Recently a friend of mine invited me to an upmarket women’s lunch, a beautiful invitation to a fashion event at a swish hotel. Quite an ‘out of the box’ thing for me to do. It later transpired that i couldn’t go, but that’s another story. The lunch cost $95, even when i was working that was a lot of cash, but it was a one off treat. I caught up with my friend a month later and i gave her $100 to cover the cost. I started to say “keep the change…” but then i stopped. In the intervening time, I had stopped working, so my relationship with money and physical resources had shifted. I gave myself permission to receive the change and be clear with myself about it’s value to me, and no guilt trips for seeming ungenerous.
It’s about perspective. Once $5 was a couple of times daily cup of coffee or some loose change…
Image from www.goodfood.com.au
but now $5 looks more to me like this…
A $5 bargain box from the local fruit shop.
I wanted to start by saying that this post isn’t intended as some lecture from the moral high ground about material resources. It’s a reflection on my journey, some of which may resonate for you. If you are living on a low income, a single mum with three children or another low income circumstance, then I’m telling you nothing new. In fact you’re probably highly conscious of the value of money and a total whiz at making the most of very little and i could learn a lot from you.
The experience above, caused me to pause and reflect on my relationship and attitude during my life to physical resources. To acknowledge the privileges i have in my life and highlight areas or attitudes of lack. Sometimes this has been blind privilege, not just in relation to physical resources, but to other gifts, such as health, personal attributes such as intelligence, motivation, opportunities for education, family and friendships, the capacity to love etc. In fact when i open myself to it, i am so grateful and thankful for these blessings. I sometimes think we’d be such a kinder society if we were not so blind to our own privileges and blessings.
When i stopped work i received a payout. A useful amount that we put straight onto the mortgage. When the payment came into my account, i expected to be filled by joy and relief. It was the celebration of the end of this phase of my life, the culmination of a dream and a handy payout to accompany it. Instead I panicked and was filled with dread. I was struck with the reality that this was the final pay, no more money was coming in from me for the foreseeable future. A friend of mine who’d made a similar leap of faith a couple of years ago, reassured me that this was normal and she experienced the same. So it wasn’t about lacking gratitude, it was my fear of stepping away from a secure income into the unknown. For me money had become a symbol of security, independence and freedom. I now question that. Was I actually a slave to this belief system? Was I compromising my essence to earn the money?
Image from skintdad.co.uk
Since i’ve been working i’ve been reasonably canny with money, bought a house early to minimise paying rent. The hard work and forgone opportunities over the years have set me up with a few more options. This has been a conscious choice. Mostly though, i haven’t had to think too much about money, no clear budget, i have been accustomed to being able to purchase items at will, as there was pay coming in next fortnight. Fortunately my financial aspirations were never too high – no yachts, concord tickets or high fashion items in my wardrobe, but i’ve always had enough to buy a book here, a crystal there, a take out meal out without thinking too much about it.
When i stopped work i worried that i would find it hard to stop spending. To my suprise, it was very easy. The day i stopped work, spending just came to a halt. I realised that i used shopping as a balm to nurture myself and as a reward for the amount of time and energy i was giving to others. Once my time became my own and i stepped into my own self nurturing power, the desire to spend just fell away.
Now i have the time and energy to scour the shops for bargains, to do the research and find the best prices, to keep an eye on ebay, go to garage sales, 2nd hand shops, school fetes, to come back tomorrow or next week when things are on special. I am now consciously aware of what i have, and have the headspace to work out how to be clever with it. The difference between needs and wants is now so much clearer. I now have time to grind the beans and make myself coffee each morning.
Image from eatdrinkandbekerry.blogspot.com
Study after study has shown that money only affects happiness if it makes the difference between surviving or not. Beyond survival, money has no impact on happiness. Once your basic physical needs are met (food, water, shelter, health care, physical safety etc), happiness beyond that is about expectations and attitude.
So abundance and happiness are an internal state of being.
(Although i still laugh at the joke that i might not be happy but i can anchor my yacht next to happiness and have a great view of it! )
Some dear friends of mine are from a pacific island country and i am blessed by their perspective. They grew up on subsistence level living, where having crops for food and a few pigs and chooks was abundance. I learned from them that wealth is not about material resources. A person’s wealth can be measured by their relationships with family, friends and community. My dear friends spend a lot of time, energy and money on sending money back home, nurturing their relationships, taking time to yarn and tell stories, they would literally give the shirt off their back if someone needed it more than them. When my friends go back home, everything they take with them, all their clothing and material possessions are given to their community. They come back with love, memories and beautiful connections that are far more valuable.
Image from www.svquest.com
A couple of years ago when i travelled to the middle east and north Africa with my sister, i was confused that items often didn’t seem have a price on them. “Why?” i asked. The answer i was given was that there is no fixed price, the value of something is how much someone is willing to pay and what the vendor is willing to sell. So the value of something depends on attitude and negotiation, how much it means to the vendor and buyer.
In the last year, when work felt more of a drag and effort, i started to look at the price of items in a new way. Previously i was accustomed to having a pool of cash or credit and just drawing from it if i felt like it. I had disconnected my own work and effort required to bring in that money. The shift happened when i started to calculate the price of items according to my hourly rate of pay. I began to say, that item is 2 or 4 hours work. Is that item worth two hours work to me, or not? This helped me to value my time in a new way.
Today i splashed out and bought a take away cup of coffee, i took the time to savour it, taste it and it felt abundantly luxurious to not have to make it myself. Best coffee i’ve had in ages!
Wishing you a day of peace and abundance!
PS I’d love to hear some of your experiences and perspectives on money.
PPS Just been sent this. A good link to the economics and manufacture of desire.. When i was 19, i studied marketing at University, it was mostly about psychologically manipulating people to spend money on products they may not need. Interesting read!