Top 5 Money Lessons from Money School

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Top 5 Money Lessons from Money School

I’ve been focusing on my money behavior for thirteen months now, and writing for 8 Women Dream once a week has really taken me to money school. I guess I’ve accomplished a few things, and also learned some lessons. I thought I’d share my top 5 money lessons so far.

Lesson #1. It’s easier to spend less than to earn more.

This is something Virgo Man said to me for about five years, but I wasn’t ready to hear it. I’ve habitually thought of myself as a person who can always figure out a way to earn more. But that’s because I was habitually pretty much unconscious of money. I earned more because I had to earn more, because I had unconsciously spent more than I had.

It was a do or die kind of thing.

As I’ve gotten less susceptible to spending more than I have, I’ve gotten more clear about what it takes to earn more. Frankly, I’d rather spend less than work more.

Lesson #2. Being conscious of money doesn’t always equal spending less.

When I started down this path thirteen months ago, my goal was pretty simple. I wanted to spend less. As will often happen in the pursuit of a goal, my goal shifted somewhere along the way. Now it’s not so much about spending less. It’s more about spending thoughtfully and consciously instead of impulsively and unconsciously. In fact, I’m probably spending more per unit on quite a number of things, but I’m doing it purposefully.

Less Costco, more local.

And, interestingly, though I may be spending more per unit, I seem to be spending less overall. I’m not spending money on things that don’t matter to me, just because the whim strikes me.

Lesson #3. Underneath every spending impulse, there’s an emotional need I’m trying to express.

Regular readers know my addictions: books, yarn, software. I still struggle to restrain my impulse to spend on all three. That’s because those three addictions are physical representations of deep emotional needs that I now recognize.

Books mean security to me. They give me knowledge, which makes me feel safe. They telegraph my identity as a brainy girl, which makes me feel secure.

Yarn is a symbol of my urge to create things with my hands. When I knit, it’s the polar opposite of when I read – because beneath my fingers, a fabric grows. I can see my progress. I can hold something that I made in my hands; it’s real.  It may not seem practical to spend 40 hours knitting a pair of socks out of $20 worth of wool when I could buy 7 pairs of socks in five minutes at Target for less than that; still, to me, because knitting is concrete, it’s the practical antidote to my reading addiction.

And software is really the most wistful of the three. It’s a wish to be more productive, more efficient, more organized, more professional, more of what I am not, by nature. I am not a linear person, but it sure would be easier if I were. I keep thinking there’s some software out there that will turn me into a less organic (to put it prettily) and more linear me.

Lesson #4. Wherever you go, there you are.

Confucius said that. Also, Shakespeare said all the world’s a stage. I think what they both meant is that we are who we are, no matter what we’re doing. In other words, how I am with money is how I am with friends, with the dog, in a business setting, and even alone with my books, software and yarn. I am, in all aspects of my life, seeking security, craving creative production, and trying to turn myself into a linear, organized person.

I could have picked any aspect of my life to work on, and found the same challenges and opportunities that I experience trying to get right with my money. I do have to wonder, though, if it would have been easier to try to heal my life by, say,  trying to reform my cooking habits.

Haha, just kidding. Sort of.

Lesson #5. I am more than my money issues.

Somewhere along the line I picked up a pernicious belief that my value as a human being was defined by my ability to earn money. When I earn money, I have value. I am worthwhile. I deserve love and appreciation. When I’m not earning money – well, then it’s the opposite.

I am un-valuable, unlovable, undeserving.

It would be hard to overstate the impact this belief has had on my life. The greatest gift of the last thirteen months of focusing on my money behavior is that this belief has come to consciousness and is actually beginning to erode. I will have to learn it over and over again before I finally truly break the back of such faulty thinking; but I no longer have to remind myself daily that I am worth more than my earning capacity.

I’m down to three or four times a week, and that’s a big improvement.

So I thank you, Dreamers, for taking me to money school. I wonder what the next thirteen months will bring?