Go On A Money Diet
“Wealth consists not in having possessions but in having few wants.”—Esther De Waal
It is easy to forget in our consumer-based society that money can’t buy happiness. But the latest research indicates that it may be even worse than we thought. According to the New York Times article, “In Pursuit of Affluence at a High Price” by Alfie Kohn, “Not only does having more things prove to be unfulfilling, but people for whom affluence is a priority in life tend to experience an unusual degree of anxiety and depression as well as an lower overall level of wellbeing.” The psychological researchers cited in the article found that “pursuing goals that reflect genuine human needs, like wanting to feel connected to others, turns out to be more psychologically beneficial than spending one’s life trying to impress others or to accumulate trendy clothes, fancy gizmos and the money to keep buying them.” Dr Richard Ryan concludes, “The more we seek satisfactions in material goods, the less we find them there…The satisfaction has a short half-life; it’s very fleeting.” This is a strong case for abandoning extrinsic material goals and instead focusing on developing better relationships and becoming a better human being—the heart of this coaching course. And what’s more, as you identify and fulfill your personal and emotional needs, your desire to spend will decrease. However, as the lure of commercialism is undeniably potent, you may need to take some drastic action to break your buying habit and start discovering the deeper pleasures in life.
One of the fastest ways to break the spending habit is to go on a money diet. For thirty days, stop spending. Make no purchases whatsoever other than the bare essentials like toilet paper, groceries, etc. Hold off on all other purchases. It is okay to make a list of the things you’d like to buy, but during the 30 day period, DO NOT BUY ANYTHING. Go grocery shopping no more than once a week and do not buy that magazine or pack of gum at the checkout. Make sure you have all the essentials on hand before you begin the money diet. If you want to buy gifts for a wedding or birthday coming up, buy them in advance to decrease the temptation of going into the store. Better yet, get creative and give a home-made gift or a gift of your time—the most precious asset you have.
One client tried the money diet and discovered a wealth of creative solutions and resources she had never noticed before right in her own town. Since she couldn’t buy books, she found herself at the library, checking out books, movies and CDs. She couldn’t buy bagels, so she began making breakfast at home and created a pleasant family ritual. Instead of going out for dinner and a movie with her husband, she packed sandwiches and they took long walks and had picnics. They found time to talk about their life and make plans together, which improved their relationship. Going on a money diet helped her get in touch with the simple pleasures of life that are so rich and she saved $500 in one month.
Once you have broken the spending habit, you will discover the joy of saving. Extra money gives you a wonderful sense of security along with the freedom to do what you want – and who wouldn’t want that?
Read the full tip and 100 more in Coach Yourself to Success by Talane Miedaner (McGraw Hill, 2014).