I realized recently that although I talk with my friends about most everything, we very rarely delve into the nitty-gritty of money. We converse in the abstract—discussing student loans, diving headfirst into the broke twenty-something life—but we don't sit down and go over personal finances. Maybe, just maybe, this is because none of my friends are accountants, but I also think it's because a lot of us are really misinformed about finance (for way more reasons than I can squeeze into this short and sweet meditation on money).
Last summer, I worked four jobs, careening between hands-on work at a farm and social media strategizing for a documentary on seed biodiversity. I barely broke even and needed help from my parents. I found myself so tight about money, so fearful that I had just graduated and was already messing up, that I acted in ways that were ungenerous. My reptilian mind most definitely reared its head. A year later, I still feel so much shame that I didn't do better. I know I learned a vital lesson (one I am still learning) but it embarrasses me that I've had moments in my life when money—this capitalist marker of success—has contorted my actions.
We have all fallen prey to this pernicious mentality at some point. And we all deserve forgiveness for not always knowing exactly how to live both within and outside of the linear economy that we were born into. We're just imperfect and lovable and learning human beans trying to trellis, you know?
More and more, I'm getting better at recognizing when that scarcity mentality bubbles to the surface. I am, at my core, a generous and compassionate person. When I don't act that way, I feel the fissures.
That, and everything finds a way to work itself out. After last summer, I briefly moved back home to work in events for a local farm. I found a job that gave me the opportunity to save up a little, won an award that provided me access to an incredible network of environmental activists, and was able to get paid for my writing (!) All these things that I worried might never happen did happen. My fear that I would never find work and fail at being a functional person didn't come to fruition. We have to give life time to transpire.
Even though I lost my primary source of income a couple of weeks ago, I'm lucky enough to have side jobs that both nurture my soul and keep the cost of food covered. I'm lucky, too, to be able to trust from experience that these lulls are part of the process. As hard as it is to remember during my freak-out moments, it will all be okay. I don't need to punish myself for not having a full-time job. I don't need to hoard my earnings. I can share because sharing makes me feel good. I can donate because donating enriches my present. So long as I am mindful, considerate, and reflective, I trust I'll thrive.
Below, three tips that have helped me relax a little around money. The more we're honest about where we're at, the better we're able to save and to spend in a ways that help us stay true to who we are and how we want to be.
APPROACH FROM A PERSPECTIVE OF ABUNDANCE
This doesn't mean you should blow $150 on a cashmere bodysuit (but birthday hint). An abundant mindset isn't the same as profligacy. Approaching from a perspective of abundance means managing money with generosity of spirit and calmness of mind. Have you ever found yourself needlessly stockpiling something because you're worried it will run out? When we buy out of anxiety, when we hoard our paycheck out of fear, we turn money into something that controls us. We might find ourselves spending way more than we want or treating a friend ungenerously or being so tight with our paycheck that we don't eat enough (this is how my mother developed anemia in her twenties!) An abundant mindset helps us learn to let things follow their natural course. It nurtures our ability to trust in ourselves and our work. And it's really healing. I've found that when I approach the world from a place of abundance, the conditions for good multiply.
DEFINE YOUR PRIORITIES
Food, travel, and supporting artists & activists who I want to see thrive is where most of my money goes. I don't want to forsake shared suppers with people I love or outdoor adventures because these experiences brighten my world. I could choose to sit in my room all day and not spend a dime but that would be (1) super sad and (2) no way to savor this wondrous life.
You'll know where you want to spend your money when it feels good. I know that for myself, I never regret buying pricier vegetables from the farmers' market because I consider it a vote for the sustainable future and soil-driven cuisine that I want. But I sure have buyers' remorse splurging on a nice dress. Notice what makes you happy and follow that.
I'm still learning A LOT about personal finances. It makes me feel like a badass woman, however, when I take active steps to educate myself on cultivating a healthier, holistic relationship to money. That means asking questions—as well as sharing my confusion and uncertainty.
We've inherited this capitalist system. But we can find ways to thrive within and outside of the mold by exploring new ways to relate to money. Let's get the conversation going, loves!