Many Life Coaching clients and friends are coming to me these days worried about their financial security. At that point, I usually listen and then start asking questions. Here are some things I have found and some thoughts on how to deal…some of this will apply to you and some will not. Please take what you like and leave the rest.
Often I ask coaching clients who come to me with financial issues to tell me about their budget. How much are you spending, how much are you earning. There is usually a mismatch. Then, often they tell me that they have cut back and they cannot see any more to cut. The other day, I was out with a friend who is having financial difficulty. She is of course concerned. After we paid for our dinner ($30 a piece) I watched her get into a cab to go home (instead of a subway). As I got ready to get into the subway, I asked myself…is that what it looks like to cut back? My working thesis is that some people have simply forgotten how to cut. Sometimes there is a sense of entitlement to have the things we have…”I couldn’t possibly give that up.” OK, you don’t have to. But if you want to be financially responsible it would help.
We all understandably get attached to our standards of living. And we are often reluctant to make the big calls and truly cut back. We have a lot wrapped up in money and how they live. I recommend getting unattached to how you have been living and create a game out of saving money. It can be fun if you let it… in fact there are lots of fun things that can be done for little or no money. You can go to the park, rent a movie, go to a museum, play a game, sit and talk with friends, have a catch, paint a picture, read a book, etc. Often we get wrapped up into thinking that only things that cost money are fun.
Take a moment and think back to the best moments of your life…the moments you are most proud of…how much did they cost? And if they did cost a few bucks then think about what made that event so great? What value of yours was being honored in this situation or event? For many of us the answers to that will sound something like “I loved being a support to people who are important to me”, or “I loved the adventure, or stretching myself”, “I loved the challenge”, “the camaraderie”, etc. Then consider how else can I create the same experience/feeling without the cost. For example if what you loved about one of your best moments was stretching yourself, then consider how you can stretch yourself without spending a fortune. There are thousands of ways you can stretch yourself, push yourself to do something you’ve never done before or perhaps never even thought you could do.
This is a time to get creative, unattached and make the big calls. If you can relate to cutting back as an adventure, you will win. The game is about perspective as with so many things in life. Money is often used as a crutch, something we have that gives us a sense of security or power, but it is not what gives happiness. Even though many of us we have molded it into just that.
Making the Big Calls
When I say the big calls I mean things like whether to skip a mortgage payment, whether to take your kid out of private school, whether you can go on a vacation, whether you need to move out of your place into a less expensive abode, etc. Obviously every situation is different. But as a generality, I suggest you do what you need to do to right-size. I see so many people just wait too long to deal. If you deal decisively and powerfully, and if you can give up the thinking that somehow you are lesser now for having down-sized or failed at providing, etc you will likely feel a sense of power and clarity…you have created some space for yourself. When things are right-sided and you get back on your feet, you can always increase your life-style again.
A Last Word for Spouses
If your husband or wife is the bread-winner, know that he/she has a lot of pressure to deal with. Instead of looking to him/her to fix things and hence often adding more pressure to him/her, roll up your sleeves up, make some cut, get your perspective and be his/her partner. This is the time he/she needs your partnership most.
So take a deep breath, enjoy the air, the sky…look around you at loved ones and appreciate being alive. And remember economies and our lives, like the seasons and tides are cyclical. The question is can you enjoy the ride you’re on.