One Phrase I’ve Stopped Using When It Comes to Money

Do you ever feel like no matter how much money you have, it just isn’t enough?

You try to tell yourself it is enough (after all, you should be thankful for what you have, right?) but maybe you’re struggling to pay your bills or you have dreams and aspirations which seem unattainable at your current income.

No matter how many “you’re blessed” pep talks you give yourself, it doesn’t eliminate the frustration of limited finances.

I get this. I didn’t grow up with a ton of money.

I mean, it’s all relative I suppose. I always had what I needed. I had more than some and less than others. But we didn’t shop at the fanciest stores. We didn’t eat out much. We didn’t drive brand new cars.

When people talked about buying things or going on nice vacations or spending money on experiences, just the thought of it would give me anxiety.

The things I wanted always felt a bit out of my financial reach.

That is, until recently.

To be honest, my financial situation hasn’t changed that dramatically. I do make more money now than I did when I was in college or graduate school (obviously). Plus, I’m married and we don’t have kids yet, so with two incomes, we have a little wiggle room in our financial life we didn’t have before.

At the same time, I’m still in a little bit of debt from graduate school and we have bills and obligations, like anyone.

We still don’t drive fancy cars. We probably eat out too much. But I look for coupons and sales. For the most part, we are pretty conscious about where our money goes.

There are still several things we desire to do for which money seems like an obstacle.

That said, something really specific has changed about my financial life—and that’s the way I talk about money.

Talking about money differently has significantly reduced the anxiety I feel around money, it has given me the freedom to spend money on the things that matter most to me and in a really weird way it feels like it has expanded the money I do have to make it more valuable.

I know that seems impossible, but stay with me.

There is one particular phrase I’ve stopped using when it comes to money.

The phrase goes like this: “I can’t afford that” (or “it’s too expensive”)

It’s not that this phrase is never true in its own right. But learning to reframe the statement has helped me reframe the way I think about money—to stop thinking about it as a scarce resource, only available to certain people, and to begin thinking about it as a renewable resource that follows certain laws of nature.

So, for example, I really wanted to go to Italy for our anniversary this year. It’s obviously not a necessity, but we never went on a big honeymoon and it’s always been a dream of mine. I checked airline tickets and they’re around $1200 each.

To us, that’s pretty significant.

But rather than saying, “It’s so expensive!” or “We can’t afford it!” I’m saying, “it’s not our number one priority right now. Maybe next year.”

This simple change takes the responsibility off of my outside circumstances and puts it onto me for my financial choices.

It allows me to be the one who controls my money, rather than the other way around.

This might seem like a small deal, but I don’t think it is.

The more I pay attention to the people I know who talk about money this way—as a renewable resource that is not fixed in space and time, but as a resource we can train and use to our advantage—the more I believe this is a key to being content with your financial circumstances, no matter what they are.

I find this simple shift to be helpful whether I’m talking about a trip to Italy or whether I’m talking about my next light bill or rent payment.

As Marie Forleo says, “Not enough is a spiritual state, not a financial one.”

I’m curious. What phrases do you need to stop using when it comes to money? What are your strategies for being content with what you have, rather than constantly hoping for more?

When Life Gets Hard, Have More Fun

Some seasons in life are just more difficult than others. Period.

Maybe it’s because of a project you’ve taken on, maybe you’ve lost a loved one, maybe you’re worried about money or you ended a relationship or you’re in a relationship that is taking a ton of your energy.

It’s inevitable. There’s no escaping it. Some seasons are just plain hard.

Something that occurred to me recently, though, was how often I make life so much harder than it needs to be. It’s not that hard things aren’t hard. They are. There’s no denying how a jam-packed full schedule or a loss of relationship or the sense you don’t have control over your surroundings can leave you anxious and frustrated.

But I’m noticing lately how often my own response to those difficulties is to hunker down, so to speak, to grin and bear it until the season is over.

It’s like a kid on a roller coaster who closes his eyes and buries his head in his fear-crossed arms on the “scary” parts. His attempt to protect himself from the circumstance doesn’t actually save him. It just blocks his view.

Lately I had an epiphany about this. I had to start asking myself:

What if I’m missing my life because of this tendency?

What if my response to difficult circumstances is making it even harder than it needs to be?

When the steep hills come, when things seem to flip upside down, when I realize there’s no way to get off this “ride”, what if closing my eyes doesn’t protect me? What if it actually just blocks my view—from the bad and the good?

What if a better response would be to have more fun?

