One of the funny things about money is that even though it is a lifeless, emotionless medium, it is one of the most effective means to stir up human emotions. Wars have been fought, lives have been lost, relationships have been ruptured all because of money. It’s a powerful force indeed, and the vast majority of its power is in affecting our feelings. How seldom though, do we take time to evaluate just how money pushes those emotional hot buttons. I’d like to do just that today.
Here are four common emotions surrounding money that I’ve thought of and some examples of the crazy ways they affect us:
It makes us sell our investments when they’re down, when we should rather be buying. We pay tons of money for insurance that we don’t even fully understand in the name of security and protection. Our debt piles up, we can’t make the payments, we get the call from the collections agency, and we get paralyzed with fear then end up doing nothing.
We try to keep up with the Joneses. It doesn’t even have to be the kind of envy that turns us green while we look at our neighbors through slitted eyes! It can just be unconscious peer pressure. Birthday parties every week, weddings and showers every other week, everyone’s bringing $100 gifts so I have to fit in! For the fellows, it might be the sense of “not fitting in” when you drive up in your 1991 Honda Civic with fogged up headlights while you’re friends are driving the newest BMWs or SUVs.
We get a huge windfall of money. We see an amazing clearance deal at the store. We win the lottery. Bridal shower! Wedding! Baby shower! Yay, it’s so exciting! Time to go on a shopping spree! Sometimes when we get so excited, something short circuits in our brains and we end up spending a bunch of money we never intended.
This might be the most dangerous one of all. It doesn’t just affect the rich guys who want more and more. Ever seen the carnality of shoppers going through a bin of free stuff? (Or just see the videos of Black Friday!) We may overleverage in our investments, making big bets in risky ideas, or put money into things we don’t understand. Worst of all, greed may even cause us to compromise our integrity in the effort to make a few more bucks. Greed will lead us to do crazy things!
Beating the Feelings
The thing about handling money is that it’s like being a surgeon in an operation. You need to gain mastery over the situation, but you can’t get emotionally attached. The only way to get control of money is with calm, levelheaded, rational thinking. Our money has no attachment for us. It’ll just as soon work for someone else if we aren’t careful. So I believe that one of the most important things to do to gain control of our money, is to gain control of OURSELVES—namely our EMOTIONS. So how do we do that?
- We need a plan. Determine AHEAD of time what we’re going to do. Write it down. Make sure our spouse is onboard, or find someone to hold us accountable. This means living on a budget.
- We need practice. We need to start telling ourselves “NO” before a crisis hits. We need to start making the small adjustments as we work our way up to the larger decisions.
- We need positive peers. Select our friends wisely. They can either boost us up or drag us down. They can either support us in our bid for big changes, or they can be the ones that curl their nose at us for becoming so “stingy” or “classless.”
The ultimate purpose is to change our emotional response patterns. Instead of feeling a sense of thrill after impulsively dropping $50 on a new pair of shoes, we want to reshape our emotions so we get that thrill when we get our credit card debt paid off. Instead of feeling so sorry for ourselves that we don’t have the fancy cars that all of our friends drive, we feel confident because our car is actually paid for. Instead of feeling left out because we can’t afford to go out on expensive outings with our friends, we feel fulfilled that we can find enjoyment and pleasure in inexpensive activities and the simple things of life. It takes time, effort, and determination to change the way we think and feel, but it’s essential if we want to truly gain control over our money.
Emotions and money are two very powerful things. That’s why it’s so important to keep them separate and not allow each to have mastery over the other!
What other money-induced emotions did I miss? How else can we prevent money from ruling our emotions? Share with us in the comments below!