The word “should” is a cruel taskmaster. Should drives us to overcommit, deprive ourselves, break promises, and destroy relationships.
So how can we escape from “should”?
Step One: Accept Reality with Honesty
Being honest with ourselves about the reality in our lives is one of the hardest tasks humans face. When reality is uncomfortable, we look away, challenge it, or fight with it. And “should” is one of our red flags that we are avoiding reality.
I shouldn’t have to tell So-and-So that!
This isn’t how things should have been!
You should be helping me.
That person should know better.
You should know me better by now.
Shouldn’t that be obvious?
The next few blogs will be about areas where we can begin to face reality with courage and honesty. And today, it’s all about the Benjamins!
Our money is an area where it is especially tempting to avoid reality. We all know that we need a written budget. We all know that smart financial management involves interacting with our bank accounts on a weekly basis. Yet how many of us don’t do these basic things? Instead we end up with overdraft charges, late fees, and mushrooming credit card balances.
I recently used some gift money to get a gel polish manicure. I never pay for manicures because normal polish flakes off within days. I had heard that gel wouldn’t come off, so when I had some fun money to spend, I got one. It was amazing. I was very pleased with the results. After two weeks, I had to go back to the salon because my nails were growing so fast that there was a big gap between my polish and my cuticles. I found out that it would be $10 to remove the polish, or $20 to redo all the nails. I spent $20 and got the nails redone. And then I sat down and looked at reality.
I had found a way to get gorgeous looking manicured nails, something I had never thought would be a possibility for me. And $20 seemed like a very reasonable price. But to maintain, I would need to spend $20 frequently. Conservatively, I would have to spend $20 every 3 weeks, or at least 17 times a year. That adds up to $340 annually, just for pretty fingernails.
Now, in the scheme of things, $340 is not a huge sum of money. But for me, it was too much. I like to go to coffee shops, and $340 is a lot of coffee shop snacks and drinks. I like to garden, and $340 is flowers and bulbs for a year or two. I love Stitch Fix, and $340 is two or more Fixes (I get four a year). So when I looked at reality, I decided that gel manicures are not worth the money to me.
Notice what I didn’t do when I faced my financial reality.
I didn’t criticize myself for considering spending money on a purely cosmetic activity. I didn’t pass a value judgment on the people who do choose to spend money on manicures. I didn’t beat myself up for not earning more money so I could afford to get manicures on a regular basis. I didn’t get frustrated that my money is limited and I have to make choices about how to allocate it. Any of those actions would simply be resisting reality.
Now, it’s OK to have feelings about reality. Sure, there’s a part of me that is a little disappointed in my choice. A part of me would really enjoy spending $340-$400 a year to have beautiful fingernails. A part of me has always been disappointed that when I paint my own nails, the polish flakes off immediately. So I accepted my emotions. Then I considered whether I wanted pretty nails more than a pretty garden, or pretty clothes, or cups and cups of hot tea in coffee shops. I decided the nails were a lower priority.
Are you ready to face reality and escape the tyranny of should?
Here are some actions you can take to be honest about your money reality.
1. Log into your bank account and credit card account daily. Don’t just check the balances: read through the charges.
2. Sign up for an online financial management service. I love Mint, because you can link all your financial accounts up and get your whole financial picture at a glance. There are a lot of services out there, but if you don’t want to bother doing research, just go to Mint.
3. Lock away your credit card and use cash for everything for 2 weeks. Paying with cash has a different impact on your brain, and there’s nothing more real than looking in your wallet and only seeing a five dollar bill when you thought you had a twenty!
Want to get a more customized plan? Schedule a Breath of Fresh Air with me and we’ll do just that! You’ll get one free hour of coaching and be empowered to face your money reality!