Each season I lead groups in a whole foods cleanse to help them regain a healthy dialogue with their bodies. After the toxins and the bloat and the aches have been ushered out to make room for more energy, creativity, and clarity, people are more able to hear messages from their bodies in a way that helps to make healthy choices with nutrition.
Recently, I decided to undertake a similar project on my own with money. Instead of following popular advice to track every penny I spent, or sticking to a rigid budget (which sounded a lot like a restrictive diet), I decided to think about what I wanted my money to do in my world.
For six months, I used the following guidelines around money. I found, that as a result, I ate healthier, cooked better foods, and was primed to take a beautiful vacation.
1. Pay yourself first.
Once your bills are covered, immediately put money into paying down debt or into savings. Once credit card balances are gone, begin saving. Not only are you supporting the things you value by having an emergency fund and taking all that dark cloud of INTEREST out of your life, each time you set money aside, you send a message to yourself that you deserve security. Even if it's only five bucks at a time. It matters. Your future self is thanking you already.
2. Avoid shopping to numb your feelings.
If you get shoes because you had a bad day and you need a lift, it’s true that you will get a rush out of finding the perfect pair to put an exclamation point on an outfit. But it also keeps you from really looking at whatever feelings you're having come up around your bad day. The shoes are robbing you of an opportunity to actually get to know yourself, PLUS they cost a grip and only go with one outfit. You could instead treat yourself to a long walk with a friend and talk about it, pocket the cash for your travel fund, and enjoy the summer weather outside.
3. Spend on experiences, not things.
My guideline was to fund my experiences, not to buy things. So I went to baseball games, movies, the Japanese Spa in town once a month, and took a road trip to see a friend. Not buying six tank tops I didn’t need was enough to fill my gas tank for the trip and I still had enough tops to wear.
4. Focus on health.
With the summer months in town, I exercised outside more and took a hiatus on my gym membership. That money took a hunk of debt off my shoulders each month and I got some road miles in around the city. I went to farmers markets instead of pricey chain stores and cooked instead of going out about 95% of the time. And when I did go out, it was to have the experience of freedom from doing dishes.
5. Still want stuff? There’s an answer for that, too!
When I wanted clothes, I sold clothes I didn’t wear and used that money to get something new for myself. When I wanted books, I used the same strategy. This also renewed my love affair with the used bookstore down the street and got me some really nice new cookbooks. Now your closet looks better, your bookshelves are dusted and your shopping bug is tamed.
I have emerged from my fiscal cleanse and feel so many effects that have nothing to do with money. I really learned about the shape I want my life to be, how I regard money and how it can have more meaning in life than just tickets for an amusement park ride. Although, I do love an old wooden roller coaster.