How to Live Well Without Obsessing About Money

by Vincent King · 8 comments

“Come on. We’re going out tonight. You and Rebecca meet us at Dave & Buster’s. We’ll be there at seven.”

“We can’t.”

“Why not?”

You’re at a loss: You don’t want to admit you’ve blown your budget for this month and have no play money to go out with. “Uh, Becca’s not feeling well,” you say. This is immediately followed by that awful feeling of lying to your best friend, and the resentment of not being able to go and have a blast.

As always.

We’re always worried about money.

Will we have enough of it when we retire? What about our kids? I want that new Samsung watch that lets you check email. But getting it now means I’ll have to use the credit card. Do I want to do that?

We want to buy, save, and have money left to do what we want. But we rarely can — at least not without guilt or worry.

It’s a pain. We get tired of obsessing. It’s the topic of most marital discord, and it can even rip marriages apart. That’s how powerful our thoughts on money can be.

And if there isn’t enough, well, that’s salt in the wound. We start feeling resentful. Sometimes we’ll spend anyway, knowing we shouldn’t. Pile guilt on resentment, and you’ve got a recipe for mental and physical disaster.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Imagine living a life where money doesn’t haunt your every decision. Imagine not feeling the pain of having to postpone a purchase. Imagine conversations with your spouse that don’t revolve around dollar signs.

How to Live an Obsession-Free Life

You can have a life free of monetary obsession. But it takes time, effort, and patience — especially in the beginning. Here are five steps to get you started:

1. Stop comparing yourself to others

Resentment comes from not getting what you want or not having what your friends do. If you stop comparing yourself to people in commercials, or people that you know, you’ll have an easier time becoming content.

2. Be happy with what you have

Once you’ve decided to stop comparing yourself to others, you’ll find your zen. You’ll feel happy with what you have and stop lusting after what you don’t. You can look for the happiness in staying home and watching a flick with the family, or going for a picnic on a beautiful Saturday afternoon — rather than hitting that expensive dockside restaurant downtown.

3. Look long

Now that you know what you have is enough to keep you happy, taking a long look at your distant goals will be easier. You’ll no longer view your budget as punishment, but as a means to freedom. Living on a budget will become normal, and not something torturous that’s always taunting your brain.

4. Let yourself splurge

If you’re keeping yourself in budget prison, you’ll eventually want to rebel. Keep a budget, but allow yourself a few calculated freedoms — even if it’s only fifty bucks a month. It’s a great way to reward yourself for being good, and it’ll help to keep you from feeling imprisoned.

5. Only look at your finances once a month

Give your progress a monthly glance to feel your distant goal growing closer. Don’t do it more than that, as daily looks encourage obsession. And if you’re using an easy budget, like the envelop/cash method, there’s no need to worry. Once a month is plenty.

Living a life that says you’re not good enough unless you have the “right” gadgets, or not being happy with the present, sets us up for disappointment. Learn to live for the moment. Not only will you feel better about your financial situation; you’ll feel better about your life.

Do you obsess about money? What have you done to change it?

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Michelle October 7, 2013 at 5:25 am

Great post. So many people obsess about money and it drives them crazy.

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Stuart October 7, 2013 at 6:02 am

Constantly obsessing about money certainly takes some of the enjoyment out of life.

And one of the best ways to avoid this is to take part in activities that don’t cost (much) money.

Once you understand that the amount of enjoyment is not proportionate to the amount you spend, it’s much easier to enjoy a low-cost life without having to worry about money.

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John S @ Frugal Rules October 7, 2013 at 6:20 am

Good post! Comparing yourself to others, while understandable, often can just lead to leading you to do things you normally might not or unhappy. Contentment is such a vital attitude to strive for, though not always the easiest to stay in.

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Cindi October 7, 2013 at 8:11 am

You still didn’t answer the question of what to say/do when your friends ask you to go out and you don’t have the money to spend. What is the answer? Solution? Fifty bucks a month may not cut it.

Jsst sayin’.

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dojo October 8, 2013 at 12:00 am

We are clearly more preoccupied with money, but we do not obsess. I take a look at the budget at least weekly (since I also need to update my spending information, and I can’t do this once a month,since it would mean wasting 6 hours), but we’re not making a huge deal out of it. Even if we do go over it sometimes (with unexpected expenses), having it checked helps us see how we’re doing and what could be improved next week.

We NEVER refused to go out with friends or buy something we would want to have. We’re not party goers anyway and I can count on my right hand fingers how many times we did eat out this year (we love cooking at home), so, if there’s such an occasion, we just go and have fun.

It’s a thin line between being frugal and concerned with not overspending and really taking any joy off our lives. We’re not frustrated, we’re happy and fulfilled, while we can still live on a good budget and save.

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Kali @ CommonSenseMillennial October 8, 2013 at 11:49 am

Brilliant post! Really enjoyed reading this. I used to obsess over money, especially spending it – I agonized over every purchase and whenever I bought something that fell outside the “need” category (as in, anything that didn’t help put a roof over our heads and food on our table) I felt horribly guilty. I’m better now, mostly because I did steps 1 and 2 that you outlined – I stopped comparing myself to others (especially my brother-in-law and his wife, who seem to spend every dime they make) and I found a new appreciation for all the things and people I loved about my own life. Whenever I find myself getting anxious or obsessing about finances, I take a deep breath and a figurative step back so I can see the big picture – our goals, what we’re doing to make our dreams a reality, and everything I have to be grateful for. And while we have more money coming in every month than we used to, we still deal with friends that want to go out and spend WAY more than we’re comfortable with. When this happens, we either suggest a cheaper alternative (if we’re close enough with someone that this won’t be seen as offensive) and explain we’d like to spend less because we’re trying to save, or we look for ways that we can still go out and enjoy the activity but spend less (like your Dave & Buster’s example – if our friends spend $100 on drinks and game credits, we’ll skip the drinks and spend less on games. We’re still able to go out and have fun with everybody, but we don’t have to spend as much as everyone else).

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Levi Blackman October 10, 2013 at 10:56 pm

Fantastic points. It can be hard to just enjoy life. I have a big problem with checking my finances. I do it daily and I know I would be much happier just letting it be and worrying about other aspects of my life.

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Property Marbella October 11, 2013 at 2:07 am

Do not chase the status (ie, do not switch to the latest car, etc). Take care of your family and enjoy your time with the children as they grow up. You will get a better life then. Money is not everything.

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