When Your Spending Habits Aren’t Working for You

The beginning of a new year holds the promise of reinvention, retooling, and rejuvenation, and we eagerly anticipate that this year will be different and better. We vow to change old habits that are no longer working for us. Soon, however, we find ourselves stuck again in the old patterns. If your spending habits are not working for you, and you believe you are doing your best to change them, you may be trying too hard to fix them by using willpower instead of using techniques for inner transformation.

In your home, you might have objects that you eagerly anticipated owning but now inspire feelings of guilt when you look at them. If what you purchased from a store did not provide you value after all, it’s a sign that your spending habits are not working for you. The promise of an object’s ability to bring you experiences you want to have can be hard to resist. However, if you learn what your inner beliefs and values are, you are likely to have an easier time spending your money more wisely.

Very often, what we say we value and what we truly value conflict with each other. Does how you spend your money align with your deepest values? In the last few years, what have been your wisest expenditures? Chances are that they were to spend money on having positive emotional experiences you value: vacations or staycations at home where you devoted time to being with people you love and enjoying their company, engaging in simple pleasures, or reconnecting with yourself and your spirituality. Research shows we get more pleasure out of experiences and anticipating them than we do out of material objects, yet we continue to shop mindlessly.

Often when we spend money unwisely, we are looking for something that represents an experience we think only the object can give us. What if you could have that experience without having the object that represents it? For example, what if you could feel like an excellent cook without owning expensive cookware? What if you could feel like someone others want to spend time around, but did not spend money on a backyard fire pit? What if you could feel confident and attractive without luxurious clothes and jewelry?

Take a look at objects in your home that you do not use but keep out of a sense of guilt or anticipation that someday, your life will change and you will use them. Then, reflect on what you envisioned they would bring to your life. Feeling competent, loved, and admired can best be achieved not by owning expensive tools for acquiring these experiences but by finding within yourself your competence, lovability, and worthiness of admiration. They are there, and you can access them through the inner work of shamanic journeying and dialoguing. These techniques can help you learn why you have denied these aspects of yourself and how you can experience them in your daily life.

Journaling can help you explore why you believe you have to buy something in order to experience these qualities. As you think about your spending habits, ponder these questions, and write your answers to them:

What were the wisest expenditures you ever made? What value did they bring?

How can you become more aware of whether what you are spending money on will help you have the emotional experience you seek?

What do you most seek to experience? Do you feel you can’t experience it without buying something? And if so, why is that?

What techniques for engaging your unconscious and for self-reflection might help you discover answers to breaking the habit of spending money unwisely?

(You can learn more about changing your habits and achieving personal transformation in my award-winning book Change Your Story, Change Your Life.)



Carl Greer, PhD, PsyD, is a retired clinical psychologist and Jungian analyst, a businessman, and a shamanic practitioner, author, and philanthropist funding over 60 charities and more than 850 past and current Greer Scholars. He has taught at the C.G. Jung Institute of Chicago and been on staff at the Replogle Center for Counseling and Well-Being.


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