Brings Balance
Managing your money is not just about looking for ways to save on groceries or being thrifty and frugal. There is a larger picture of money management that includes both spending and saving. Saving for the future is not only about depriving yourself of every temptation. You can live and enjoy the moment while preparing for the future (saving for a down payment) and fixing past mistakes (like paying off credit card debt).
Recognizing the good that money brings you and being grateful for things you buy and spend money on makes your life better and happier. Mindful spending grounds you and makes you more cognizant of the good in your life. An apple tastes much sweeter when you are fully present in the eating of the said apple. Having running water and heat are appreciated when you take the time to appreciate them. Spending money on the things you need, the things you want, and the things you value make you more appreciative of the money you have and the hard work you had to do to get that money.
Budgeting your Money
Creating a budget that works for you is the first step towards financial security and independence. Create a budget that gives you room to spend on the things you enjoy, and that also pays for the future. Create good money habits by working on staying within your budget, putting money aside for life’s surprises, and paying yourself first.
If you need tips to save money on essentials, so you have more room to splurge, you can check out any of my frugal living posts for money-saving tips. For example, you can automate your monthly spending on a credit card to take advantage of credit card rewards and not have any nasty late fees spring upon you. In addition, having a mindful attitude towards spending can help you optimize your finances for maximum happiness.