Mindfulness can be defined in so many ways, but to me, it all comes down to being honest, aware, and intentional.
In regards to money, this means being aware of where you stand financially. It means knowing your net worth (how much debt you have, how much you have in assets, your savings, investment, retirement, and checking accounts). Being mindful about your money is more than that, though. It involves knowing how you feel about those things. How do you feel when you think about money in general? How do you feel when you think about YOUR money (or your lack thereof, or your debt, or your job, etc.)? Mindfulness is confronting these feelings, even (especially) uncomfortable feelings. It’s important to let yourself be aware of the discomfort and allow yourself to feel it instead of turning it away or ignoring it. Spend time noticing feelings of anxiety, pride, anticipation, stress. Acknowledge and observe the emotions that come up. They aren’t good or bad; you aren’t “supposed” to feel any certain way. How you feel is just how you feel.
Being intentional about your money means doing things with your money on purpose. Save on purpose, spend on purpose, and be aware of the purpose. It doesn’t have to be some deep, meaningful purpose, and you also don’t have to feel guilty about what you do with your money (though you should pay attention to money guilt; observe it, notice it when it’s there). Your purpose could be to get out of debt. It could be to save for retirement. It could be that you liked a pair of jeans, so you bought them. Purposefulness eliminates mindlessness and “blissful” ignorance when it comes to your money. It can be scary to expose your money habits to yourself – observe that feeling. I had to do that when I decided to share my intimate financial details on the internet. Sit with the emotions you experience and let yourself accept them. (Hint: this works for life in general, not just money-related)
The common thread is that being aware and intentional means owning your actions. Let’s use an example close to my heart: being mindful about your money doesn’t mean, for example, that you can’t spend $20 on wine at dinner. It means that you should be aware that you are spending $20 on wine at dinner, instead of checking your bank account the next day and hoping you didn’t overdraw. Spend that wine money on purpose, girl! You should be in touch with how you feel about spending that money. Own the fact that you are spending that money. What is your reaction to that reality? Are you okay with it? Are you uncomfortable with it? We often push uncomfortable feelings away through avoidance and purposeful ignorance – not facing up to the bigger picture because it might be scary, uncomfortable, or ugly. Let yourself feel uncomfortable. It is okay to feel discomfort! We spend so much time and energy trying to avoid it, but what’s the worst that could happen if you actually confront it and let yourself feel? Do you feel your heart start beating faster when you think about how much debt you have? Do you feel on top of the world when you imagine your future? Be gentle with yourself and know that the way you feel is valid, it is acceptable, and you don’t have to push it away.
Let yourself reflect and sit with the feelings money brings up, and you’ll get to know yourself on a new level.
I know I just went pretty woo-woo for a minute there. But I really mean what I said about letting yourself feel discomfort, or any feeling at all for that matter. Humans spend so much energy trying to get rid of discomfort (we feel like we have to speak during “awkward” silences, we say “um” to fill space when giving a presentation, etc.). Instead of expending that energy pushing discomfort away, try embracing it. You might just realize it’s not as bad as you think.