If you’ve spent any time at all on social media lately, you’ve probably noticed that #mindfulness is everywhere. Everyone from your earthy-crunchy college roommate to lifestyle gurus like Gwyneth Paltrow have something to say about how practicing mindfulness has changed their life. Money mindfulness is part of this movement, too—and if you haven’t heard of it yet, today’s the day.
Before you roll your eyes and dismiss money mindfulness as a woo-woo New Age trend, it’s important to understand what it’s really all about. Mindfulness is the ability to be present and truly “in the moment” instead of being distracted — by screens, by your emotions, or by your stressful to-do list. It actually doesn’t require yoga classes or marathon meditation sessions to accomplish.
What Is Money Mindfulness?
Money mindfulness takes basic mindfulness techniques and applies them to your feelings and actions surrounding your money. It asks you to pay close attention your money as it passes into your hands and out again.
Money mindfulness is tricky in our modern age, because most of us so rarely use cash. It’s all too easy to swipe a card for an impulse purchase and remain blissfully unaware how much we’re actually spending.
But mindfulness changes that. When you boost your awareness, you’re forced to reckon with whether your purchases are actually worth it. Do they bring you happiness? Will that feeling last, or is it fleeting?
Money mindfulness is the act of paying attention.
3 Money Mindfulness Tips
So how can you get started with money mindfulness? Try these tricks and techniques to get focused on your finances.
1. Keep a Money Diary
Choose a day to be your money mindfulness day. From the moment you get up until you hit the sack, use a page in your journal to note any money you spend (or earn). Write down what you bought, how much it cost, and how it made you feel. The feelings are important! This exercise can open your eyes not just to how much you’re spending, but also give you insight into why.
2. Breathe Through the Urge to Spend
Breathing is a trend-and-true mindfulness technique that helps you stay in the moment. Each time you feel the urge to make an impulse purchase, take a breathing break instead. You don’t even have to close your eyes: Just focus on following your breath from the start of the inhalation to the moment it switches to an exhalation and to the moment you breathe in again. Do this for four to five breaths with full concentration, and you’re likely to find that the impulse has passed as you tune into your surroundings.
3. Take a Credit Sabbatical
Try making your cash flow more obvious to help you pay attention to it. To do this, take a look at your budget and figure out your spending for a week. Cash your paycheck and take the money you need for groceries, movies, etc. and keep it in your wallet. Spend it as you need it, but when it’s gone, it’s gone. This is definitely old-fashioned, but it’s a great way to make all those little expenses obvious. And who knows? When you feel the money in your hand, you might be less likely to want to let it go.
As you become more mindful of your relationship to money, you’ll be more aware of what types of emotions make you want to indulge in “retail therapy.” Then you can stop mindless spending and stick to your budget. You can also use your newfound focus to help you adhere to your goals, whether you’re working on paying down debt or building your savings. A little money mindfulness can go along way, so give it a try!