If you are a spender, the thought of saving may make your cringe. If you are a saver, the thought of spending money might actually send you into a state of panic. But spending and saving are both important. So how do we find balance?
Welcome to another Wellness Wednesday. As a Health Psychologist, managing our mental and physical health are important values I hold. Today we address the importance of acting in a way that’s consistent with these values while managing our money.
How Do You ACT?
I am becoming certified in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). I previously wrote about using principles of ACT to Save Money. Today I will be tackling the subject of using ACT principles to help me deal with my avoidance of spending money.
As part of the certification process, we providers are expected to implement the techniques into our own lives. ACT is about:
Accepting (rather than trying to change) our internal experiences (i.e., thoughts, emotions, memories, physical sensations).
Committing to living in a way consistent with one’s values (e.g., being a present mother, reducing my impact on the environment, living a healthy lifestyle).
Taking action (following through).
During our last ACT consultation call, providers were asked about how we have been using ACT in our personal lives. I was embarrassed to admit this example from my own life, but I said it aloud to my group so I may as well be honest about it with you.
Crying Over Spent Money
My family and I started running about a month ago, and we recently signed up for a 5K! Being new to exercise, my husband had no sneakers and I desperately needed workout clothes. We went to the mall to buy my husband a pair of running shoes and I was going to also purchase some sports bras.
But I was worried about the expense. Really worried. Neither of these purchases were in our budget. With having our refrigerator die and needing to rescreen our patio, we have already gone over our budget by nearly $5,000 this year.
This means we may not meet our goal for our Roth IRA contributions this year. With my husband being a stay-at-home dad, this is his only source of retirement.
We bought my husband’s shoes at the mall, but I decided to go to Target and use gift cards for my items.
As I was shopping, I was mindful about my purchases. Since I run 3-4 days a week, I needed two sets of workout clothes. I already had one pair of shorts. So I purchased 2 sports bras, 2 dri-fit shirts, and 1 pair of running shorts.
After using the gift cards, the remaining balance was $53.34. I made the purchase and when I got back into the car I started to cry.
During my ACT call, I realized that the reason I was so upset was because I was “fused” with the thoughts that “I shouldn’t go over my budget” and especially with the thought that “While I owe others money (i.e., mortgage), I should not be spending money on myself”.
I didn’t actually do anything wrong. In fact, I had done everything right. I had committed to running for over a month and was now increasing the frequency of my workouts. My 20-year-old sports bras just weren’t cutting it, and the non-workout shirts I had been using had developed sweat stains. But even if I had made an impulsive purchase, the point was that I am fused with (i.e., stuck on) the thought that I should not spend money on myself.
Running was consistent with my values of living a healthier life, spending quality time with my son, and working out in a way that (other than the clothes) didn’t cost any money or require any fancy equipment.
So, what did I do to become more aware of my internal experiences (e.g., thoughts, emotions) and how they are constantly changing so that I could become “unstuck” or defused from them?
Instead of saying “I shouldn’t spend money,” I told myself “Right now, I am having the thought that I shouldn’t spend money.” This change in wording helped to separate me from my thoughts and remind myself that this was just what was going through my mind at the time.
As a natural saver, spending money on myself does bring me a feeling of discomfort. Yet never spending money on myself is not a workable solution to this discomfort.
Now that I’ve separated myself from my thoughts, would I be willing to experience the discomfort that came with spending money if it means I get to move forward in a valued direction?
Specifically, would I be willing to feel the discomfort that comes with spending and, rather than judging myself or telling myself I am doing something wrong, still be able to buy myself things that move me closer to my values?
I get “buyer’s remorse” after even the smallest purchases. I once returned something that cost less than $2.00!
Usually after feeling the discomfort of making a purchase for myself, even when it’s a planned purchase that I believe will add value to my life, I still find myself standing in line at Customer Service to return it – sometimes before I even leave the store.
This time, I kept my purchases. Partly because my husband immediately took off the tags when I got home so that I couldn’t return them (he knows me too well). But also because this was something that really was going to move me closer to my goals (I am training for a 5K, which is a goal I never even dreamed of setting before this year).
In the past week, I increased my runs to 20 minutes 4 days a week! And I have worn every article of clothing that I purchased multiple times.
Saving and spending money are both important in life. I am learning to accept the fact that spending on myself makes me feel uncomfortable, but that it can also help to reach my goals and move me closer to my values.
Are you willing to experience discomfort if it moves you closer to your values?