Dear Dr. Norquist:
I don’t know if you’ve written about this topic before but I bet a lot of people can relate to it. I’m talking about money and my lack of it. I got a new job last year that pays $5,000 more than my last job. At the time I was elated because I thought my money problems were over. I should have known from past experience. No matter what I earn, I never have quite enough to pay my bills. I’m using my credit cards every month and never catching up. I’m befuddled about how to get my finances under control. I’m sure my attitude towards money is a part of the problem and that’s why I’m writing to you. There was never enough money to comfortably pay the bills in my home growing up as well. What can I do to get my finances under control?
Dr. Norquist responds:
It seems to be human nature to maintain or recreate the conditions we are used to, so I’m not surprised that you are finding yourself repeating the “I never have quite enough” experience. It is not the amount of money we earn so much as it is the underlying attitudes and beliefs that drive our behavior regarding money and determine the level of abundance we experience. An important facet of developing abundance in your life is examining your unconscious beliefs regarding money. If you believe that money is scarce, or there is never quite enough then you will always feel like there is never enough, independent of how much you actually earn.
Learning to manage your money will bring you greater freedom. Most people focus on bringing more money into the household when they are short. However, focusing on spending less can often achieve greater results (since spending tends to rise to match income). In particular, look to cut out expenses that contribute little to your quality of life. Before buying something, ask yourself, what is the benefit that spending this money will get me? Examine your underlying motive. Is the benefit worth the cost? You can think of money as life energy spent. From this perspective, it’s clear to see that life energy is a precious commodity, and needs to be spent judiciously!
Start by carefully monitoring for the next two months the money that comes in and the money that goes out. Keep careful track of your spending through cash, checks and credit card payments. Organize your spending list into categories, such as home expenses, food, entertainment, transportation, loan or credit card payments, etc. After two months of detailed record keeping, review what you have spent and earned. Consider the results in light of the following questions: Did money flow in and out of your life in a way that is consistent with your values? Does the way you spend and earn money allow you time for activities that you consider most worthwhile? If you are not satisfied with your answers to these questions, look over your lists and consider what changes you can make to bring your spending and earning into alignment with your values.
Prepare a budget for yourself, and practice sticking to it. Useful tips to consider include: putting off buying something you want (to determine if you really need it), putting a proportion of your income into savings immediately upon receiving your check, carrying less money in your wallet, and carrying a credit card for emergencies only. I hope this is helpful.
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.)Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanya.com or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax at (201) 656-4700. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. 2013 Chaitanya Counseling Services