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Don’t be afraid to spend the money

Derek was very careful about how he spent his money. His strategy was to spend as little as possible. Many times when he went to someone’s house for dinner he would not bring anything because he felt too much anxiety about buying a bottle of wine or cake for dessert. “I just couldn’t do it, and I thought no one cared or even noticed.”

At least that was until a friend confronted him. “You’re over here all the time for dinner, and you like to drink the wine. Can you start bringing some?”

This comment threw him into a panic. It appeared he was not getting away with it after all. Derek was so jarred he had to take a break from these dinners and collect himself. His embarrassment deepened when he learned that he’d been excluded from a separate dinner party because of it.

This is when he asked me for some advice. His tightfistedness was getting in the way of his life.

Faulty thinking

I asked Derek about his financial situation so we could figure out if his money concerns were real. He said he had enough money in the bank so that he did not actually have to worry about buying wine or occasional indulgences. His resistance to spending money appeared to be all in his head.

We needed to identify the money beliefs that were holding him back — because in order to let go of old beliefs, you have to know what they are. “Derek, what are your thoughts when the idea of buying wine, a dessert or even flowers comes up?” I asked.

After some thought, he replied:

“Wine is an extravagance. If others buy it, it’s their choice.

“If I spend money now, I may not have it when I need it later.”

When I asked him where those beliefs came from, he admitted he had inherited them from his parents. He had been carrying them around his whole life. But when he really thought about them, he realized they weren’t true at all.

New beliefs

In order to replace the outdated beliefs with ones that would work for him better, we came up with something more current and true:

“I have plenty of money, and I look forward to sharing some of it with my friends.

“As I spend money, it comes back to me in other ways.”

Derek liked how these sounded when he said them aloud, and I encouraged him to repeat them daily until there wasn’t a trace of his old thinking left.

In the meantime, Derek needed some actual practice spending money in ways he used to resist. I explained the gift bag trick. He was to take a specific sum of money — we agreed that $500 worked well for his budget — in $5 and $10 bills out of his bank account and put it in an envelope. This money was to be used for small purchases like a house gift, treating a friend to lunch, or buying coffee for coworkers. The goal was that he had to spend all of it in a year.

The practice worked perfectly because it gave him license to buy things that before, all his old beliefs told him were not OK. “It’s amazing, it was all in my head,” he later reported. “I felt a sense of joy when I went into the envelope and then showed up with a bottle of wine at dinner. Now I feel much more at ease about being generous with the people I care about.”

Brooke Loening is a life coach in Sharon who works with individuals, and runs weekly coaching groups on achieving growth in career, health and relationships. To make column suggestions, email him at bloening@snet.net.

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