The way I think about money & spending has been impacted by numerous thinkers, ideas, research, as well as (largely) my own personal experiences. Here are two ideas that have challenged me over the years:
Many years ago, when TEDTalks were only just beginning to be mentioned at dinner parties and were only available by slow release on iTunes, I watched one by Dan Gilbert. He is a Harvard psychologist and “happiness expert”; the key argument in all of his work, I suppose, is that our brains systematically misjudge what will make us happy.
What I remembered for years and years was a story that swum around my brain and poked at my own perception of money:
Of course, this is not how our brains naturally work; we are not wholly rational beings and our brains are predisposed to compare according to the past, to scale, etc.
All I know is that this story (and there are numerous examples in his talk) stuck with me and began to challenge the way I perceived my own car/stereo spending. Here is the whole video (including Q & A; the talk is the standard 10 minutes), if you want to watch it later:
Here’s another story, this time from one of my faves, Chris Guillebeau. He wrote a book The $100 Startup, that was incredibly helpful and motivational when I was beginning dignify. This story was from a chapter on how to price products or services in a way that balances the value an item provides with the kinds of psychological barriers mentioned above.
How much do you judge a product or service on its value to you and how much is on camparison with other ways to spend your money? When or where are you most irrational with your spending choices? Share your comments below!
The Enneagram is super popular right now as a typology of nine interconnected personality types. I am familiar with the Enneagram and while it hasn’t been a particularly impactful tool for me personally, I value the depth of the insight and the common language it provides.
Similarly, Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies framework provides definition and a vernacular to what is already present in ourselves. For me, this one has resounded like a deafening gong in my ears & in my life!
Over the last year or so, I've made a conscious priority to read books written by — or written from the perspective of — people different than me. As a white, rich person (and I have a job, a bachelor's degree, a house, 2 cars, and 3 computers, so that sounds pretty rich to me; maybe not in the 1%, but high enough), I have a pretty limited perspective. Also, our culture is essentially designed for me to thrive, so it's easy to take that all for granted.
Books, both non-fiction and creative stories, have a way of landing you right in the viewpoint of an other, and I am so grateful for that gift; it's one of the best things about reading.
Conversations about money can be awkward, but having uncomfortable talks, at age appropriate times, will set up our children's essential, lifelong skill in handling money well. Allowance is a key tool to teaching these money management skills.
Money, along with politics and religion, is often considered impolite conversation to have outside of yourself & maybe (hopefully?) your spouse. How much do we spend on groceries, gas bill, or date nights? Is this car payment normal? We are often afraid, or at least reluctant, to compare any of these details… R. Paul Stevens said the proverbial fig leaf from the Garden of Eden has moved from our naked bodies to our bank accounts!
Add kids into these conversations, and there is an additional layer of hesitancy: kids can be notorious loud-mouths!