Thursday, September 8, 2016

Overcoming Money Stress

Can I let you in on a little secret? I really hate spending money. I often view money as more of a safety net to get us the necessities of day to day living than a tool to be consumed to gain the luxuries of life (ie. Quilted Northern toilet paper).  When I walk into a store where I am required to make a purchase my blood pressure quickens and I start inventorying every possible (honest) solution that I can think of to allow me to spend as little as possible or, my preference, nothing at all.

A great deal of this comes from the traumatic financial experiences that I had while living in Zimbabwe for two years during one of the worst periods of inflation in recorded history. While I loved my time in Zimbabwe and look back on it with a great deal of fondness, I think that this is one of the leading causes of my Acute Financial Stress (AFS) disorder – real thing that you can learn more about

I know that my fears and anxieties have caused unneeded stress on our marriage as my wife and kids have been asked time and again to forgo activities and products that we can afford so that we can maintain peace at home. After 6 years of marriage I can see why money and Facebook are among the leading strains for marriage.

But, while I still have a long way to go, I can look back and see a vast degree of improvement. Looking at the numbers in my spreadsheets I am often shocked at how little we use to spend while we were in college. While we still live a very consciously frugal lifestyle I can see the amount of lifestyle creep that we’ve allowed into our lives. I would say that over the last 4 years we’ve gone from “Absolutely Absurd” to “Extreme”, how I pray that we never make it to “Spendthrift” status.

This article wasn’t meant to be a confession though. The reason that I started this article was to share with you all one little trick that I have to use sometimes when I feel the anxieties building.

Take Deep Breathes!

When our 5 year old starts to get angry or upset about something we coach him to breathe. Nice big, deep breaths for a few seconds until he can calm down and think rationally before he acts out of emotion. After walking him through the exercise I’ve found myself starting to practice it as well. Sometimes I have to just take a few seconds to breath, tell myself that it’s alright and that we can afford it, or sometimes physically remove myself from the situation and let my wife make the decisions.

While I know that I’ve been doing this for months now, I think that yesterday was the first time that I actually caught myself doing it consciously and realized exactly what I was doing and the effect that it’s had on me. It was in a simply situation, which is part of the reason why it was so noticeable to me. I was on my way up the stairs to grab something from the bedroom and about halfway there I realized that I had just passed the kitchen and noticed that the light was left on, with nobody in there, while the sun was still up. I literally paused on the stairs, turned around, and was about to go back to turn it off because I couldn’t help but see it as a waste of electricity. But then realized that as soon as I grabbed the thing I was going upstairs for I was going to be heading into the kitchen and would be needing the light on anyways. I turned around and stood there for a few more seconds, and realized that I was talking to myself and taking deep breaths. Telling myself that “it’s alright, its 30 seconds of electricity, we can afford it, it’s not even going to be noticeable on the electricity bill, just keep walking, you can do this.”

Sound ridiculous? It is. That’s why I chose this example. Because we can all identify it as insane, scoff about it, and agree that it’s something that wasn’t worth the effort of worrying over. But the truth is that all of us have something like this that drives our financially minded self a little crazy. So whether you also suffer from AFS or not, take a few minutes next time you feel the anxieties starting to take over, breath deep, and remind yourself of the truths that you are forgetting.      

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