21-Day Mental Money Challenge ©™

I took a survey today about financial frustrations and solutions. The survey was put together by another writer to gather ideas for her upcoming book. Completing the survey amidst my 21-day positivity challenge got me thinking about money and debt in a different way.

As part of my 21-day happiness challenge, I am journaling about positive experiences from the previous day (Good Things Yesterday Brings series), writing daily gratitudes again, and trying to do an act of kindness each day. After only a week in, I already feel some change. I’ve been happier and more satisfied, and I swear I’ve gotten more done as a result. Normally, I get some things done and feel fleetingly happy, as there’s always something else to do; no rest for the wicked and all that. Reflecting on yesterday’s good during the journaling portion of this challenge is helping me to see my fortunes and be happy in the present, to keep a hold on that good feeling and not let it slip away. Success ≠ happiness, and I’m starting to believe that on a deeper level.

Obviously I know money ≠ happiness either, but I wonder if some sort of strategy like my positivity challenge could be applied to financials and create some innate changes for the good with regards to my money. You see, I categorize all our expenses, I created a very specialized budget sheet, I have a budget for what we save each month and where it goes, I watch our spending daily… basically I waste way too much time stressing over money. Despite all that I do to better our financials, it always feels like we move forward at a snail’s pace only to be hurtled backwards like someone chucking said snail off their garden plant and into the sidewalk for passersby to stomp. I know we are making some better money decisions than we used to as a married couple, but the progress isn’t enough to stay my anxiety.

I’m thinking something along the lines of a 21-day financial challenge is in order. I’ve read money help books that have helped, but not on an innate level that lasts for the long term. I am bettered by being armed with their information, but applying it usually means strong arming myself and my husband into a life without extras. And we all know that a strict diet based on will power alone is bound to fail. I’ve tried moderation as well, but maybe I don’t really know how to employ the concept fully. Maybe I haven’t even really conceptualized what moderation in money means. How do I expect to make changes when I don’t know what those changes are?

Aside from eliminating debt, my big financial goal is to open my own business. I know I’ll need funding, but I can’t even begin to look at the money aspects to starting up because I’m afraid I’ll figure out there will never be a way for me to make my business thrive. I know I could apply for a small business loan, but I don’t want to begin business life in the red. I want to have money socked away for the initial startup, first couple of months, and an emergency fund. Is that too much?

So I have these negative or intimidating thoughts about money. The question is: how do I adapt the way I think on a deep enough level to instill long lasting change? I don’t mean, how do I delude myself into thinking money doesn’t matter, because of course it does and I don’t want anymore debt in our lives. I think the answer lies in an updated view of spending and saving. Things I’ve done in the past, like categorizing each expense, gives me good numbers upon which to build a budget, but staying within that budget needs a deeper purpose than just statistics or a goal like saving for a vacation. I believe I can achieve that deeper purpose by focusing not on the money itself, but on the reasons behind why we earn, spend and save what we do. Money psychology I guess you could say.

Outline for a 21-day Mental Money challenge ©™:

  • journal daily about the previous day’s money encounters (did you spend, save or earn? how does it make you feel? what is the driving force behind your actions?) and make sure the journal post ends on a good note by writing about money in a positive way (how could you handle the situation differently in the future? what have you learned?)
  • each day share something about money you did right (e.g., If it means you didn’t buy that pair of shoes because you know you shouldn’t, then share your success and be proud of yourself! Don’t think, “I can’t buy those shoes. This sucks.” Think, “I am living the life I want to and I am living up to my 21-day financial challenge!”)
  • donate any amount each day (times are tough, but you could donate 50¢, or get creative and take a survey that will donate money to a charity if you answer a few questions– I’ve done this on Survey Monkey and even through Hulu)

And in general, eating well, exercising, and making some time for yourself are important aspects to any mental journey.

Now that I’ve outlined my program, I need to decide when to start. Should I wait until my happiness challenge is over? I also started a 21-day gluten- and dairy-free challenge today. How many changes at once are too many? I guess that’s my first-world problem to figure out.

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