There are many reasons to start saving money early in life — for travel, for unexpected emergencies, for retirement, or simply so you won’t have to worry about finances so much later on. Many people, however, don’t have the foresight to start putting money away early. According to this infographic, 40% of people under the age of 35 have absolutely no savings.
I’m young. Actually, I’m younger than the age group talked about in this infographic, and I can’t imagine not having a savings account. Maybe it was just the way I was raised, but I’ve been setting aside “emergency funds” since I was eighteen. I wish I could say it’s because I’m saving for retirement, but I’m certainly not thinking that far ahead. In all honesty my saving habits are more driven from fear — of not having enough, of suddenly losing my job, of a family member needing my help and me being incapable to give. This didn’t really become evident to me until recently, when I made a decision to take a closer look at my relationship with money.
Money is a taboo topic. I think many of us (myself included) choose to neglect our finances because money is an uncomfortable topic to think about, because we’ve been taught that having money is greedy and wanting money is desperate. Some of us even fall back on pseudospiritual excuses for ignoring our financial well-being, like “I’d rather just stay in the present” or “the universe will take care of me.” The fact is, if you want that oh-so-coveted “abundance” in your life, you have to work for it.
Regardless of how old you are, everyone has space to grow in creating a more mindful relationship with money. In fact, I think if we approach it intentionally, money can become a spiritual practice in and of itself.
Here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way:
1. Watch your spending habits like you watch your thoughts in meditation.
Notice where you spend without judgment or derision, and consider what your spending habits tell you about your values, desires, and your overall state of mind. Do you spend a lot of money on food, clothes, physical fitness, etc? Create awareness around your relationship with money first, and then if you notice a pattern you’re unhappy with you can look at changing it.
2. Use the tools available to you.
The other day I saw a woman — probably in her mid to late forties — balancing her checkbook at a grocery store. Part of me was little in shock. I hadn’t seen someone balance their checkbook since…. Well, I can’t remember the last time. If you prefer to track your spending that way, all the more power to you. But there are so many tools available to manage money these days, there is no excuse to overdraft or lose track of your bank account. I recommend Mint, a safe and secure smartphone application that automatically tracks and classifies how you’re spending your money. It even generates monthly reports and makes recommendations for how to improve your financial habits.
3. Develop structure around your spending habits.
It doesn’t have to be a full-fledged budget, but create some goals and intentions around what and how you want to spend your money. Perhaps you can commit to spending no more than $50 on clothing in the month of May. Structure helps us feel more secure and grounded in our relationship with money. Note: The structure you’re looking for is a balance between fluidity and rigidity.
4. Make it less about you.
Part of my hang-up around money was that I felt selfish when I had it and desperate when I didn’t. Money, especially when you’re young and don’t have a family to take care of, is very me-focused. When I shifted my perspective to see how my personal financial decisions effected others, everything changed. I wanted to have more money so I could donate to the charities I care about, so I treat my friends for dinner, so I could surprise my sister with an unexpected gift. Money is a medium of exchange, and as a result every action you take around it will undoubtedly effect other people.
5. Realize that you vote with your dollars.
The way we spend our money is a reflection of what we value, and it’s a way of communicating to those in power what we want more of and what we could do without. When you buy from a local farmer’s market and leave the imported pineapples on the shelf, you’re voting for a more sustainable economy. This realization creates a sense of empowerment and responsibility around money. If we put as much thought into our spending habits as we do the presidential elections, I think we would be a much stronger force for political change.
Infographic via Feed the Pig
Each week on the Intent Blog, we feature articles, videos, and images to inspire you to live a healthier, happier, more fulfilling life. This week, our focus is on Financial Wellbeing. If you’ve recently set an intent related to your relationship with money, share it with us in the comment section below. We’ll do our best to support you with interesting content to keep you motivated along the way!