I love the image of the roller coaster because the picture that comes to mind is of a little kid who decides to stop being scared of the ride. He realizes he’s on it already, anyway. There’s nothing he can do about that.

So he might as well enjoy it. Right?

Instead of closing his eyes, he opens them. Instead of crossing his arms and burring his head, he looks up and lets go of the handle bar. He lets the wind blow through his hair. He smiles. He’s having fun.

His circumstances haven’t changed. Only his attitude has.

What would happen if we changed our attitudes when we couldn’t change our circumstances?

Maybe we’d feel the wind on our face and through our hair.

Maybe we would smile instead of hunkering down, afraid.

While we can’t choose our circumstances, we can choose our response to them.

We can choose not to take ourselves too seriously—to laugh at our biggest mistakes.We can choose not to let stress get the best of us. When we’re up to our knees in paperwork, we can make a game out of it. When we’re stressed about finances, we have gratitude for beans and rice the same way would would for an expensive steak.

We can choose to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel (rather than the dark tunnel itself).

Maybe, if we do this, we’ll start enjoying this crazy ride—rather than burying our faces and waiting for the day we’ll be able to get off.

Act In Spite of Your Fear, Not Out Of It

Fear is inevitable. We all have it. There’s no getting rid of it. But have you ever noticed how fear has a way of making us act totally crazy, irrational and illogical?

So yeah. That’s fun.

Recently I’ve been paying attention to the role fear plays in my life and asking myself how I can admit the reality of my own fear without letting it sabotage me. Here’s what I’m learning.

The best way to deal with fear is act in spite of my fear, without acting out of it.

Here’s what I mean by that.

Recently my husband and I have been thinking about taking on a project that is a little bit out of our comfort zone. Actually, that’s an understatement. This project feels like a huge leap. Think of the last time you did something and thought to yourself, “if this works out, it will be a miracle.” Now you can relate.

fear

We’ve taken a few cautions steps forward, testing the waters so to speak, to see if the doors will open.

The doors have opened in front of us, and I’ve felt the familiar breeze of fear rush in.

This project is huge. It’s going to take us years. It’s going to consume all of our energy and our money and our time. I’m afraid it’s going to put a strain on our marriage. I’m afraid we’re going to run out of money and not be able to finish.

I’m afraid I don’t have what it takes—that I’m not strong enough to carry it to completion.

When I act out of my fears, I find myself racing around to make things happen for us.

I work harder and faster so I can make as much money as possible. I turbo-charge my work day. I go over the top—creating all kinds of rigid boundaries and rules to make sure our marriage is protected.

Ultimately, at the end of the day, I’m exhausting both of us. I’m spinning my wheels and wasting energy. I’m putting a strain on our relationship before we even get started. I’m exhausted and we haven’t even started the project.

My efforts are doing the opposite of what I want them to do.

My fear is growing and growing and taking over my life.

On the other hand, I’m learning what it looks like to act in spite of my fear.

Acting in spite of my fear requires acknowledging how scared I am, but not trying to do anything about it. I don’t try to fight the fear or will it to go away. I don’t try to work harder or faster to beat the fear. I know I’ll lose at that game.

Instead, I think about myself as a casual observer to my fear. I observe it the way I would observe the date on a calendar or the time of day.

There is nothing I can do to change it, to make it go away.

It is not in my control. It is not good or bad. It just is.

From that perspective, suddenly, I can hear what my fear is telling me—and this is the most valuable information.

  • It’s telling me about my priorities—that no matter what “projects” I take on in life, my marriage is an ongoing project that is most important.
  • It’s telling me about my insecurities—I often underestimate my own natural strength and ability to face life’s challenges.
  • It’s telling me I’m expecting too much of myself—I don’t have total control over everything, so I can’t be in charge of the outcomes of my life. All I can do is make the best decisions I know how and trust that a power greater than me is at work, even in my failure.

With that information, my fear is still present.

But now, it doesn’t feel so threatening to me anymore. In fact, it feels like a friendly force, reminding me what matters and helping me move toward what I actually want.

I don’t have to control all the details, pick up my pace or turbo-charge my day.

This whole thing doesn’t depend on me.

My marriage doesn’t need a bunch of rigid boundaries and rules to make it work. It just needs an honest, vulnerable, real version of me—where I admit my insecurities and talk about what’s important to me and commit to sticking it out, even when things get hard.

As for the project, who knows if we’ll get to do it. That part is out of our hands. We’ve taken the risk, put ourselves on the line, taken the right steps, done everything we know how to do. And all we can do is all we can do, you know?

The rest isn’t up to us.