I’ve always been pretty responsible with money - paying off college loans and car payments as quickly as possible, living within my means, choosing practical purchases over fanciful ones.
There was a time when I took that type of fiscal responsibility to an extreme. I didn’t just clip coupons and shop sales; I shopped at four different grocery stores over the course of two weeks and made purchases based on where I could get the best deals. I was constantly comparing prices and buying in bulk when I could.
Entertainment was not even a category in our budget. No dinners out, no movies, no books that didn’t come from the library. No subscriptions, no memberships, no vacations. A few enrichment activities for the kids, Christmas and birthday presents and the rest of the budget was considered essentials like mortgage payments, utilities and food.
I was always looking for how I could save a few more dollars - buying things used instead of new, cooking large batches of soup or beans and rice that would be one dinner and then lunch for an entire week.
Trying to cut back on expenditures and maintain a balance budget is not a bad thing. But I was living within a scarcity mindset, focused on not having enough. And I was holding on so tightly to the idea that I needed to overcome a shortage that I was exhausted and depleted.
In my positive psychology training, I have learned that a scarcity mindset impacts the brain and our ability to problem-solve or cope. It has us looking at life through a lens of “not enough,” and can promote more selfish behaviors and zero-sum thinking.
When a value goes on overdrive, it can step on other values and sometimes even push them completely out of the picture.
It took me some time to realize that my value of “money management/responsibility” had taken complete control and left no space for honoring other values such as generosity, connection, and physical well-being to name a few.
So I set out to lift up those other values that had fallen by the wayside. I started putting extra cash in the collection basket at church; I scheduled a date night for me and my husband to go out; I signed up for a yoga class.
I loosened my grip on the purse strings and suddenly there was space in my life for feelings of ease and resilience. Other needs were being met like feeling seen, being generous and having fun - a much better recipe for living a joyful life.
We are still pretty good at keeping to our monthly budget. We have simply made space for honoring a few more values. My husband has a category for running shoes (value: time alone/outdoors/fitness), and I have one for going out with friends (value: connection/shared experience).
We have more ease and less hand wringing. Even when the car decides it needs new brakes and a new set of tires at the same time.
I’ve come to realize that there’s more than one definition of prosperity.
What is your relationship to money? In what ways is your money helping you live in alignment with your values?
Jessica Curtis is a professional coach who helps people cultivate intention and live from a place of meaning and authenticity. If you think you could benefit from working with Jessica or want to invite her to work with your group, reach out to start a conversation.