What's easier than spending money? For most people, not much. Folks are often happy to spend with too little thought about the purpose, value and consequence of their autopilot decision. In fact, it's as easy as point-and-click or line-of-sight shopping. We have become a society of institutionalized spenders, making buying decisions at the blink of an eye: See it. Want it. Buy it. There is little to no intention or consideration surrounding our choices as they relate to our values and life goals.
The idea of humanizing money refers to making choices based on values, knowledge, consideration and active involvement. It is the opposite of the knee-jerk spending that rules too many lives, leaving families in debt and money misery. Perhaps you are a victim of institutionalized spending, or you've witnessed someone falling prey to this addiction. But let's face it, we are all fighting an uphill battle as Big Data provides insights into your shopping habits, product preferences, and popular websites. Retailers happily provide all the tasty offerings for you to feast on.
Consider the Following Questions:
- Do you have a clear understanding of your spending? (In other words, do you know where your money goes each month?)
- Do you have a written financial plan that outlines your values and goals and provides the "how-to's" to get there?
- Do you understand your money imprint and how your past impacts your decisions today?
- Do you actively monitor your progress?
- Do you carry balances on your credit cards from month to month?
- Are you and the stakeholders in agreement on spending, savings and investment decisions?
If your answer is no to some or most of these questions, perhaps it's time to consider how to better humanize and harmonize your money with your life and your life's values. Here are six ways to shift:
- Begin with what you value most in life and write down your top three goals based on those values.
- Examine your spending patterns; the where, when, and most importantly, the why. Be sure to do this in conjunction with your spouse, partner or other stakeholders.
- Create an overlay of your spending decisions with your goals and identify the low-value spending that takes you further away from achieving your most important objectives.
- Slow down the process. Agree to discuss purchases over a specific dollar amount with your spouse/partner/stakeholder. Agree to delay all buying decisions until after an agreed-upon "cooling off" period. Creating space between the "See it. Want it. Buy it." is essential to shifting your habits.
- Actively track the changes weekly. Until you get into the habit, the more often you monitor the better. After you've achieved greater control, you can move it to monthly.
- Capture the savings and apply them directly to your goals. It might be wealth accumulation or debt elimination or both, but by actively taking the funds you save as a result of making better decisions and applying them to your objectives, you leave the realm of considering and enter the realm of doing.
Replacing institutional thinking with intention and purpose humanizes your actions, harmonizes your values with those actions and provides a path to proactive planning. It isn't easy to buck the system and turn off the flood of messages that drive right into your "want zone," but by creating a system that supports better decisions, you take over the controls to your financial success and well-being.