Just Like Overeating, Bad Money Habits Can Be Changed – There’s an APP!

Losing weight and keeping it off has always been tough. But bad spending habits can be just as challenging and destructive. Now there are Apps like Urge or Make a Habit, Break a Habit (see below) to make it easier to stay on track with behavior changes.

What kind of bad money habits do you have?  Are you an unconscious spender or compulsive shopper? Do you go to the mall and two hours later have bags of purchases and you can't remember what exactly you paid for them?  Are you a secret shopper? And, I don’t mean the kind that’s hired by Safeway to check up on their customer service. I mean do you sneak your purchases home when your husband is busy and hide them so you don’t feel guilty, or get grilled? Do you struggle to maintain a budget or is budget a word you haven’t yet acquainted yourself with?

Changing our habits is not for the weak willed. We need help. Like poor spending habits, food, weight and exercise habits have been particularly tough to change long term. But Behavorial Modification programs are getting positive attention again and are based on making small incremental changes that build progress over time. You may be surprised to know that Weight Watchers is basically a behavorial modification program and it’s one of the most effective.

For those of you that have a money problem there are apps like Lose It, or Make a Habit, Break a Habit which lets users choose the behavior they’d like to change, like shopping less, or Urge, which “prompts users to hold off on impulse purchases to hit budgeting goals.”

These Apps are exciting, cool and they work because they improve on the principles of good ol’ 12 Step Programs – support, feedback, slow steady changes and the good feelings that come with healthy change.  (The Perfected Self by David H Freedman, The Atlantic June 2012)


Unfinished Money Business: If Nothing Changes, Nothing Changes

If you struggle with money problems you're not alone. Don't just blame yourself, your spouse or your parents though, do something proactive. Because if you don't, you'll find yourself in the same place in a year or 5 or 10. If you're having the same issues with money you've been having for years it's time to look within. What do I mean by that? "Inner work" consists of taking the time to be introspective, ask yourself questions and listen for the answers. The old saying, "All the answers lie inside you," means that in order to access your inner wisdom you'll need  to give yourself time to explore. There is no right or wrong way to do so. Here are some suggestions to get you started.

Unfinished money business are the patterns, habits and convictions that get in the way of our financial health and well-being. We all want to have financial peace of mind, but we don't necessarily know how to get there. As a therapist and Certified Money Coach who struggled with money for years with my own money issues I love sharing what's helped me to develop a healthier relationship with money.

"The Apple Tree Exercise"  (From Mind Over Matter by Brad & Ted Klontz). Bring to mind an image of your mother or most important mother figure. On a piece of paper list 3 or more adjectives that describe your mother's behaviors around money: generous, impulsive, stingy, for example. Then list 3 or more things you can remember hearing her say about money and how it worked: "Nothing's too good for you," It's only money," etc. Write any beliefs she had about money. As you think about her background and money beliefs see if you can pull out the "money scripts" she lived by. For example:  "Money can be used to show love and to exert control." "Money's less important than having fun and enjoying life."  Do the same for your father or father figures.

Then go back to the adjectives that describe your mother/father and circle any words or phrases you believe are true about you. If you're up for it, ask someone that knows you well to check the lists and words circled for feedback.  As you can imagine, this "Apple Tree" exercise is designed to help you see how your money beliefs, patterns or habits didn't necessarily fall far from the parental tree. As you gain true inner awareness of your relationship with money when you make changes such as starting a retirement account, developing an emergency savings account, these behavior changes will "stick" better

Love or Hate Relationship with Money?

You may love the money in your life or hate it, but you are definitely in a relationship. Your relationship with your money could be healthy or unhealthy, conscious and involved or mostly ignored and avoided. Deborah Price says, “We have a relationship with anything we are connected to or dependent on.” Many of us don’t think about or evaluate our relationship with money though it touches our lives every single day. And, depending on how we treat our relationship with money, it can be our friend or foe because it mirrors back to us exactly what we put into the relationship. 

If you’re not sure what your relationship with money is try this short exercise:  Think about money and write down the first 5 words that come into your mind. As short as this list is, it will tell you something very quickly about whether the part of you that sits under the surface (your subconscious mind) views money as positive or negative. (And, it’s the subconscious mind that we need to understand because it often runs the money show especially in times of stress).

Let’s say the words were something like: scary, overwhelming, secretive, fun, never enough. I’m just making this up now, but if my relationship with money is influenced by this type of “shadow” energy which means what I really think that's under the surface, I may find myself going along just fine, not thinking much about money as long as things are stable. I also may spend money and keep it a secret from my partner because I don’t want them to get “mad” at me, or it’s my way of exerting some control with my husband. When a financial challenge comes along – blam – that feeling of overwhelm hits and I avoid dealing with the money problem, and we know how well that works, right?

So, now what? You may have a glimpse that there’s more to your relationship with money than just your paycheck or the bills you pay. Tune in tomorrow for how to understand your relationship with money by looking at your parents relationship with money. As Deborah Price says your ability to change your relationship with money lies in direct proportion to your level of consciousness or awareness about money. So, let's explore our money relationship.




Guilt About Too Much Money?

I know it seems bizarre, but there are people who have a lot of money and feel GUILTY about it. According to Brad & Ted Klontz, Mind Over Money, "financial rejection" is a fairly common money problem. I know what they're talking about. I had a friend who received a large inheritance and within 3 years it was all gone. Why? She didn't feel she deserved it or had earned it. Having money rather than "working" and struggling for it was out of her comfort zone. There were issues with her parents tied up in the guilt she felt, but she didn't know how to access that unfinished business.
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