Money Can Be The Way We We Act Out Our Wants Or Inadequacies
As we’ve explored previously on our blog, finances are emotional, including the impulse to spend rather than save when getting a big raise, a new job or a bonus. Money recently quoted Tribeca Therapy in an article “The Psychological Trap That Could Quietly Kill Your Retirement” on lifestyle inflation, a term for spending more rather than saving more, which can affect the security of retirement down the road.
Money can be a place where we act out our wants and inadequacies because spending is just so incredibly accessible. With stuff–a bigger house, a new car, a new gadget, fancy clothes, etc., marketers have become so adept at both targeting us with advertising and making it incredibly easy to purchase stuff (and have it show up quickly to our front door). But there is always more to want on the other side of having more. As our director Matt notes in the article, even folks with a significant amount of money express that they “don’t know where it all goes.”
What Can You Do To Resist Overspending And Save More?
At a time when advertisers make a compelling case that spending more will make us feel more fulfilled, what can you do to resist lifestyle inflation? Money writer Alix Langone cites Matt’s suggestion that having a conversation with a friend or partner about “what is essential and what is superfluous to your lifestyle can help you realize when you’re spending too much (and saving too little for retirement in the process).” There are also apps that can be helpful for budgeting.
However, while not in the article itself, making peace with the idea and staying connected to the fact that money, wanting things, spending, and conflicts around money are emotional is a huge first step. While we try to spend our way to happiness, spending can also reflect other things, whether a way of making up for shortcomings, repairing a mistake with our spouse, or fighting (getting back at someone by overspending, for example).
In Financial Therapy, Earning More And Having More Is Fine (Even Good) But It’s Not The Same As Building A More Meaningful Life
In our NYC financial therapy practice, the work is to help patients understand that earning more and having more is fine, perhaps good, but that it simply isn’t the same thing as the hard, complicated, relational work of building a more meaningful life. Purchased stuff might be a part of that, but it can’t be synonymous with it. Once an individual or couple determines that how they’re spending money is in conflict with other goals, such as saving, having a simpler life or having less stuff, the next step is to start with this premise and investigate: Why did we go over our budget this month more than last? What emotional events in our family’s life or my life preceded this? How are they related? Did it work? Did the purchase achieve the desired emotional result? Did it last?