One of the everyday choices I have to make as a mother is how to spend money. Do I spend a bit more to buy organic food? Should I buy the kids more expensive shoes in the hopes that they will last longer? Do I have enough extra this month to get a haircut?
I never realised how entrenched these decisions would be within my daily routine, and how much anxiety and guilt they would sometimes induce. Without much effort I second guess myself and wonder if I should have spent the money on the other product which was so similar but had a few different features, or if I should have bought something else entirely…
The choices and weighing them up is never-ending!
Over time I noticed the guilt over money was causing unnecessary anxiety in my life, so I decided to examine what I really believed about money and how I could feel better about my choices. Here I’m going to share some of my reflections. If you have similar struggles, I hope they might bring you some peace and clarity on the subject as well!
Examining the concept of money
When you think of “money” what comes to your mind?
- Do you see it as something you will never have enough of, something that only wealthy people have?
- Do you feel confident that you have enough of it?
- Do you automatically feel stressed that you need more, and start to wonder how you are going to get it?
At first the topic of “money” may seem like a fairly simple and concrete subject. Upon examining my inner feelings and reflecting on my practices surrounding it, however, I found it to be much more complicated than I originally thought.
At best, one can have a realistic expectation of what money does in your life and feel confident with your financial situation.
At worst, you may find inconsistencies in your beliefs about money and your habitual use of it, and it can be a constant source of stress and worry.
Money is a tool
I have come to the conclusion that money is a tool for living – it is not “good” or “bad.” It offers people a method to exchange goods and services with others.
We need money so that we can live a life of peace and security. Having money does not equate to happiness, worth, nor a life of extravagance. You will see some people living a life of excess when they in reality have a very limited amount of income. You will see other people living a frugal life when they actually have a lot of money put away in the bank. And you will see people of all financial situations – some happy, some not.
Thinking of money as a tool, instead of a key to success or happiness, makes it feel a lot more manageable.
How you spend money is a reflection of your values
So using money as a tool, we can then start the process of budgeting. Now each person has choices to make regarding what to spend it on.
Spending money should ideally reflect their values in life. For example, after spending money on food and necessary expenses for their family:
- One person may spend all the rest on fun excursions and vacations.
- Another person may pay off a mortgage, because they decided owning their own house was their priority.
- Yet another person may decide to save all the leftover money, after food and expenses are paid, for retirement.
Is it wrong if someone wants to spend money making memories, versus saving up to have security in old age?
No. There is not a “right” way to spending money. Each person, couple, and family will have their own particular circumstances and priorities that will determine how they spend their money. As long as we examine our habits and make sure we are happy with our decisions in the long run, this is fairly straight forward.
These are the big choices, though, the overall goals… what about the little ones that are made every day? Like:
Taking the kids to the cinema ($30) or waiting for the movie to come out on DVD ($5)?
These are the little choices that sometimes drive me crazy. And honestly, do not deserve as much weight on my mind as I often afford them!
I think some of the anxiety sometimes comes from comparing to others (which is ridiculous, I know, but easy to do especially with social media these days!). There is no way to make a judgement about what decisions anyone else makes, or show the backstory as to why they are making them. If you see a friend posting about their awesome overseas vacations, instead of thinking “I need to take my kids to somewhere amazing so they have a great childhood!” remind yourself that your children are receiving a different set of life experiences based on your parenting choices. Neither is “better” or “worse.” They are simply different.
What’s the answer then? I’ve decided for me it’s simply: stop stressing out about it!
When I decide to go out to the cinema for a treat, I do my absolute best to ENJOY it and don’t spend the whole time wondering if the experience was worth the money.
In short, what I have decided to do is: Make decisions, live them out with joy, and move on to the next choice using experience as a guide (and not an excuse to live in guilt about something I might partially regret).
The bottom line…
We all make choices and we can only do the best that we can in the moment that we make them. Just like with anything, purchasing products and budgeting is a skill that we can refine over time through reflection and practice.
Making financial decisions is simply another role we have as mothers – and we should beware of the pressure we put on ourselves to do it “perfectly.” We will all make different choices so I think what is most important is not the actual decision but about fostering a healthy attitude to finances so we can grow and learn through our experiences.
Feeling stressed is not going to help. Actively reflecting on our choices and holding ourselves accountable to realistic goals – that’s a lot better.
Questions to reflect on:
How do you spend your money, and do your habits reflect your true priorities in life?
Do you stress out about money when it’s not necessarily helpful?
How can you ensure you have a healthy attitude to finances?
This post is part of the series Self-Care for Mothers in which I discuss caring for myself amidst the busy reality that is motherhood. I believe in order to “be our best” as parents we have to take care of ourselves as individuals. This series is dedicated to sharing insights that I am learning during my own journey and inviting readers to share their tips as well. Check out the rest of the series by clicking here.