Money is essential to living but not to happiness. This is the statement of people who have money – not those who are scraping enough pennies together to feed them self or their children.
Underneath it all, the statement is true. Money can’t buy happiness. But there is a flip side to that coin – you need money to put food in your belly. Most people find it very stressful when they aren’t sure where their next meal is coming from.
There are many truths about money and your finances. There are the functional rules that help you pay your taxes, pay your bills and save money for your vacations and your future.
Then there are the truths about how much you spend your money and where you spend it. If you look at your credit card bill or your checking account you’ll see exactly where your heart lies. Whatever you spend the most amount of your money on – minus rent/mortgage, food and utilities – is what owns your heart.
There are the truths about your goals to make more, spend more or save more money. Some people are savers for a rainy day and others want to live life to the fullest today and believe tomorrow will take care of itself.
I think there is one truth about money that makes the most difference to you and your family. This is the truth that helps you make and keep your money, stabilize your family’s financial future and enjoy the money you make.
What is that truth?
The truth is that we all have a blueprint through which we live our lives. T. Harv Ekker calls it your money blueprint. It’s a belief about money that runs so deeply through your life that you aren’t even aware that it exists.
You have a blueprint that defines how you feel about saving money, spending money and investing money. When you’re out shopping and you find a great dress 30 percent off on the rack, looks great on you but you don’t need it right now. . . what do you do?
Do you pick it up and justify the purchase by saying you’ll need it soon and you’re saving money in the purchase?
Do you buy it without thinking about what’s in your checking account or how much is on your credit cards?
Do you buy it even though you know you’re overdrawn and may not be able to pay the electric bill this month?
Do you put it down, take a picture and determine to save the money to buy it when you can afford it?
Each of those statements say something about the money blueprint you have. They say something about who you are, how you spend and save money – all of which you must know in order to make a difference in your financial future.
If your first response is to buy the dress without considering how much debt you’re already carrying, this is a blueprint you have to change in order to experience a difference in your finances.
But, changing that blueprint is a real challenge. This is something so ingrained in your psyche that you aren’t even aware of it most of the time. It was built by the beliefs and stories your mom and dad told you as you were growing up.
I remember as a child one of my dad’s expressions was “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” It was a fairly common expression from a man who grew up during the Great Depression. It was an expression that dictated the clothes we bought, the cars we used and the way we vacationed.
I had a smart mouth and often retorted that yes, money essentially did grow on trees because paper was made from tree pulp. Would you want me as your daughter?
I never felt as though we didn’t have money, but looking back I realized from the perspective of an adult, that my parents struggled. My mom pinched pennies all year long so we could drive somewhere on vacation each summer.
My dad worked long hard hours to put food on the table, pay the mortgage and make sure his family was clothed. We had two cars that ran. But, many of our vacations were spent staying with family, our clothes came from K-Mart and we didn’t eat out too often.
It was a good childhood. My parents loved me. My sister loved me and I was happy. It didn’t take money to make me happy, but the things my parents said developed a blueprint in my head that’s taken years to overcome.
For a long time I spent nothing. I saved every penny that I made that didn’t get spent on rent, food and utilities. Every once in a while I would treat myself to something new, but I never went on vacation before I was married.
My ex-husband had a completely different blueprint. Although he grew up in similar circumstances, he liked to spend. There were several fights about that. Unfortunately, many times he won and when we divorced we split a mountain of debt.
Another way my blueprint affected my life was in my business. For years I couldn’t make enough to make ends meet and that debt continued to grow.
However, once I identified my issues with making money (also tied to my inability to value my skills and knowledge for what they are worth), my business began growing.
Before your finances will change, you have to identify your own money blueprint, write yourself a new one and stick to it. Falling back into old habits is easy to do and not productive. On the other hand, developing new habits can be challenging but very rewarding.
If you aren’t sure where to start, begin by writing down all the expressions you heard growing up that had something to do with money, how your parents spent and saved money, your own history of spending and saving and most importantly, your current financial situation.
You may not see your own habits clearly, but you should be able to see your bank balance and credit card balances clearly. Ask your family how they see you and about their own habits. See how things match up with what you think about yourself.
Whether you are struggling to make ends meet or have enough to support yourself and the family next door, you can always improve your blueprint so you enjoy more out of your life and stress less.