Year Two, Skill #13: Live Within Your Means

Money, sex, religion, and politics. Apparently these are the four most difficult topics to talk about. In my own marriage, in my client’s marriages, and in my relationships with family, friends, and neighbors, I think money might be the #1 thing on people’s “I don’t want to talk about it” list. Why is this?

moneyMoney represents many things. It can be a symbol of status, power, freedom, sensibilities, and generosity. It can buy recreational activities, cultural activities, and sometimes it can even buy friends. Or relationships. So when we talk about money, there are usually some deep-seated feelings present. “I deserve this. I want this. I need this. I am tired of being broke. This will change my life. This will make me happy.” Money is closely tied to survival needs, and so at our core, we all have issues around money.

I was sent an article a few years ago by a friend who has always struggled with money. I can’t find what she sent me, but in essence it said that there might actually be a “money gene”.  She said I had it (the money gene) and she didn’t. Apparently some people are good with money because they have the genetic disposition to be and some people just are not lucky that way. I don’t know if this is true or not, but the basic idea is that money management comes easier to some than to others. That I think we could all agree on. Even if you don’t have the money gene, learning to manage money and live within your means is an important life skill.

Money is closely tied to survival needs, and so at our core, we all have issues around money.

Back in the days before credit cards were popular, my parents didn’t buy anything unless they had saved up for it. There was no such thing as buying something on credit and paying it off. So when our dishwasher was broken for over a year, I had this conversation with my dad as he was washing and I was drying the dinner dishes for the six of us who made up our family.

Me: Dad, why can’t we get a new dishwasher. It seems like it’s been broken for a long time.

Dad: Oh, we can get a new dishwasher, Honey.

Me: Yay! I am getting sick of washing and drying dishes every night.

Dad: Well, your mother and I will go right out and get one this weekend. That will mean that you cannot go to gymnastics camp or church camp. And your piano lessons might have to stop, too.

Me: WHAAT???? I have to go to gymnastics camp or I won’t qualify for the varsity team next year.

Dad: I guess you’ll be washing and drying dishes for a few more months, then.

Life lessons come at teachable moments. Not only was this a lesson in living within one’s means, it was a life lesson in priority setting and sacrificial parenting. For the most part, my parent’s lived within their means and taught me to do the same. Of course credit cards and payment plans have changed the way most of us manage money, and all of that has to be figured out by families and individuals. But in general, the choice to not spend more than one has is a good rule of thumb.

Life lessons come at teachable moments. Click To Tweet

My favorite book about money is Brent Kessler’s It’s Not About The MoneyKessler says he is a financial planner by day and a yogi by dawn. It was his yoga and meditation practice of decades that helped him learn to truly help others financially. Why? Because he got in touch with the concept of THE WANTING MIND. We all have it. It comes from our biological need for survival, and it is alwaysIt's Not About The Money wanting. It is always craving an experience different from the one it currently has. The Wanting Mind is always future focused, never paying attention to what is. It insists that things need to change in order to be happy. And the wanting mind doesn’t care if you have millions of dollars or not enough dollars. It still wants. And it is, by its very nature, addictive. The more it wants, the more it wants. If your Wanting Mind is in control, you will never learn to live within your means. We must learn not to take the Wanting Mind personally. We must learn to understand it for what it is: an often powerful temporary state of mind that is likely to dissipate if we do not indulge it. It is not usually our hearts truest desire or our deepest values.

If your Wanting Mind is in control, you will never learn to live within your means.

Because many of us don’t learn to tame the Wanting Mind, and we don’t learn the difference between the Wantinostrichg Mind and our heart’s truest desires, many of us get in trouble with debt. Being over your head in debt can be a devastating way to live, and so many people are trying to climb their way out of a hole of debt. Many twenty-somethings are swimming in student debt without a commensurate salary to match. Others have thousands of dollars in credit card debt and have no idea what they actually purchased with all those thousands of dollars.  A little here. A little there. How did I get in this mess? And then comes the avoidance of the problem. It seems so big, so overwhelming, so unmanageable that it is easier to just stick one’s head in the sand and pretend that we are not in trouble. As with any thing you avoid, it just comes back at you harder and faster.

Kessler makes a key point. You and I can never change our financial situation by changing our external circumstances. First, we have to change our inner world. We have to get in touch with our wanting mind, with our deepest desires, with our habitual ways of interacting with money, with core beliefs about money and erroneous beliefs about money. If you are having trouble living within your means, I suggest the book and this inner work to you.

We all have a relationship with money. And like any relationship, it requires attention, focus, tune-ups, and understanding. Don’t let your Wanting Mind get the best of you. Life is messy enough, so live within your means, paying attention to what is already marvelous.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.