Know your money motivation

What motivates you to save? What moves you to spend? Use these values to make and meet short and long-term financial goals….after all, sometimes it isn’t so much what you earn as it is how you spend it. Don’t believe me? Read this…

Oseola McCarty was an African-American woman born in Mississippi in 1908. She never earned a high wage during the decades she spent doing laundry. That’s what makes her gift so surprising. In 1995 just four years before her death, McCarty announced that she would fund a scholarship for financially disadvantaged students attending the University of Southern Mississippi.

The fund amount she gifted was $150,000.00. McCarty, an amazing saver with a 6th grade education, lived without any extravagance and few conveniences. She had no car, and for many years, no cable or even air conditioning. In total, she saved $280,000.00. In addition to the scholarship fund McCarty left money to her church and family.

McCarty started saving as an 8 year old. She put away money earned from ironing and eventually went to the bank and opened an account. Maybe we can’t all be as frugal but we can learn from Ms. McCarty that saving is less about how much we earn than it is about how we choose to spend. What was her secret? In an interview printed by the Philanthropy Roundtable, McCarty says she saved money, made deposits but no withdrawals. 

Think about it

How are the lessons you have learned about money mirrored in your present day money interactions? What do you believe about money? What role has money played in your life? In what ways would you like to change your relationship to, or habits with, money? 

Saving is self care

Especially when you are worried that things are falling apart you may be likely to pray for a miracle or bury your head in the sand. That may work for ostriches, but it probably won’t work for you. The best way to figure out how to fix a financial jam is to face it. Be willing to get a clear picture of where you are and where you want to go.

If that prospect seems overwhelming, don’t panic. You don’t have to do everything right away. Choose one manageable task each month until you feel you have a good grasp of your financial situation.

Two good places to start making changes are with daily spending and emotional spending.

Daily Spending – how much money do you typically spend on miscellaneous items each month? These are things like morning coffee, take out food, magazines, soda, cigarettes, etc. Chances are it is more than you think. Even if you spend only $2 or $3 per day, that can add up to almost $100 per month. With planning you could use that money instead for a utility bill, a monthly bus pass, paying debts, or a pretty good start on an emergency savings fund.

Make it a little easier by being clear about the why of self-denial in the moment. It isn’t about deprivation. Think of it instead as saying yes to security, to purpose, to your future self – she is counting on you to build a safety net – you are saying yes to financial self-determination.

Alternatives to emotional spending

Be brave – your vision for your financial future requires extreme bravery. Sometimes you may have to disappoint others by saying no. That doesn’t mean you are selfish or a bad person. Look for ways to respond that are compassionate and helpful as well as in service to your financial goals. Maybe you can help the person in need explore alternative solutions. Always you can express concern.

Have something to hold onto – hobbies and other things you are proud of can help you stay grounded and feeling purposeful.

Create a refuge in your home – everyone needs restoration, healing and dream time.

Seek out new experiences – you might find that you get just as much of a thrill trying a new recipe or singing karaoke as you do from buying a new pair of shoes. You can be more without buying more. 

Check local listings for happenings in your town. There are usually a few free events each season such as book readings, festivals, parades, hikes and even concerts at colleges, parks and places of worship.

Gather friends for a vision boarding session. Saving and planning for your financial future can be more fun when you envision it with the support of like-minded friends. You only need some magazines (everyone can bring what they have), paper and glue. Cut out pictures of the things you are working toward and paste them onto a sturdy board or piece of paper. Post your vision board in a place where you will see it often.

Head to the park for a picnic or a game of Frisbee.

Host a pot-luck game night. Guests can bring their own snacks.

Check out your local library. There is always something free and fun to do there from yoga, language and knitting lessons to movies and chess lessons. Learning something new can help you create another layer of identity beyond your possessions. You might be what you eat, but you aren’t what you have.

Remember, you can’t really spend away pain, boredom or disappointment. Adding debt will likely make things feel worse.