How do you feel about money? Stop for a minute and really think about your relationship with money, which includes your emotions towards money. What are your past experiences with money as a child, do you remember the things your parents did that surround and dealt with money? As a child, I remember that we did not have a lot of money. Looking back, I thoroughly enjoy the fact that we grew up with very little in comparison to a lot of my counter parts. My husband remembers his parents making up for not having a lot of money by gardening and picnics by the river. I remember going to non-profit organizations for clothing, food and Christmas presents. As a child, I never thought much about not having a lot of money. I had clothing and food at school, and plenty of toys. I remember a lot of great things about my childhood that included running around outside to play and fun Easter’s where we would have a fun and creative hunt for our Easter baskets. Sure, there were things that did not go quite right, but I believe a lot of this has set me up to be more empathetic and to know that extending grace is not just a choice, but a way of living.
It is no secret that I suffer with depression. Thankfully, my husband and I are blessed with financial security due to his hard work and dedication as a provider of our home. Soon, I hope to jump into that river and provide the proverbial “bacon” for our family alongside him. Now, why did I mention depression before talking about our financial state? Well, spending money for me has been a way to fill a void and I hate it. I am also working on it, but I hate how money has had a terrible hold over me. Now, I am not talking about money problems that bring one into significant debt, but enough spending issues where I know that my emotional stability was connected to my spending habits. I want to give our children the things that we (my husband and I) did not have a child, and I am willing to spend money on them without necessarily making them earn it in order to give it to them. Our kids attend camp and are in activities that get them out of the house both that cost money and are free. We participate is Boy Scouts, GEMS, Marching Band, 4H Fair activities, Vacation Bible School and go on family vacations on a regular basis. I think there is a psychological underlying factor in how we spend our money and I think that we live through our children’s delight and excitement with their activities and vacations.
Cryder, Lerner, Gross, and Dahl (2008) highlight what they call the “misery-is-not-miserly effect”, which they state is, “the tendency for sadness to carry over from past situations to influence normatively unrelated economic decisions, increasing the amount of money that decision makers give up to receive a commodity” (Cryder, Learner, Gross & Dahl, 2008, p. 525). This makes perfect sense to me because I know that I am attaching past experiences to my current spending habits. Adding on depression does not make things better for me. When I feel empty, I try to fill a void by buying things because “I simply can” even thought I could probably live without that extra trip to Goodwill or the extra things in my grocery cart. What ends up happening when I look at the amount of money, I have spent is a deeper spiral into depression. When my husband adds his thoughts and position on money and we try to talk about setting a budget, I dive deeper into depression. I believe that being a student and stay at home mom for the last few years has made this more difficult for me because I feel like I am not contributing. I know that I have given A LOT of myself over the last few years, but there is still a part of me that wishes to earn a paycheck again especially since I have a student loan that I need to pay off.
I really enjoyed reading and article from the sight, “The Simple Dollar” where Author Holly Johnson interviews Abigail Perry on the connection on depression and frugality. I will high light a few sections from that article and then have a link to the full article below. Perry high lights that even doing the simplest of task can be difficult for those with depression from taking a shower, making a phone call or even eating. The implications for this on money includes the inability to focus on the simplest of money saving and spending tricks. There might be a lot of advice on money and mental health, but the ability to follow through on which tips and tricks are best for each person can be an up-hill battle and I attest to this myself. If I have to write out a check and pay a bill, my depression can make it difficult to follow through with simply writing a check, filling out an envelope and getting it out into the mail. If I can get an automatic payment, I will surely do so. I am better at making sure all the money is in the account than actually writing a check, making a phone call or going online to pay a bill.
When debt comes into consciousness, I feel massively depressed especially since I know that my husband would love to “batten down the hatches” and live off of beans and rice to get ride of debt and I am just not on board with that. I want to learn to be more frugal, and I believe I am finally in that frame of mind now, knowing the connection I have with money, spending and depression is the first step. This is said best within the article I mentioned above, so I will not rewrite such a great bit of advice:
“Advice for people who are depressed but still want to get ahead financially:
“You need to start small,” Perry says. “If you try to take on every frugal hack at once, you’ll burn out quickly. Focus on one area until it feels natural. Then move on to the next one.”
It’s also important to acknowledge your condition – and cut yourself some slack, Perry says. “Remember that even healthy people have trouble sustaining radical change. You’re not healthy, and your approach to frugality (and life) has to take that into account,” she says.
“That brings me to the other key ingredient: forgiveness. Depressives are our own worst critics. We look at ourselves through a funhouse mirror – usually the one that makes us look fat. We’re much more likely to beat ourselves up over failures, which keeps us from wanting to try again. It’s also a huge waste of our already-diminished energy.”
Finally, Perry says to accept mistakes. “Understand that you will make mistakes. If you accept that, you’ll be better equipped to accept ‘good enough.’ You can always improve on your results in the future. For now, it’s about seeing any progress. That will keep you going on the path to frugality.”
Follow the link below for the full article on The Simple Dollar
Give yourself some grace. Being honest with yourself about your own life can be very difficult. I speak from experience. You have to fight through the shame of your poor decisions to move forward and it is okay if you let go of the shame. We all make mistakes in our life and the best thing about this is the ability to learn from our mistakes. Now, think about that question I asked earlier. What is your relationship with money and do you want to change it?