A funny thing I’ve noticed is that whenever I feel poor I have this nasty habit of actually spending more. You know the feeling, just when you’re down and out, you get this sudden compulsion to make your situation even worse and splash out to cheer yourself up. In contrast, when I’ve been feeling quite happy and generally prosperous I’m great at controlling my spending!
I’m an expat mum living and working in Paris for a finance company but I’ve always had a fascination with money. Over the years I’ve read countless surveys and analyses of rich people, how they spend, and what they do with their money. One thing they all seem to be good at is controlling their spending.
Charles Dickens hit the nail on the head when he wrote:
“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery. “
Recently, this hit home when I realized that the more I “felt” wealthy, the better I got at managing my money and at attracting more wealth into my life. So, if you’re experiencing a tough patch where you find yourself making silly investments, noticing an overwhelming number of bills suddenly appearing in the mail box, or are just generally feeling poor and sorry for yourself, you can turn it around by following your money trail.
1. Track money coming in
Start tracking all the money that comes to you — to the cent! This will make you realize how wealthy you really are and change your focus to something positive. The trick is to count absolutely everything: coins found in the street, payments made to you via Paypal, unclaimed insurance, birthday checks, tax rebates, money you get back from the government for health or childcare costs, etc. When I started doing this, amazing things happened. I even got an inheritance out of the blue from a relative I didn’t know existed.
2. Look for sources of cash
Start thinking about all the ways you could get hold of some extra money. When you’re feeling poor you tend to focus on all the things you need but can’t afford (a new washing machine, repairs to your apartment or house, new clothes for the kids). Instead, flip your thinking around and make a short list each day of one or two ways you could pull in new money.
Is there an old heirloom you’re not attached to that you could sell? Even if you have no plans to sell it, put it on your list. If you have your own business, could you raise your prices? Could you ask for a raise at work? Could you remortgage your property now that interest rates are lower? Could you rent out a spare room in your flat/house? In France you can do this and (within certain limits) the money doesn’t have to be declared for tax purposes. The idea here is to just start thinking more creatively about possible money sources. Don’t edit your list, just write down any idea that comes to you and make a habit of it.
3. Track your wealth over time
Track how your wealth has built up over the years. Start as early as you can remember, from your first pocket money. Sometimes when you look back on how poor you really were as a student, you suddenly don’t feel so bad about your current position. Make sure you add in all the assets you can think of. Property, of course, but also foreign bank accounts, pension funds you started but haven’t checked for years, etc.
4. Check for financial sabotage
Sometimes the reason we’re currently feeling poor is because we’ve made some frankly stupid mistakes. When you look back on it you think, “how on Earth did I do that?” Sometimes, it’s because of what I call financial sabotage. For example, you may receive an inheritance and feel guilty about it (or just sad) so you blow the money. Or you may feel inside that you’re only “worth” a certain amount and every time your income or wealth goes above that level, you do something crazy to destroy it because you don’t feel comfortable. Or maybe you don’t want people to think you’re a rich snob.
My financial sabotage was rescuing people when they got themselves in trouble by continually bailing them out, to my own financial detriment. In the end, this didn’t help them because they didn’t learn how to solve their own problems, and it sure didn’t help me. Have a good hard look at your financial mistakes over the last year or so and try to work out what was really behind them.
5. Pamper yourself
If you notice that you’re spending a lot when you feel down (and most of us do), try out some things that will make you feel pampered but don’t necessarily cost a lot. Make yourself a bubble bath, light some candles, pick some fresh flowers, put something that smells nice in your room, clean your house and decorate it with your favorite things or make some cheerful decorations with your kids. Set the table with your fanciest tablecloth and best china and have a special dinner.
The more you think about it, the more you can come up with ideas of things that really matter to you and make you feel special. This is very personal. One woman told me that ironed sheets are what makes her feel pampered because it reminds her of hotel beds. Personally, I love fresh flowers (so I’m always dropping that hint to my husband).
6. List for a wealthier you
Finally, make a list of things that would really make you feel like gold. As I said, this is very personal. Some people love fur coats, other people detest them. Is it travelling first class? Could you plan a first class trip (even just on a train) over the next year? Is it having a spa day or getting a massage/manicure/facial? Is it sipping champagne on a yacht? Once you have your list, think about how you could make at least one of those things a reality and then just keep going down the list.
Sometimes we like to dream about things that appear impossible, but actually finding a way to accomplish them is so much more fun. You don’t have to feel guilty about it because you know now that when you feel wealthy you make better financial decisions, so everyone wins!