I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t mindfulness a meditation practice? Sitting in the lotus position by the ocean sounds nice and all, but how will it help with my finances?
Mindfulness is simply this: paying attention. For example, one mindfulness practice for the body involves paying attention to sensations in each body part and then relaxing that body part. This may reveal that you unconsciously tense your shoulders. You realize, ah, so that’s where that annoying pain comes from.
Mindfulness for financial health is not so different. It involves paying attention to each part of your financial life. In doing so, it reveals your financial behavior, what drives that behavior and ways you can change that behavior to achieve your deepest desires.
This is crucial because so many of your financial habits are just that – habits, patterns and decisions made on autopilot. These mindfulness practices can help you chart a conscious course toward financial freedom.
Seek to understand your thoughts about money
Begin by paying attention to your thoughts about money. What messaging about money have you absorbed from your family? Your friends? Your culture? How does this affect your spending habits? What are your triggers?
Perhaps your friends use retail therapy to deal with life’s challenges. When you are upset, do you join in their shopping exploits? Is this helping you meet your financial goals? How can you carve out your own path?
By reflecting on your financial habits you can make intentional decisions to change the behaviors that are hurting your financial health.
Be honest with yourself
Face your finances head on. Understand where you are today by looking at the big picture. Write down the following: your total income, expenses, savings, investments and debt. Are you regularly spending more than you make? Are your savings and investments where you need them to be?
From there, drill down. For example, look at your expenses for the past few months and highlight every unnecessary purchase. What does this tell you about what spending habits need to change?
There are so many benefits of becoming grounded in an understanding of your true financial situation. It eliminates guesswork, uncertainty and anxiety. Now you know exactly where you stand. It reveals your spending habits. It’s easy to justify buying lunch once, but when you see how it adds up you’ll begin to think twice. Equipped with this knowledge you can take concrete steps toward making smarter financial decisions.
Practice financial consciousness
Create a small, daily habit of turning your attention to your finances. Online tools like Mint.com give you a financial snapshot every time you log in. Commit to spending five minutes a day looking at that snapshot so you become familiar with your financial state and so you notice how those figures shift over time. Give thanks for what you have, acknowledge what needs to change and remind yourself that you have the power to take control of your financial life.
Align your spending with your deepest desires
It’s easy to fall into spending ruts. Perhaps you habitually buy coffee and a donut every morning. Stop and ask yourself:
Why do you do this?
Does it add value to your life?
Does the joy of the purchase last?
Is there a healthier, less expensive alternative?
Could this money be redirected toward fulfilling your deepest desires?
By asking these questions, you may realize that your morning coffee and donut routine gives you the jolt you need to start your day. But there are healthier alternatives, like going to sleep earlier and exercising in the morning to get your blood flowing. Not only do these alternatives add to your life, they save money. For example, if you spend $4 on coffee and $1 on a donut every work day, by the end of the year that adds up to approximately $1200. Cut that expense and you’ve got funds for a vacation or a boost in your investments.
Plus, the joy of that morning purchase may last only a few minutes, while the money you save could go toward something deeply fulfilling. Ask yourself, what brings you joy? You can use these savings to finally take those guitar lessons you’ve always wanted. Maybe you dream of starting a yearly camping tradition with your kids; these savings can go toward purchasing camp gear.
When you tune into your finances and align your decisions with your deepest desires, the possibilities for fulfilling your greatest hopes are endless.
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