The word “mindfulness” is everywhere these days. It’s being used in meditation, in the classroom, and in the workplace. However, it’s more than a buzzword. Mindfulness is a process of purposefully bringing your attention to what is happening in the present moment. Its benefits include lowering stress, protecting against depression and anxiety, and even helping to cope better with social isolation – something we all can relate to right now. Practicing the skill of mindfulness can have real benefits when it comes to your finances. It can help with everything from reducing impulse spending to saving for a long-term goal you want to achieve.
Here are 6 ways to be more mindful with your money:
1. Ask “Why am I buying this?”
Mindful spending is about feeling good about what you choose to spend your money on. One question to ask yourself before you make a purchase – whether it’s a latte or an expensive pair of shoes – is: “Why am I buying this?” Impulse shopping is easy to do, like adding an extra item before you check out online or throwing groceries you don’t really need into your cart. Before you do, take stock and ask yourself whether this purchase is something that will make me happy? A further question to ask is: “Will I value this purchase later?” While you are more likely to be “yes” on that pair of shoes, will you feel the same on takeout? Lastly, if you’re buying for a family member, ask yourself: “Is this something they want or will actually use?” If you’re uncertain answering any of these questions, give yourself a 24-hour cooling-off period before you part with your cash – especially on big-ticket purchases.
2. Be aware of how you feel
Tracking your money is about more than an Excel spreadsheet. It’s also about bringing awareness to how you feel. Begin to pay attention to what’s motivating you to make a purchase – what is it you hope to feel? Be honest: is it you think wearing a designer label makes you feel more glamorous? Or if you purchase organic food for your family, it shows you’re a good parent? Take note if, at the time of handing over your hard-earned money, you feel anxiety or dread at the thought of receiving your credit card bill. These are clues that your spending may not align with your financial goals.
3. Is this a “want” or a “need”?
Tied into bringing awareness to why you are making any purchase is to stop and ask: “Is this a want, or is it a need?” Understanding the difference, and giving yourself an honest answer, helps you make a conscious decision about your spending. While it’s okay to spend our money on wants, with the current economic climate, many of us are delaying “wants” to help keep within a budget. Buying too many items you want, but don’t actually need, could mean making purchases you may soon regret.
4. Don’t compare yourself to others
Another trap many of us all into is the idea of keeping up with the Joneses. At least from the outside, it’s easy to assume we know another person’s money story. But that house they own could have been bankrolled by parents, or their thriftiness means they have a healthy bank account, not that they’re broke. If you’re spending on something because you think you “should”, that might be a clue to pause and reflect why. Pay attention to what it is you value and not what other people, especially those close to us, spend their money on. Everyone values different things in their life, and that’s just as it should be. Focus on what matters to you. End of story.
5. Treat money as a tool
Mindfulness means being present without judgment. That presence can be a more peaceful one when we realize our money is simply a tool. This is something that may take practice. Many of us absorb the belief that either money itself is the ultimate goal (“I need to save more money”) or that having money is somehow wrong. Reframing money as a tool to achieve your needs (and wants) helps take the emotional charge out of feeling bad about spending or hopelessness over your bank balance. It puts you back in the driver’s seat and becomes a means of living the life you want.
6. Appreciate what you already have
Mindfulness and gratitude go hand-in-hand. As well as bringing more mindfulness to your spending, take time to feel grateful for what you already have. Before you decide to restock your summer wardrobe, take stock of the clothes you already have. Go one step further and assess your possessions. Are there books you’ve never read, games you haven’t played in years, or a pantry full of food you can transform into mouth watering meals with a little inspiration? Appreciate the things you own. Studies have shown that gratitude can also lead to more patience and self-control – meaning you’re more likely to close the tab on that Amazon order for items you likely don’t need anyway.
Finally, mindfulness isn’t something you’ll achieve overnight. Be patient with yourself. Ultimately, mindfulness can help you be a smarter shopper, feel better about your purchases, and keep more of your hard-earned cash in your bank account.
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No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by RBC Ampli Inc. or its affiliates. This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change.