55. Change your spending habits with this simple question.

*I swear in this episode

Welcome back to the Money Mindset Shift! In this episode, we dive into the world of spending, exploring how it serves the purpose of fulfilling our physical, mental, and emotional needs. We also explore the question, is there a better way to satisfy those needs? Let’s get into it!

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Welcome back to the Money Mindset Shift, with me, Shelby Melissa! This is episode 55 and we are going to be further detangling mindset around spending. Change your spending habits with this simple question. What is it? Well keep listening to find out!

As you may or may not know, I’ve been reading Momfluenced by Sara Petersen. On page 135, Sara talks about her conversation with Christine Platt, author of The Afrominimalist’s Guide to Living with Less, and shares a little bit about Christine’s story.

“Christine discovered that her own history of consumption was rooted in a miguided idea of self-care, that she deserved to buy herself things, even if the purchasing of those things was only providing a momentary endorphin rush (much like how some consume momfluencer content) and failing to bring her any meaningful sense of well-being.”

This description of Christine’s experience really gets into purchasing as attempts to fill needs, something that River Nice, a queer, anti-capitalist, financial planner and founder of Be Intentional Financial brought up on social media the other day. River said, “Everytime you spend money, you are trying to fill a need.”

So if we go back to the example from Christine, the need was self-care plus the endorphin rush. However she found that that was a misguided idea (for her) of self-care.

And sometimes the needs like that seem obvious. You buy food because you need to eat. You purchase a bubble bath, or what have you, for self-care. But we’re going to flex some reflection muscles here and go a bit deeper.

So you go to the store, and you have options. Why do you buy one thing instead of another? Dietary restrictions and needs can definitely play into this. But what else?

Think about it for a moment. Maybe you like to eat cereal. Why do you pick the specific cereal that you do instead of another one?

I’ll highlight this with an example from my own life. I’ve been buying apple cinnamon instant oatmeal lately. What needs am I trying to fill?

  1. The need to eat.
  2. Taste. I prefer this flavor over any of the other ones. So much so, that I will not buy any other flavor.
  3. A need for routine. The instant oatmeal, when part of my morning routine, helps me to remember and take my daily medicine and vitamins.
  4. A need for sameness. I get comfort from repetition. I know what to expect from the flavor, it is part of a morning routine, and so forth.
  5. I don’t have to think. If I keep doing the same thing every morning, I don’t have to spend time thinking about what to make to eat. I know what I am going to have, and I can do it while I focus on other things.
  6. A need for ease. Some of the former points get to this, but I wanted to highlight it separately too. It is INSTANT oatmeal. I boil some water in the electric kettle, pour it over the oatmeal, and by the time I’ve gotten my drink and medication, and brought everything to my desk, the oatmeal is ready to eat!

So in this, we looked at what the purchase itself did for me. But regardless of what the item being purchased is, the act of purchasing also fulfills needs. Like the surge of happy neurotransmitters, or as Sara Petersen said “a momentary endorphin rush.” And the act of shopping, prior to the purchase, can also fulfill needs, like mental stimulation and enrichment that can come from scouring a store or the internet for the right thing, or the joy in finding a surprise item that you like!

We can use my birthday shopping trip to Target as an example. The act of making a purchase at Target is in part about status and feeling like part of a community. Making the purchase itself felt a little like freedom. AND while I was there, I unexpectedly found a copy of the Queer Tarot in the Pride section, (which may or may not be up at this time). And I got a rush of excitement from that but also probably a bit of being seen as well.

As you can see then, there are so many needs that can be met through spending money, even simply from the act of spending money itself. And much of this happens under the surface of the mind. When I was checking out at the store, I wasn’t thinking about all of the needs I was meeting, I was simply happy.

And in our current reality, there is a lot of shit stuff happening. So who wouldn’t want to capture that momentary happiness however they could? But of course capitalism and consumerism say, “Hey, capture happiness by spending money.” And also, the systems uphold that, because as we’ve explored, it costs money to do just about anything.

But that doesn’t mean that any of us can’t shift our relationship with spending. It doesn’t mean that you can’t be more conscious of what you spend, on what, when, and for what purpose. It doesn’t mean that you can’t make changes.

So, here is an invitation for you, next time you think about purchasing something, even if it is a passing “I want that” remark about something you saw on social media, ask yourself, what need am I trying to fill?

Is it merely that endorphin rush? Or are there deeper attachments here as well?

And then if you want to go deeper, you can think about “are there other places that I would prefer to get this need met? Or are there other ways in which I would like to get this need met?”

Maybe that endorphin rush could be better met through something else. Like taking a walk. For me if I see a lizard, a frog, something that gives that momentary rush and gets me excited. Also that gives me that enrichment.

Now it doesn’t have to be taking a walk. It doesn’t have to be going out in nature. But is there a way that you’d prefer to meet that need rather than spending?

And does asking that question of “what need am I trying to get met?” start that conversation? Just start bringing in the awareness of what’s going on underneath that surface. Underneath like, top of mind “I was just happy because I was just checking out at Target,” vs the actual things that were happening.

So again, let me just repeat the question. What need am I trying to fill? And if you want to go deeper, is that how you want to meet that need? Is there a better way or is there a better place to get that need met?

And if you decide to talk about this online, tag me! Or send me a message! I’d love to hear about your thoughts and experiences!

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