Black Hills Woman Magazine | Expressing Yourself Financially

Expressing Yourself Financially
by Kathleen Fox

Would you rather have a silky negligee from Victoria’s Secret or a camo sleep shirt from Cabela’s? Choose a season pass at a ski area or season tickets to the symphony? Prefer an art class or a backpacking trip?

Even though we have so much in common as women, we each have individual preferences, talents, and quirks. These surface styles (“You got a tattoo where?”) or deeper passions and interests (“You really meditate every morning?”) are what make us our unique selves.

The life choices we make—large ones like career paths and small ones like what to have for lunch—can support our uniqueness or stifle it. Many of those choices involve how we spend our money.

Just to be clear, it’s my strong opinion that basic needs and family responsibilities have to come first. I’m not recommending that you blow the rent money on any form of self-expression you can’t afford. We want to embrace uniqueness, not irresponsibility.

Even your basic budget, though, can be tailored to support your personality and meet your particular needs and wants as well as those of your family. It just takes conscious choices about your spending.

The irony is that, even though we treasure our own uniqueness, we also have a strong need to belong and fit in. That makes it way too easy to spend like a lemming. We can just unconsciously assume we need to spend money in the same way “everybody else” around us does—without stopping to notice whether that spending really fits us or whether “everybody” is even really doing it. It’s hard to say “no” and stand out from the crowd. It’s especially hard to say “No, I can’t afford it.”

Here’s a hint to make that no easier. Say “yes” instead. Focus on what matters to you rather than what doesn’t. “I’m taking a quilting class this month, so I’m bringing lunches instead of going out to eat.” “We want to be able to afford family vacations, so we chose a smaller house.” Whether it’s your personal allowance or the family budget, the goal is to free up money for what matters to you by not spending money on what doesn’t matter. This means taking a deliberate look at where the money goes and picking out the “unique spending” and the “lemming spending.” For example: Is cable TV a means of information and pleasure or a lemming expense you don’t care about? Does that gym membership support your healthy lifestyle or make you feel guilty because you don’t use it? Is splurging on gifts an affordable way of showing love to your family, or a source of emotional and financial stress?

There aren’t any right or wrong answers about what is unique or lemming spending. An essential expense for someone else might be wasted money for you, and vice versa. What matters is to make your own conscious and deliberate choices about your own money. Nor is this budget review merely about what you can or can’t afford. It’s whether what you can afford is right for you. It’s choosing to use your financial resources in ways that support who you really are. That might even include saying no to some things you would enjoy now, in favor of being able to say yes to a larger and more important goal in the future.

So go ahead, toss those lemming spending habits over the edge of the nearest cliff. Instead, use your financial resources to say yes to what you care about and to foster and celebrate your unique presence in the world. Put your money where your life is.

Ophthalmology Rapid City Medical Center

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