Plenty of people seek spiritual enlightenment and consciousness. They go to regular services, read religious books, attend retreats, meditate, and travel to holy places around the globe. Some enterprising seekers even eat, pray and love themselves smack into a lucrative book deal.
Consciousness is a good thing. You might even say it’s the only thing. And guess what? Consciousness extends to how you handle your money.
Taking care of your financial health is as important to your personal growth as is taking care of your physical health. A chaotic financial life reflects a chaotic life, period.
As with any pursuit of consciousness, it’s important to understand your values around money, set out your financial goals, allow your intentions to flow from your values and goals — then act.
So, how do you start to grow your financial consciousness?
1. Know what you spend. OK, I am going to start by suggesting you buy something, which I know is wacky. But you can spend about $29 and get a good, basic computer program like Quicken or Microsoft Money that will help you track your expenses. Online banking is a terrific resource for this — with a click of a button, you download your monthly statements into your program and then take just a few moments to decide which category your spending falls into – voila! – you have a clear picture of your financial health.
2. Analyze your data. Where are you spending your money, and why? Are you spending to support your values and goals, or are you spending because you’re bored? Did you buy that coat because “everyone” is wearing it this year, or because you absolutely love it and have no other coat? Are you planning that vacation because it’s a place you’ve always wanted to show your kids, or because it’s the “hot” spot with the in-crowd? Once you understand all of that, ask yourself: where am I out of balance with my money? Create some financial goals in line with your values, like fully funding your retirement account, or paying off your credit cards, or saving for a vacation, or even having the money to take your mother to dinner once a week. Hey, they’re your values, so support them. Make sure your financial actions support your values and goals, rather than anyone else’s, and you’ll see your financial health improve immediately.
3. Tell yourself (and others) the truth. I know women who hide their purchases from their husbands. I know men who hide their purchases from their wives. But if you take away the reckless thrill of keeping a secret, would you make the purchase in the first place? If you’re motivated by the power and control inherent in keeping someone else in the dark, then, honey, why not do a little work on that? Expanding your consciousness to get a grip on your control issues could be the key to unlocking negative behaviors. Behaviors that don’t help you, or help build a happy partnership.
Telling the truth to yourself and others about money is an integral part of growing your awareness. If you see that you’re routinely $500 a month short and you tend to spend, oh, $495 a month at Target, then perhaps the truth is: We spend too much at Target. Not angry. Not judgmental. Not blaming. Just a fact-based observation. Then what do you do? Why, don’t go to Target when you’re bored, or feel lonely, or need a “little bump.” It’s just like you’re in recovery, my friend, and need to stay away from the places that tempt you.
4. Make a plan. Once you get a clear idea about what you’re spending and why, you can make a plan to spend appropriately. I’m not saying “cut back” because that raises all sorts of shortage and lack notions. Like a dog chasing its tail, living in a feeling of lack or shortage leads to overspending in an attempt to cure the lack. Then you have more lack which you have to spend your way out of. Who wants to go round and round like that? Nope, I’m saying you can develop a plan that allows you to be financially healthy and to spend where you need to, and save where you need to. Design a plan to honor your values and allow you to meet your needs. You may find that when you get in financial balance you “need” differently than you did when you were out of balance.
5. Keep in touch. Review your spending monthly, or quarterly. Notice where your spending is in alignment with your values, intentions and needs. Make adjustments where you need to. Pat yourself on the back when you’ve done well.
When you take care of yourself — aligning your physical health, your emotional health, your spiritual health and your financial health with your values, goals and intentions — you can’t help but live a life full of meaning and joy. Which is what all seekers seek, is it not?